Look, we’re doing a series of stories about Big Ten rivalries, so play along.

We know Michigan State vs. Penn State isn’t really a rivalry, but pretending gives us an excuse to take a trek down Memory Lane and see what’s strewn along the wayside.

The Land Grant Trophy is its own punchline, so let’s get started forthwith.

Who designed that thing?

According to exhaustive research, Michigan State coach George Perles, in consultation with Penn State’s Joe Paterno, brain-stormed the 70-pound hodgepodge of wood, metal and photos into existence upon the Nittany Lions’ entry into the Big Ten in 1993.

Behind the Land Grant Trophy

Bless Perles’ heart, I’m sure he meant well. In a league bequeathed with 2 Paul Bunyan-related rivalry game prizes plus bells, buckets and pigs, he wanted the newcomers to feel included.

The hook, as the trophy name implies, is that the 2 schools were the first 2 land grant universities in the United States, both founded in 1855. Never mind that the campuses are 450 miles apart, separated by the state of Ohio and Lake Erie. Nothing screams bitter enemies more than sharing the distinction of being gifted land by the government in pre-Civil War America.

Play along if you like. The programs have somewhat regularly met on the final Saturday of the regular season, playing for a contrived hunk of hardware while Michigan and Ohio State vie for league supremacy — but not a trophy!

Not a warm welcome

Perles may have been trying to make amends with Penn State with the trophy thing, because Michigan State didn’t exactly welcome the Big Ten’s 11th member with open arms.

Three Big Ten presidents voted against adding PSU, leaving it with just enough votes to be accepted into the league. Indiana’s president at the time admits to being 1 of the “no” votes. Michigan and Michigan State were strongly rumored to be the other 2.

If athletic directors and coaches had gotten a say, Penn State might very well be in the ACC right now.

A trophy worth rallying for?

In the first iteration of the Land Grant rivalry, in 1993 in East Lansing, QB Kerry Collins rallied No. 14 Penn State from a 37-17 deficit to a 38-37 victory, a prelude to the Nittany Lions’ unbeaten 1994 campaign.

Penn State would go on to win the first 4 matchups in the newly established “rivalry,” with 3 of the wins coming by 4 points or less.

Spartans ruled early 20th century

Like many college football series, this one dates to the days when the young men involved, we assume, must have traveled by train to match up on the pitch. Depending on which source you use as a reference, the teams’ first meeting occurred in State College, Pa., in either 1914 or 1925.

Known as Michigan Agricultural at the time, MSU won the 1914 meeting 6-3, the lowest-scoring game in the series. After Penn State won 13-6 in 1925 (the 2nd-lowest scoring game in the series), the Spartans went 7-0-1 in sporadic meetings between 1945 and 1966. In the 1966 meeting in East Lansing, Duffy Daugherty’s unbeaten squad (which went on to finish 9-0-1 and No. 2 in the AP poll) dominated first-year coach Joe Paterno’s Lions 42-8.

After that, the teams didn’t meet again until they were league mates. Entering 1993, the Spartans were 8-1-1 in the series.

Historic streakers

As classic major college programs, both schools have had storied runs of success.

From 1950-53, coach Biggie Munn’s Spartans reeled off a 28-game winning streak, claiming Penn State among the victims in 1951 (32-21 in State College) and 1952 (34-7 in East Lansing).

Penn State had a 30-game non-losing streak (29-0-1) from 1967-70, as Paterno didn’t take long to settle in as head coach of the Lions. The stretch included a 23-game win streak. MSU wasn’t a part of it, as the series’ 27-year dormancy ensued after the 1966 meeting.

Joe Paterno owned the Spartans

In his 46-year head coaching career, Joe Paterno suffered bookend losses to Michigan State, falling in Year 1 in 1966 and in Year 45 in 2010. In between, he went 13-4 against opposing coaches George Perles, Nick Saban, Bobby Williams, Morris Watts, John L. Smith and Mark Dantonio.

Paterno’s final win over MSU was the 391st of his record 409 NCAA Division I coaching victories, all at Penn State.

MSU has had its share of legendary coaches, including Saban (1995-99) in the prelude to his SEC success. Way back, there were Clarence Biggie Munn (54-9-2, 2 claimed national titles from 1947-53) and Duffy Daugherty (109-69-5, 4 claimed national titles from 1954-72).

Long national title droughts

Michigan State claims 6 football national titles in its past, 3 of which are legitimated on the NCAA’s website. The Spartans won outright in 1952, and shared No. 1 recognition with Alabama in 1965 and with Notre Dame in 1966.

Penn State, under Paterno, won titles for its 1982 and 1986 seasons, capping those years with epic bowl game victories over Herschel Walker’s Georgia and Vinny Testaverde’s Miami.

Both schools have had undefeated, untied seasons that didn’t earn No. 1 recognition, most notably 1951 for MSU and 1968, ’69, ’73 and ’94 for PSU.

Point being, both programs have had generations of fans grow up without getting to relish the game’s ultimate prize.

Little brother syndrome in B1G

Since the B1G split to East and West divisions in 2014, Penn State (2016) and Michigan State (2015) have each won the Big Ten championship once. Since then, it’s been all Ohio State and Michigan — mostly Ohio State.

That’s nothing new, as neither program ever has broken though for a sustained run of league dominance. Penn State owns 4 B1G crowns in its 30 years in the league; MSU has 9 in more than twice as many seasons in the conference. By contrast, Michigan has 43 and Ohio State 39.

Most years when these teams square off on the final weekend of Big Ten play, they’re both playing out the string. At the start of the 2022 season, the title count (including some shared crowns from the pre-championship game days) since Penn State joined the league stood at Ohio State 14, Michigan 6, Wisconsin 6, Penn State 4, Michigan State 3, Northwestern 3, Iowa 2, Purdue 1, Illinois 1.

Bitter cold finishes

East Lansing and Happy Valley aren’t ideal weekend getaways in late November, unless you’re into skiing, hunting or freezing your ass off watching Big Ten also-rans tune up for meaningless bowl games.

On the other hand, there is something primally appealing about being part of an old-school football atmosphere. For the less hearty, it sometimes brings a comforting nostalgic feeling to watch from a warm living room while the players — young, strong and seemingly impervious to the elements — frolic like kids enjoying a day off from school.

Nothing like a snow day, however one takes it in.