The Spartans have been the opposite of Notre Dame in 2007. Michigan State comes to South Bend with a 3-0 record and will look to win at Notre Dame Stadium for the sixth straight time, which has never been done by an Irish opponent. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:43 PM and NBC will have the national television coverage.
Weis made the decision after the Wolverines defeat to spend about half of this week's practice time to getting back to the basics and trying to find a core for this team. On Wednesday, the team implemented first and second down preparation, a task usually reserved for Tuesday. But with Notre Dame failing to be productive on offense and being unable to stop the run on defense, Weis felt this is what the team needed.
"There's a tradeoff," Weis said on Wednesday after practice between training camp time and preparing for Michigan State. "Trust me, I weighed the pros and cons. It isn't like the coaching staff isn't on track with the installation like we normally do. It hasn't been presented to them on the same time frame. We'll give it to them later. It was a tough decision to decide when to give the stuff to them. But until you change the attitude of how you're going to play, that second part, I felt, is less significant."
In addition to changing the attitude, confidence is a huge factor this week. Notre Dame has lost three straight games to open the season by an average of almost 30 points a contest. The Irish, from top to bottom, have been the media's favorite punching bag this season. Weis hopes that the physical sessions this week will let his players regain belief in themselves and in the team.
"You gain some confidence in practice when the tempo allows for rewards," Weis said. "But when ends up happening, when you haven't played real well, part of my job when you're dealing with the psyche of the players and the coaches is to make sure confidence isn't shattered. It's easy for people at this point to be questioning themselves when things aren't going well. Being out at practice really helps because now you have camaraderie. It's not what other people are saying. It's just us."
A big boost for building confidence would be a fast start for Notre Dame this weekend against Michigan State. The Irish did get a Darrin Walls interception return for a touchdown in the loss at Penn State to give them a quick 7-0 lead. Offensively, though, Notre Dame has been unable to score any points in the first quarter.
To help remedy the glaring problem, Weis has made ball security one of the top priorities this week in practice. An early turnover could lead a continuation of the Irish's woes. Every week, Weis gives his players a top-10 list of goals for the upcoming contest. A fast start was No. 2 on that list.
"It would be advantageous for everyone's psyche, players, coaches and fans, if good things happened early in the game," Weis said.
***Weis has made it clear that this week's practice sessions will be tough on everyone involved. The Notre Dame head coach wants to see his players win the battle at the line of scrimmage and not get overmatched in the physicality department. With this comes a verbal barrage towards the players, which is not uncommon for Weis.
"I think you have to ride them pretty hard," Weis said. "Some guys already get it. I don't think you ride them to be condescending or demeaning. You have to keep a foot on them and press them hard. You can't accept anything other than riding them hard. You even have to make sure to do the little things. Sometimes, the little things are part of the problem."
With the practice week almost over, the Notre Dame head coach hopes his players can continue their effort and work against Michigan State.
"What I'm seeing in practice, I'd like to see show up on Saturday," Weis said. "I've liked what I've seen in practice. Now, it's got to carry over to the game."
***A statue of former Irish head coach Ara Parseghian will be dedicated on Saturday morning outside Gate D of Notre Dame Stadium. The ceremony will begin at 9:30 AM and the statue will honor Parseghian's accomplishments. The former Notre Dame head coach won two national titles while leading the Irish, one in 1966 and the other in 1973. More than 200 former players and coaches are expected to attend with 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte to be the featured speaker.
***Weis on the fears that recruiting in Chicago will take a hit because of the Demetrius Jones situation: "I have one of the most renowned people in the Chicago Public League (in defensive coordinator Corwin Brown). Anything that anyone wants to know, I have one of the greatest resources going. He's one of the most respected guys ever to come out of the Chicago Public League. I don't think we'll have any problems with the Chicago Public League."