LVS and some in this thread have suggested that MSU should end its year end tradition of playing Penn State the last conference game. The reasons for doing this are pretty good in one case (a lack of heat in the rivalry), pretty bad, in my opinion, in the other (they keep winning) and pretty ironclad in the third (disdain for aesthetic nightmare that is the Land Grant Trophy).
The current year-end games are pretty logical, so it's hard to see who you break up when you separate MSU and PSU.
Wisconsin is lonely and finds comfort in the arms of a string of bad non-conference opponents.
So, the easiest thing is to throw in Nebraska versus Wisconsin, send George Perles to his garage to build them a trophy and spray paint it red(this works as a little new guy hazing for Nebraska and an insult to Wisconsin). The problem would be that the schools have no ties to speak of, having played five times beginning with a one-off in 1901 and then a home-and-home in both the 60s and the 70s.
The next easiest thing is to send the Badgers to play their archrival, the Gophers, (do they call this The Burrowing Rivalry?) and have Iowa and Nebraska play a border rivalry. They've played 41 times (12 wins for the Hawks, 26 wins for the Husks, 3 ties), but the majority were before World War II.
As a geographic fundamentalist (an eternal curse of sneezing upon the competitive balance infidels!) I can see the obvious truth that the only worthwhile divisions are split at the Indiana border. I'd favor no protected cross-division rivalries because it would mean we'd play the non-protected teams in the other division to infrequently, so that limits who we could find for a new end of the year game. The most logical would obviously be the least likely to happen. We play Michigan last and OSU plays PSU. PSU fans would love this too, if Black Shoe Diaries is any guide, they seem to extra-special dislike OSU. But, yeah.
So, we could stick with PSU or break up Indiana and Purdue. I guess Purdue wouldn't be bad for us, but that makes the Hoosiers and Nittanys step children.
Whatever Mark Hollis' hell-spawned divisions are, they apparently have MSU playing NW last, so does that mean PSU gets Illinois?
I'll guess he's just throwing geography completely out:
MSU, M, OSU, NW, Purdue, Indiana
PSU, Neb., Wiscy, Minne, Iowa, Illinois
That would leave Penn State probably playing Illinois, or if they could get Nebraska, then Wisconsin could play a border rivalry with Illinois. I've never heard that there's any dislike between those schools.
Now, for apostasy, that's not bad. PSU would hate it, because they wouldn't be playing OSU and M every year. Hopefully, Penn State can torpedo this idea.
I actually wouldn't mind picking Wisconsin if it won't be Penn State. We already hate them in basketball and the trophy could be a globe filled with Lake Michigan water. The Carferry Cup? (The S.S. Badger's dry docked sister is the S.S. Spartan) However, I don't see the divisions you're going to construct that makes that happen without making everyone else mad. You could use cross-division protected rivalries, though, much as I dislike those.
The case for keeping Penn State is basically a negative one. Northwestern doesn't help with heat (we're going to hate Northwestern, really?) It makes a likely more competitive rivalry, as we're 12-14-1 vs. PSU (8 of our wins come pre-Joe Pa) and we're 34-16 versus Northwestern. That can't be argued.
I just don't think its broke. Have we had little success versus PSU? Sure. But we've had three winning seasons in the last 10. We've had little success, period. We haven't beaten Ohio State since 1999. That 10-2 team was the last MSU team to beat M, PSU and OSU in a single season. But, I don't see the value in going in with anyone else just to go 8-4 rather than 7-5, say. I'd rather keep plugging away and try to improve by playing the best. The other advantage of playing PSU versus Northwestern is that we'll likely get wider TV audiences and thus more attention, which matters in recruiting. But so does winning games. Given PSU's likely QB struggles this year, I'd say our chances of evening up Dantonio's record versus the Nittany Lions are pretty okay, or at least better than they were last year. If MSU is going to become a team that really competes for Big 10 titles, we'll have to go through the current conference big dogs, OSU, PSU, Iowa, (possibly) Wisconsin and, soon to be, Nebraska.
In college football, I definitely subscribe to 'if it's not broke, don't fix it.'