I have a confession.

Back when the over/under totals for B1G teams came out in the middle of the offseason, I felt confident about one thing and one thing only.

There was no WAY that Michigan State was going to hit the over on 6.5 wins. Why? Well, I outlined those reasons back in June, and at the time, it felt like a pretty popular opinion.

Call me crazy, but I think it’s ambitious to assume a three-win team will more than double its regular season win total after the offseason MSU has had so far. Keep in mind that the Spartans still could lose multiple key players depending on the outcome of the ongoing sexual assault investigation. This is also a team that lost the likes of Malik McDowell, Riley Bullough, Montae Nicholson, Demetrious Cox and Jon Reschke from that defense. Combine that with the fact that MSU has a non-conference game against Notre Dame and a loaded B1G East schedule, I’m not banking on seven wins.

Needless to say, I was wrong. Really wrong.

The Spartans earned their 10th victory of the season on Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl. It was a dominant display against a legitimate top-25 team in Washington State. The win gave MSU double digit wins for the fourth time in fifth years.

On the surface, it was typical MSU. Of course Mark Dantonio’s squad thrived after getting snubbed from the Outback Bowl. It was just another chip-on-the-shoulder win for a program that’s had no shortage of those this decade.

Should we have expected MSU to do the unexpected all year though?

Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s not forget that this was a defense that was supposed to be completely gutted. Losing Bullough, Cox, McDowell, Nicholson, Reschke and even young Donnie Corley among several others was expected to be devastating.

Instead, Thursday night showed what we’ve seen all year. That is, MSU has some extremely talented young playmakers on defense. Joe Bachie, Josiah Scott, Raequan Williams and David Dowell were all guys who shined in the Holiday Bowl, and did so throughout 2017. In hindsight, MSU’s injury-riddled 2016 season actually helped sophomores like Williams and Dowell, who benefitted from those atypical circumstances as freshmen.

Maybe I overlooked that aspect when evaluating MSU’s prospects in 2017. Can you blame me?

Five months ago, MSU was just trying to go a week without a new negative headline popping up. Sexual assault investigations. Arrests. Disputes between teammates. Transfers.

That would’ve been disastrous for an 11-win team, much less one that went 3-9 with a lone B1G win against Rutgers. Forgive me if I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel in the loaded B1G East.

But week in, week out, MSU worked its way back to relevancy. Quickly, 2016 appeared to be the exception and not the new norm. Eventually, 2017 was more of the MSU norm and certainly not the exception of the Dantonio era.

By night’s end, nothing was surprising about what the Spartans did to a Washington State team that was initially favored to win. By kickoff time, the Spartans were favored with news of Luke Falk’s Holiday Bowl absence going public. By halftime, it looked like MSU could’ve covered a 20-point spread (they did).

The Spartans did that with ease. Unlike last year when everything looked difficult, MSU capped off its turnaround season in fitting fashion. The young, rising stars on the defensive side get credit for that. Surely Brian Lewerke, who was ready to roll on Thursday night, was a big part of that.

The most credit, obviously, should go to Dantonio. All he did was put his head down and go to work. After perhaps the most embarrassing year possible, he did everything in his power to ensure that wouldn’t happen again.

The Fox Sports 1 broadcast crew asked Dantonio about why the 2016 collapse happened. I thought his answer, as told by FS1’s Joel Klatt, said it all:

“There is no sale on success. It never goes on sale. You’ve got to pay the price every single year in order to have that success. You’ve got to do the work. And if you don’t, you’re gonna lose.”

That will be remembered throughout this offseason for MSU. It’ll be a completely different feeling in East Lansing. After L.J. Scott announced his intentions to return for his senior year, there was already speculation that the Spartans will start the 2018 season ranked in the top 10.

MSU is indeed back, and far sooner than many expected. There will be no rebuilding. Instead, the Spartans are just building on what looks like a promising future.

As Dantonio stood at the Holiday Bowl podium, he provided the perfect closing note on 2017.

“Ten wins, at the beginning of the season, would’ve been a dream,” he said. “We made it a reality.”

Dantonio was right, and I was wrong.