So it was fitting with their 41-28 win Saturday in Lincoln that the Spartans got their first win against Nebraska in school history and clinched a share of the Legends Division title in the process.
"Green Gatorade never tasted so good," said coach Mark Dantonio, who now has won in every Big Ten stadium.
The Spartans sit at 9-1 and 6-0 in the Big Ten and one win – or a Minnesota loss – away from locking up a trip to Indianapolis.
It was not easy – nor pretty – to take Saturday's game in Lincoln, though.
The Spartans allowed a season-high 392 yards and allowed a team to run for more than 100 yards for the first time this season, but did force five turnovers leading to 24 points.
"If you go into our locker room right now, there's a lot of happy guys," senior linebacker Max Bullough said. "There's a lot of guys that are happy we won, but there's some guys that are not necessarily pumped about our performance on defense. …
"We'd rather be sitting here talking about what we can fix while we're in the winning column."
Instead, it was the offense that put together the performance needed to get the win – another fitting comparison after last season's struggles for the Spartans.
"I thought it was a really big statement especially against a really good team in Nebraska," said Connor Cook, who was 15 of 31 for 193 yards and a touchdown. "They have a great defense, top to bottom. It just shows you that we finish."
Individually, Cook finished well, hitting Keith Mumphery for a 27-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to give MSU a 34-21 lead.
"I threw it over the middle with Keith open and it just worked out great," Cook said. "I thought I had overthrown him for sure, but as soon as the ball was in the air, he turned on the jets."
The score came moments after the Spartans converted a fake field goal as holder Mike Sadler pulled the ball up and ran for four tough yards up the middle.
"At some point in time, your head football coach has to take some chances," Dantonio said. "I told our football team at halftime, ‘Hey, we're going to roll the dice.' I already made up my mind on that series if we got within field-goal range, we were running the field-goal fake, ‘Charlie Brown.'"
Fortunately for MSU, it worked and provided the momentum shift needed after Nebraska pulled within six twice in the third quarter.
Nebraska was fueled by a strong game from Ameer Abdullah, who had 123 yards rushing on 22 carries – the best performance by a running back against MSU this season.
Jeremy Langford countered with a career-high 151 yards on 32 carries for MSU, including a 37-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to make it 41-21. It was Langford's fifth consecutive 100-yard game.
The Spartans forced turnovers on Nebraska's first two drives. They forced four fumbles in the game and Kurtis Drummond added an interception for the most turnovers forced in Dantonio's tenure in East Lansing.
MSU took advantage of good field position to get a 5-yard touchdown run from R.J. Shelton in the first and a 6-yard run by Langford to lead 20-7 at halftime.
Senior linebacker Denicos Allen said the offense getting in the end zone and making the plays to win means a lot for the defense.
"It's a big confidence booster," he said.L"ike I said a few games ago, our offense has been playing well and they get better every game."
Now, attention turns to winning at Northwestern next week and punching a ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.
"Just a team win, program win and we are excited about being 9-1," Dantonio said.
"Everything is in our corner."