EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Mark Dantonio was 2-0 as a Michigan State assistant in Notre Dame Stadium. But he knows those numbers will mean even less than the current Spartans' 3-0 record on their upcoming trip to South Bend.
The first-year head coach at MSU isn't concerned that each of his four predecessors won their first road games against the Fighting Irish, that the Spartans can become the first program to win six straight games in Notre Dame Stadium or that this year's Irish are 0-3 with no offensive touchdowns.
Dantonio has another objective for Saturday, and it isn't to worry about the following week's Big Ten opener against 3-0 Wisconsin in Madison.
"We need to become overachievers," Dantonio said Monday afternoon. "And we'll continue to take steps toward doing that, regardless of where we are record-wise."
MSU has achieved as much as most people expected with wins over UAB, Bowling Green and Pittsburgh, all in Spartan Stadium. But with each victory coming by a narrower margin, no Spartans are satisfied.
"We haven't accomplished anything yet," said defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic, named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week after recording two sacks and two forced fumbles against Pitt. "The last few seasons we were 3-0. One year (2005) we were 4-0. When that 12th game is over, that's when we'll start talking."
The Spartans have been smarting for 12 months after squandering a 16-point lead in the final 8:19 and losing 40-37 to Notre Dame, a game that spelled the beginning of the end for John L. Smith, the coach Dantonio replaced. It was a soggy, rain- and tear-soaked payback for MSU's 44-41 overtime win in 2005.
"It was a pretty big contrast," quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "Two years ago was one of the top wins I've had at Michigan State. Then, last year was one of the lowest losses."
With the Spartans favored to win on the road, Notre Dame coming off a 38-0 beating at Michigan and both teams unranked for just the third time in their past 20 meetings, Dantonio vows not to let his team become distracted.
"From my perspective the Irish have excellent talent and always will," he said. "They have excellent coaching. They have tradition. They're backed into a corner a little bit.
"They played us here last year. You guys know the score on that one. But it's a traditional rival. And any time you have a rivalry game, you need to be prepared. So we'll go down there with that mind-set."
The mind-set is one of respect but not fear. From Hoyer, who grew up thinking Notre Dame was in California, to Saint-Dic, who is only concerned about the fight in the Spartans, the Fighting Irish are still a team to take seriously.
"It's the perfect opportunity for them to really come at us hard," Saint-Dic said. "I'm not downing Notre Dame at all. Things happen. They expected to be good this year. Things haven't gone their way. But that doesn't mean they're not Notre Dame."