Adam Rittenberg looks at the way nonconference scheduling has changed in the Big Ten over the last 30 years, following up on a Pat Forde piece on changes in non-conference scheduling across the country.
Rittenberg cites MSU as one of four Big Ten teams to maintain a pretty steady degree of difficulty--at least two BCS-conference-level opponents per season (counting Notre Dame). Of course, that all changes this year, with an FCS (Division 1-AA) team and two MAC teams filling the three non-Notre Dame slots.
Let's keep in mind that the BCS system make "the regular season count," though. It counts so much that no one's willing to play more than one real game outside of conference play any more.