It's time to celebrate the remarkable success of MSU since Mark Dantonio took over with a short countdown of the some of the best Sparty Yes! moments since 2010. Why 2010? That's when the national relevance started for the Spartans and that's when MSU began winning the types of games it had been losing since before I was born.
What's my criteria for picking "biggest" wins? National relevance, program building, strong opponent, historical significance, memorable play(s)...
#5 - MSU 34, ND 31 (September 18, 2010)
The "Little Giants" game propelled MSU to its first 11 win season in Dantonio's reign. The final play became a memorable "canon" in this legendary stretch of Spartan successes. It also propelled MSU onto the national stage, a platform that MSU football hasn't departed from since (except for the entire year of 2012).
#4 - MSU 27, Michigan 23 (October 17, 2015)
This game could be even higher if MSU wins tonight against Iowa and wins a National Title in the College Football Playoffs...as the combination of lucky bounces and hustle on the final play became a signature in-state trash talking point for years to come. The fact here is this: Michigan was terrible for most of Dantonio's big years. So yes, beating the Wolverines was an enjoyable, and oft-repeated experience, but the actual games weren't entirely memorable or close. Basically beatdowns from start to finish, filled with terrible Wolverine offense and conservative Spartan offensive playcalling. It was like watching a snake slowly swallow its prey.
This 2015 matchup was the first time in a long time where the teams seemed on even footing, both legitimate Top 10, or Top 15, teams. And MSU, in front of a huge national audience, pulled off the win in improbable form.
I would have ranked this game higher, but this season is still in flux, so while this is a big win in the Dantonio era, it could eventually be viewed as a "bigger" win.
#3 - MSU 17, Ohio State 14 (November 21, 2015)
You beat the #2 undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes, you make this Top 5 list.
Memorable moment: The Windmill (see, I don't have to say anything more)
Strong opponent: Sure, denigrate this OSU team because of the playcalling, but the Bucks crushed Michigan the next week. MSU dominated the LOS on both sides of the ball, which has been the calling card of Mark Dantonio's teams. Toughness and coaching stability were the two things lacking from so many Spartan teams before.
#2 - MSU 24, Stanford 20 (January 1, 2014)
So much physicality! And at the Rose Bowl! Makes you just want to listen to Keith Jackson's voice the entire day...
The Leap (TM) by Ellsworth, Pendleton's score...The worry that Stanford might be too big or too strong for MSU was alleviated pretty quickly. The win propelled MSU to #3 in the final polls, it's highest ranking in Dantonio's tenure...so far.
#1 - MSU 34, Ohio State 24 (December 7, 2013)
After the initial Spartan burst, that monster OSU team came roaring back to take the lead and I felt like...Undefeated OSU was showing its stripes. But it was not to be! I was in a bar in Midland, Michigan, and you could feel the shift in mood when it became clear that MSU was not going to be run out of Indianapolis, instead standing up to the big bad Bucks. The Langford run, the 4th down stop of Braxton. It was a matchup of heavyweights and Michigan State came out on top.