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Notre Dame up to the challenge

Notre Dame didn't take the easiest path to its 2-1 start and No. 22 ranking in The Associated Press' Top 25 poll.

The Irish did open with relative lightweight Temple, but they then took on Big Ten-foes Michigan (a 41-30 road loss) and Purdue (a 31-24 road win).

Coach Brian Kelly said the season-opening challenges will pay off as the season progresses.

"I think when you are playing tough competition, you are being tested mentally and physically for four quarters," Kelly said Sunday. "You are definitely learning more about your personal, they are being challenged. I think you get a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Going into the fourth game, you know where you need to improve and the areas you need to continue to work on."

Notre Dame's fourth game starts an even more challenging three-game stretch.

The Irish play host to Michigan State (3-0), which fell one vote short of cracking the AP poll with 59 votes to No. 25 Texas' 60, on Saturday. Notre Dame then plays host to No. 12 Oklahoma (3-0) on Sept. 28 and plays No. 23 Arizona State (2-0) in a "Shamrock Series" game on Oct. 5 in Arlington, Texas.

"It's always a great physical contest," Kelly said of playing Michigan State this week. "That's how Coach (Mark) Dantonio prides himself on how they play. They play great defense. It should be another physical game, third week in a row for us in terms of playing a Big Ten opponent, back to back to back right out of the gate.

"We ask our guys to do a lot here at Notre Dame."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.