Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly opened this week talking about the already hard road his team has traveled to get to 2-2.
The Irish, as usual, didn't play any cream puffs to start the season with games against South Florida, Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. The four teams Notre Dame opened with have a combined 8-1 record.
And it doesn't get any easier this weekend when the Irish travel to Purdue.
"This is their Super Bowl," Kelly said of the Boilermakers (2-1). "This is the biggest game on their schedule by far. We are going to get everybody's best shot. We know that."
Because Kelly feels every team is going to give Notre Dame its best shot, he said the focus has to be on taking care of his players.
"There's so much to work on, we could be out there three hours, we're 90 minutes in practice right now," Kelly said. "Some coaches would want to be there for two and half or three (hours), but you lose that on Saturday."
Notre Dame could be gaining a player Saturday as linebacker Danny Spond is making progress healing from a hamstring injury.
"Spond is running and practicing," Kelly said. "He's probably going to make the travel squad."
Receiver Daniel Smith, who is also recovering from a hamstring injury, is not ready to play, Kelly said.
Notre Dame is treating safeties Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta like they are both starters beside captain Harrison Smith.
But Slaughter is playing at such a level that it is hard to take him off the field, Kelly said.
Slaughter's nine tackles may be less than Motta's 14, but Slaughter's ability to also play as a cornerback has made him more and more valuable.
"Jamoris is playing really well," Kelly said. "He's made that a very interesting situation. They both have to play, but Jamoris is on a hot streak right now."
Fifth-year senior tight end Mike Ragone's season ended when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a 35-31 loss to Michigan on Sept. 10.
But he has still proven valuable to the team, especially since the players behind starter Tyler Eifert are inexperienced.
Junior Jake Golic, who played in three games last year, hasn't played this season as he is recovering from a broken arm. Sophomore Alex Welch is in his first season as an active player, and Ben Koyack is a freshman.
"Mike has really been a mentor to those young tight ends. Really, you got three really inexperienced tight ends," Kelly said. "He's been great. He rooms with them. He spends extra time with them. He's been a coach for us. He's at every single practice. He's put off surgery just to be with the guys. He's going to get it done, but he's put it off because he's so much wanted to be part of what we are doing. He's committed to helping these guys and helping our team."
Kelly said he and Ragone, who didn't play as a sophomore because of an ACL injury, have discussed the possibility of the tight end applying for a sixth year with the Irish.