Blowout victories over Penn State have highlighted Michigan State’s most recent national championship season and its most recent Big Ten championship season. Another MSU rout featured one of the greatest running game efforts in program history.

Turn it around, and Penn State pummeled the Spartans during its most recent B1G championship season, and also had a freakish rushing game by Larry Johnson in the biggest rout of all time in the Michigan State vs. Penn State rivalry series.

Spanning from 1945 to 2016, the 10 biggest blowouts in the series have featured memorable names from classic eras. These games provide part of the folklore in the long, storied histories of the nation’s first 2 land grant universities.

No. 15 Penn State 61, Michigan State 7 (2002)

Larry Johnson ran for 279 yards and 4 TDs in the first half, pushing his season rushing total over 2,000 yards. With his team up 48-0 at the break, Johnson sat out after the break.

The damage had been done, and even MSU Heisman candidate Charles Rogers couldn’t help being impressed.

“He’s got my vote for the Heisman,” Rogers said. “I saw firsthand what he could do.”

Penn State was 9-3 after the win, while MSU’s abysmal, trouble-filled season ended at 4-8.

No. 6 Michigan State 55, Penn State 16 (2015)

Penn State was still floundering in James Franklin’s 2nd season as coach, and the Spartans took full advantage to close out an 11-1 regular season and drop the Lions to 7-5.

Connor Cook passed for 248 yards and 3 TDs, and the MSU defense forced 4 turnovers.

The Spartans followed up by beating Iowa in the B1G title game to make the CFP, where they lost 38-0 to Alabama.

Michigan State 49, No. 4 Penn State 14 (1997)

The Spartans, who entered the game at 6-4 under 3rd-year coach Nick Saban, simply ran right over the Nittany Lions, who fell to 9-2 with the loss.

MSU did 2 things on the ground that had never previously been done to Penn State: It put 2 backs over 200 yards, and it rushed for 452 yards. The score was somehow tied, 14-14, late in the 3rd quarter. But Sedric Irvin (28-238, 3 TDs) and Marc Renaud (21-203, TD) took care of business against a Joe Paterno team that had been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 through the season’s first 9 weeks.

Michigan had pummeled the Lions 3 weeks earlier, and the Spartans rubbed salt in the wound with their first Big Ten win over PSU after 4 straight losses in the fledgling rivalry series.

No. 1 Michigan State 42, Penn State 8 (1966)

In the 2nd of 9 straight wins to start the season, Duffy Daugherty’s Spartans hammered the visiting Lions of first-year coach Joe Paterno. Michigan State held the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the polls all year long, and closed the season with a 10-10 against No. 1 Notre Dame.

The AP voters gave the nod, controversially, to Ara Parseghian’s Irish, who also finished 9-0-1, but the National Football Foundation tabbed the Spartans as No. 1. Penn State and Paterno get to be footnotes in MSU’s best season in 6 decades.

No. 8 Penn State 45, Michigan State 12 (2016)

What a difference a year makes. The Lions went from losing by 39 to Mark Dantonio’s Spartans to beating them by 33.

Trace McSorley passed for 386 yards and 4 TDs as Penn State cruised to 10-2 and the B1G East crown despite Saquon Barkley rushing for only 14 yards on 12 carries. The Lions went on to win the B1G title game and finish 11-3. MSU, a year after winning its only B1G title game, finished 3-9.

Michigan State 33, No. 12 Penn State 0 (1945)

This is 1 of 2 blowouts in the series that was also an upset.

Penn State was 5-1 coming off consecutive shutout victories, while Charlie Bachman’s Spartans were 4-2-1 and hadn’t shut out anyone all year. Maybe the Macklin Field advantage made the difference.

Maybe Bob Higgins’ Lions were overrated — after all, the shutouts were of Syracuse and Temple, and Penn State hadn’t beaten a ranked team since 1942. Of course, MSU hadn’t beaten a ranked team since 1938. So apparently this was a pretty significant victory for the Spartans.

No. 7 Penn State 49, No. 17 Michigan State 18 (2008)

Daryll Clark passed for 4 touchdowns and ran for another as Penn State finished the regular season 11-1 and dropped the Spartans to 9-3.

Penn State raced to a 28-0 first half lead and extended it to 49-7 by early in the 4th quarter. Clark threw for 341 of Penn State’s 557 total yards as the Lions clinched the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth.

The highlight for MSU was young backup QB Kirk Cousins passing for a late TD in his 3rd career appearance.

Michigan State 41, Penn State 10 (2003)

Jeff Smoker threw for 357 yards and 4 TDs, sending Joe Paterno home to ponder what went wrong in a 3-9 season.

“This is as bad a football game as we’ve played in a long time,” Paterno said after getting smoked by a Pennsylvania QB he had tried to recruit 4 years earlier. “I want to get out of here, get on a plane, go home and hug my wife.”

John L. Smith improved to 8-4 in his first year leading MSU, and Smoker became the 1st Spartan to top 3,000 passing yards in a season, crossing the threshold in his final game at Spartan Stadium.

No. 2 Penn State 59, Michigan State 31 (1994)

Ki-Jana Carter ran for 227 yards and scored 5 touchdowns as Penn State improved to 11-0 and put a cap on its greatest offensive season in history. In its 2nd season in the Big Ten, Penn State blitzed all comers, averaging a nation’s-best 47.0 points per game.

MSU, which fell to 5-6 despite playing with passion for fired coach George Perles, stayed close until late behind its power running game. But Penn State, with QB Kerry Collins and WR Bobby Engram complementing Carter, racked up 653 yards to earn its Rose Bowl berth.

No. 13 Penn State 42, Michigan State 14 (2009)

Daryll Clark passes for 310 yards and 4 TDs as Penn State closed out a 10-2 regular season, reaching double-digit wins for a 2nd straight year.

The game was tied 7-7 at the half, but the Lions scored 35 straight points to sink the host Spartans to 6-6. First-year starter Kirk Cousins was limited to 155 passing yards and threw 2 picks for MSU.