From 2010-15, Michigan State was neck in neck with Ohio State as the best program in the Big Ten. The Spartans won 11 or more games five times in those six seasons, winning the conference four times with three AP top-6 finishes and cresting in 2013, when Michigan State went 13-1, unbeaten in conference play -- including a 10-point win over undefeated Ohio State for the Big Ten title -- beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl and finished No. 3 in both polls.
The second half of the decade, though, has not been as prosperous in East Lansing. Michigan State has now lost six or more games in three of the past four seasons, including this one, as Sparty dipped to 4-6 with a 44-10 loss to Michigan on Saturday. No opponent shows the rise and fall of Michigan State's fortunes more than their in-state rival; Michigan State claimed the Paul Bunyan Trophy seven of eight times from 2008-15, but is 1-3 in that game since 2016.
Following Saturday's loss, Michigan State will now need to sweep Rutgers and Maryland (combined Big Ten record: 1-13) to reach a bowl game.
Though the end of the decade was not as good as the beginning, Mark Dantonio on Tuesday confirmed he intends to lead Michigan State football into the next one.
The 2020 season will be the 63-year-old's 14th season as Michigan State's head coach and 20th total, dating back to his run as the defensive backs coach under Nick Saban and Bobby Williams from 1995-00. With 111 wins, he has surpassed Duffy Daugherty as the winningest head coach in Spartans history.
Given the fact that Dantonio is a likely future College Football Hall of Famer, it's generally understood Dantonio will go out on his own terms. But the Spartans' struggles, particularly on offense -- they're 110th in scoring, after Dantonio retained his entire offensive staff but switched their positional assignments following a 126th place finish last season -- led many to wonder if Dantonio saw his timeline ending after this season.
Clearly, that answer is yes.
Dantonio signed a rolling 6-year contract in 2016 that bumped his annual salary to $4.3 million and promised him a $4.3 million longevity bonus on Jan. 15, 2020. That bonus, a full extra year's salary, has been top of mind for many observers of the Michigan State program, if not Dantonio himself (at least, not that he's admitted publicly).
Though Dantonio did answer one question on Tuesday, he invited another: what circle is he trying to complete? The program he inherited from John L. Smith was at the bottom of the Big Ten -- Michigan State was 3-13 in Big Ten play in 2005-06 -- he led the Spartans to sights unseen since the 1960s from 2010-15, and now Michigan State is generally back where it was in the early Dantonio years, a team that competes for bowl games, not conference championships.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.