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MSU Potluck, Day 4: Looking back on Michigan State football’s Rose Bowl win and run of success.

With an era of Spartan football dominance in the rear view, we wax nostalgic for our own teams’ successes.

The 100th Rose Bowl Game - Stanford v Michigan State Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

As the Michigan State football program seemingly burns itself out, like the phoenix of legend, so from the ashes must rise something renewed.

Graham Filler tells us that it’s the East Lansing food scene! When pressed for comment:

i love olive burders, [GF note: Kewpees, seriously] [ed note: fucking disgusting, Graham]
Emergence of the Lansing - East Lansing food scene has been sweet
Hopcat Crack Fries
Lansing hipster spots: Creole, Zoobies, Saddleback, MEAT, man now I’m starving. But seriously this area has been underserved for as long as its been around. Now the comeback begins!

It’s a simple duo of questions today, OTE writers:

(1) What, to you, defined the era of Michigan State’s success in the Big Ten?
(2) Tell us about your favorite run in your team’s history.

BRT: Did someone say "wax nostalgic for our team's successes?" Husker fan here, answering the beacon! Um, I'm not sure if you guys have ever heard this or not, but once Nebraska won three National Championships in four years. That was my favorite run in my team's history. Come on—even if you hate us, you have to admit that was a pretty solid several years. The 90s as a whole were pretty great as a Nebraska fan—I wasn't quite old enough to appreciate the singularity of such an era, unfortunately, but I do remember it. And though it's not football, I currently enjoy Nebraska volleyball's recurring excellence in the sport, because volleyball (especially in the Big Ten) is awesome and you should watch it.

I watched a lot of MSU football during their glory years. I attended, in person, the Hail Mary game where Keith Nichol crushed the hearts of Badgers. I also witnessed in person (and deeply enjoyed) Nebraska's many inexplicable wins over the Spartans. But to me, the defining game or moment of the recent Sparty epoch was the hilarious and improbable ending of the 2015 Michigan game. This was not only peak MSU, it was an absolutely great college football moment.


As for question #2, I’m pretty sure we’re living it right now. There may be better runs of IUFB in the past, but this is the most sustained run of my lifetime, given that there’s no way 3 year old me remembers the Bill Mallory era.

Townie: Those good Michigan State teams always struck me as that prototypical B1G football team. Not flashy. Riding a brutal defense. With enough offense to put up big points once they wore you down.

It wasn’t that long ago, either.

Even when they were down, Michigan State wasn’t out. Many of their middle years, they were a derp or two away from being a good football team. It was only last year’s team that was a truly horrible football team.

Driving home, after evacuating for Hurricane Matthew last year, I listened to the BYU game.It’s the second half and Sparty is up 7-3...and the wheels simply come off. BYU adjusted and Michigan State had nothing. Nada. Zip. The second half was all BYU 28-7.

I don’t think we’ll see MSU that bad again this year.

As for Penn State, I was around for the 1980’s. Kenny Jackson, Todd Blackledge, Matt Millen, Curt Warner. Two natty’s. First round draft picks. Brutal defenses and smash mouth offenses. Back then, PSU’s offense was horribly predictable...but we were bigger, meaner and stronger than you. We’d line up, run that stupid fullback dive...and punch you in the mouth with it.

JWS: As a Buckeye fan, the defining moment was using ex-OSU coaches to give Ohio State one of it’s most brutal losses. In 2013, all the pieces fell into to place for Ohio State to make the NCAA championship game. It was looking like an OSU team that was undefeated was going to get left out of the game, before Auburn knocked off Bama in improbable fashion. All the Bucks had to do was go out and beat Michigan State. I guess you could say OSU pulled a Sparty.

Everyone blamed Jim Bollman for pretty much everything while he was at OSU, and he has done a fantastic job while leading the MSU offense. Most Buckeye fans have lamented Dantonio leaving since day one.

As for my favorite run as a Buckeye fan, I have to say it’s been great since about 96. Sure there were some devastating Michigan losses, and a couple real tear jerkers in national championship games, but overall, I realize how blessed we have been. I will say the undefeated run in Urban Meyer’s first season, when they were playing for basically nothing, was pretty special. Then the three games, starting with demolishing Wisconsin, and then knocking off Bama and Oregon to win the first playoff was not just huge for Ohio State, but the entire Big Ten. Let’s pretend they just barely beat Wisconsin, and it’s Baylor or TCU in the playoffs, can you imagine the national narrative after the two ass whoopings the B1G took the last two years?

Stew: MSU always played with an edge that would sometimes cross the line into dirty play. But they did it while always attacking, being aggressive, and being in the right place. It seems like last season they still had the attitude and dirty play, but while also being kinda lazy.

The run of ‘02-’04 was pretty fun. From high flying offense (yeah, remember that? Iowa had the best offense in the B1G), and Heisman runner-up with Brad Banks. To lumbering giant QB Nathan Chandler. And then ‘04, Drew Tate windmilling down the field while dumptrucking OSU; the birth of AIRBHG; Sam Brownlee being the rushing leader with under 300 total yards on the season on a sizzling 2.4 yards per carry; Matt Roth wrecking fools; 6-4; and Tate to Holloway to give Saban a fitting sendoff to the NFL. That ‘04 season is probably my favorite overall team, though certainly not the best.

GF: The tough linebacker play was always a nice touch from Sparty...Bullough(s), Greg Jones come to mind. But if you look at the real reason Sparty could pack the front 7 on defense, it was the outstanding college corners. It’s rare you can leave a corner alone on an island and consistently get away with it. MSU did that every game.

MNW: It was two things for me:
(1) Their utter dominance of Michigan over that stretch, with whole classes leaving without ever having lost to the Wolverines. Michigan fans can proclaim that now Sparty’s had one bad year, they “don’t care again,” make some joke about “little brother,” etc., but Dantonio’s 7-3 mark against Michigan Blue stings and stands out.
(2) Michigan State’s constantly-blurring-the-line relationship with hard-nosed, blue-collar football and the Thugtans moniker. I think Stew’s encapsulated that perfectly. I know the Spartans had some talented offensive players, but it was the defense that always stood out during those Cinderella runs.

Look, my Northwestern football fandom stems back to 2008, maybe 2007, and my basketball fandom to the early aughts, just after Bill Carmody remade the program. So I don’t have too much of a leg to stand on here, though I remember Victory Right (only from the other, losing side).

So the easy answer is basketball, 2016-17. Or 1995, I’m sure older NU fans will be by to say. Let’s get that out of the way.

The run that defines modern Northwestern football, to me, was the slog from 2008-2012. It encapsulates being a Northwestern fan. Here were teams, in 2008 and 2009, disliked by the advanced stats (53rd at 9-4 in 2008, 24 places below 5-7 Illinois; 92nd!!! at 8-5 in 2009) but in positions to get signature, program-defining bowl wins over “name” schools, only to get in their own ways in the most Northwesterny way possible—punting to Jeremy Maclin in 2008, just Stefan Demos in general in 2009, losing to Army in 2011—only to finally do the damn thing in 2012 while still leaving a little room for more (it was only Mississippi State, after all). Those parallel senses of accomplishment and dissatisfaction—there’s something sweet to be gleaned from it all.

You tell us, OTE commentariat: What do you remember about Michigan State’s run? And what run in your team’s history is your favorite?


What, to you, defined Michigan State’s 2010-2015 run?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Hard-nosed defense.
    (66 votes)
  • 9%
    (13 votes)
  • 12%
    Mark Dantonio’s magic.
    (17 votes)
  • 9%
    2*, blue-collar offensive players.
    (13 votes)
  • 15%
    Michigan’s mediocrity.
    (21 votes)
  • 3%
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    I’ll tell you in the comments!
    (1 vote)
136 votes total Vote Now