The Big Ten is a little over a year away from official expansion into Los Angeles. Beginning with the 2024 football season, USC and UCLA will officially join the conference. That means the clock is ticking for scheduling changes, which are many and necessary given the league's growth.

Nothing is official yet, but plenty has been rumored about the Big Ten's approach to scheduling and alignment going forward. CBS Sports is suggesting, though, that the league will abandon divisions and should go with an unconventional method.

[T]he nine-game conference schedule the league has used for a few years will remain, as there's an easy format available within it to ensure all 16 schools play each other regularly.

That's the 3-6-6 model. Each school has three "permanent rivals" they play every season. They then split the remaining 12 conference schools and play every other year, so you never go more than two years without playing a school or four without hosting one. But, again, that part is easy.

The tricky part is figuring out who the three "permanent rivals" are.


So who would Michigan State's three permanent rivals? Michigan, obviously, is one. But who beyond that?

Penn State? The Nittany Lions aren't a real rival of the Spartans, but one manufactured decades ago by George Perles and Joe Paterno to play up the schools' shared legacies as land-grant institutions.

Indiana? It is a trophy game for MSU, but this so-called rivalry is as much an actual rivalry as the Old Brass Spittoon is an actual trophy.

The point is that it's hard to find obvious secondary and tertiary rivals for MSU in the Big Ten. But even so, what CBS Sports has come up with is hard to understand.

Michigan State's other two rivals in the new-look Big Ten will be Rutgers and USC, according to CBS Sports. Before completely dismissing this, let's take a look at each.


  • The two have played each other 14 times, dating back to 1988.
  • MSU leads all-time, 10-4.
  • The Spartans and Scarlet Knights have played each other annually since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014. Before that, they had played five times.


  • The Spartans and Trojans have played each other eight times, dating back to 1963.
  • The all-time series is tied, 4-4.
  • Here are the results of each of the eight meetings between MSU and USC:
    • 1963, regular-season game: USC wins 13-10 in Los Angeles.
    • 1964, regular-season game: MSU wins 17-7 in East Lansing.
    • 1967, regular-season game: USC wins 21-17 in East Lansing.
    • 1972, regular-season game: USC wins 51-6 in Los Angeles.
    • 1978, regular-season game: USC wins 30-9 in Los Angeles.
    • 1987, regular-season game: MSU wins 27-13 in East Lansing.
    • 1988, Rose Bowl: MSU wins 20-17.
    • 1990, John Hancock Bowl: MSU wins 17-16.

Michigan State and Rutgers certainly are not rivals. But Spartan fans should be happy to have the Scarlet Knights as one of their protected opponents. You don't want to have three heavyweights as your permanent rivals. Rutgers is a reprieve from that.

MSU and USC also isn't a rivalry, but at least there's a little bit of history between the two programs that spans several generations. It's also an excuse to visit California every other year, which is good enough for me.

And — sorry for burying the lead here — the Greeks and Trojans infamously do not get along, so maybe this really is a rivalry?

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