Rex Burkhead scored on a one-yard plunge six minutes into Nebraska's home game vs. Michigan State on Oct. 29, 2011. It was all the scoring the Huskers needed in the eventual 24-3 win.
FBS RANKINGS: No. 1 to No. 130
It was the Spartans' only loss of at least 20 points that season, but it was their sixth 20-point loss in the last four seasons. And while they still won 11 games in 2011 for the second straight season and were fielding the best teams in program history, the blowout losses were piling up. They were whooped by Alabama in the Capitol One Bowl ten months earlier and had four conference losses by at least 28 points from 2008-10.
After the Nebraska blowout in October 2011, Michigan State didn't suffer another 20-point loss until the 2015 Cotton Bowl, the 42-point College Football Playoff demolition by Alabama. In eliminating the blowout losses, Michigan State racked up 36 wins from 2013-15, by far the most over a three-year period in program history. Eight of their 11 losses between the Nebraska game and the Alabama game were by four points or fewer. They lost by 13 or more points only twice.
Then things got ugly.
The Alabama blowout was the first of three 20-point losses over their next 13 games. They had two more such losses in 2017, one in 2018, and, following a butt-whopping in Happy Valley on Saturday, already three through eight games in 2019.
In Michigan State's last 47 games, they have nine 20-point losses (plus a 17-point loss to BYU and 14-point to Michigan, along with several other double-score games), or just shy of 20 percent. Those numbers wouldn't be staggering for dozens of FBS programs. Programs like Illinois, Kansas, Rutgers, Oregon State, or UConn. It is staggering for a Michigan State program that had six 10-win seasons and won three conference championships (plus another divisional title) from 2010-17.