It wasn't Michigan State's night, but 2015 belonged to the Spartans
The final seconds of 2015 couldn’t tick down fast enough for Michigan State.
By the middle of the third quarter, it was over. It wasn’t the first 2015 Cotton Bowl. It wasn’t the 2015 Ohio State game. It wasn’t the 2015 B1G Championship.
No chip in the world was big enough for Michigan State to come back and give the world one more thriller in the final game of the year. Thursday night wasn’t the story of 2015. Michigan State was.
Nobody delivered as many nail-biting, stunning, last-second miracle moments as the Spartans. The year of madness that was in college football was thanks to Michigan State.
But entertainment doesn’t win national titles. There was no “team of destiny” in 2015. There was one football team that executed and maximized its talent in every way, shape and form, and one that didn’t.
That, above all else, was the only thing that mattered on Thursday night.
Go figure that it had nothing to do without Connor Cook’s health, nor did it have anything to do with Derrick Henry’s workload. Cook actually said after the game that he was at 100% and that he won’t need surgery on his shoulder. Even if he was only at 80%, 20% more of Cook wasn’t making up the difference in a 38-0 drubbing.
The first shutout of the Mark Dantonio era didn’t exemplify the rise that his team was on. MSU went from an above average Power Five team without much tradition, to a team that spent three years chasing a national title.
In the loaded B1G East, that was no small feat. The 2015 season will always be remembered as the year that Michigan State vaulted past Michigan and Ohio State. If Jalen Watts-Jackson doesn’t deliver the play of the year, Michigan reclaims its spot as “big brother.” If Michael Geiger doesn’t drill the game-winner against Ohio State, the defending national champs still hold their place atop the B1G and possibly the college football world.
In the midst of Thursday night’s loss, it was easy to forget that MSU broke down barriers. College football is the single most difficult sport to do that because of guys like Saban and programs like Alabama.
For a three-year stretch, MSU did everything it could to destroy the good-not-great stigma that hovered over its program. The last two years, we really didn’t sit back and appreciate the Spartans’ body of work until they beat one of the nation’s top teams in a bowl game.
This year was different.
For the first time we were talking about Michigan State pursuing a national title at every step of the way. On the last day of 2015, we were still talking about whether or not Michigan State could go on a run like last year’s Ohio State team.
They didn’t, but the 2015 MSU team cannot be defined by one game. The pundits are going to write off MSU in the coming days.
‘They got some lucky breaks.’
‘They aren’t elite.’
‘Ohio State would’ve given Alabama a better game.’
Those are all opinions. But here are the facts.
If the Spartans hold a top-six spot in the final Associated Press poll for the third straight year, they’ll be the only team in America that can make that claim. Dantonio led the Spartans to a 36-5 overall record, and a 22-2 mark in the B1G during that stretch.
That won’t change the only number Michigan State fans care about right now. ‘Alabama 38, Michigan State 0’ will have a sting that figures to last well into 2016. Couple that with the graduation of household names like Cook and Shilique Calhoun, and it might be natural to revert back to old opinions of MSU.
But 2015 proved that the Spartans definitely were not who we thought they were.
“I wanted to be history-makers,” MSU linebacker Darien Harris said. “I think we still are.”
Amen to that.