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Ranking The Big Ten Football Programs All Time: Michigan State Spartans

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How high can Sparty climb?

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Sparty has history. 7 Big Ten teams don’t have a major poll national title, Michigan State has 2. They were one half of one of the many “Games of the Century” when they tied Notre Dame in 1966. Bubba Smith, Carl Banks, and Morten Anderson used to wear the green and white.

They also have current success. 11 or more wins in 5 of the last 7 years. In three of those years, they were in the Big Ten Championship Game, winning 2 and losing the third by 3 points. In major bowls over that span, they are 2-1.

All of that makes your Michigan State Spartans the best of the rest. I don’t think I am throwing out a hot take when I say there are 4 programs above everyone else. It was debatable who would be number 5, but in the end, the AP poll pushed the Spartans to the quasi top. 5 times they have finished in the top 2 and 9 times in the top 5. Number 6 on the list doesn’t come close to those kinds of numbers.

I think most people will be able to guess who number 6 was, and if I weighted recent history more, it’s quite possible that they would jump to the number 5 spot. This is a lesson in history, so if I am going to error on the side of caution, it’s going to place too much emphasis on old football games.


So here is the list after ranking 5 teams.

  1. ?
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. Michigan State Spartans
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. Maryland Terrapins
  10. Illinois Fighting Illini
  11. Purdue Boilermakers
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights