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Big Ten Expansion: Michigan State Spartans versus USC Trojans

With the Big Ten adding two new members in 2024, what does MSU’s history look like against these opponents?

Michigan St v USC

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last several weeks, you are aware that the Big Ten Conference is officially expanding once again when the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans join the league in August 2024. That surprising announcement broke on June 30.

With that in mind, Michigan State fans might be interested to know what the new members bring to the table in terms of history against the Spartans. After taking a look at that history, not just in the two major revenue sports of football and men’s basketball, but also a few other select major non-revenue sports between UCLA/USC and MSU, I will also take a look at what some of the other future potential expansion candidates from the Pac-12 and ACC look like exclusively in terms of their history against the Spartans. That will be more limited in scope to just the two revenue sports, however.

We already have looked at the all-time records versus the UCLA Bruins, so up today is fellow expansion addition, the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans.


Michigan State is 4-4 in football versus USC. The series dates back to 1963, but the most recent two games have been bowl matchups, with the programs not having played each other since 1990, and not having played a regular season matchup since 1987.

While the series is an even .500, the margin of victory tilts heavily in USC’s favor. Four of the matchups have been decided by double-digits, and Michigan State owns two of those wins. However, the Trojans hold victories of 51-6 on Sept. 30, 1972 and 30-9 on Sept. 29, 1978, both home games in Los Angeles. The Spartans, meanwhile, hold double-digit wins of just 17-7 on Oct. 3, 1964 and 27-12 on Sept. 7, 1987 in home games in East Lansing.

The series is also mostly made up of winning streaks with USC and MSU splitting the first two games in the series, and the home team notching the victory both times, before USC rattled off three-straight wins that included one victory in East Lansing. Michigan State has won the last three games in the series, however, including the 1988 Rose Bowl and 1990 John Hancock Bowl (57th Sun Bowl) matchups. Despite three tries, the Spartans have never defeated USC on the Trojans’ home field, however, while USC holds a 1-2 advantage in Spartan Stadium.

Compared to the rest of the Big Ten, MSU is tied with Minnesota for the sixth most games played against USC. Ohio State is far and away the leader in the Big Ten in sheer number of matchups at 24, with Illinois a distant second with 13. Penn State, Michigan, and Iowa are just ahead of Michigan State with 10. Meanwhile, Rutgers and Maryland have never played USC.

The Spartans are the only Big Ten squad that does not have a losing record to the Trojans. The Buckeyes are the next closest with a 10-13 record (42 percent), just ahead of Michigan and Penn State, which both sit at 4-6 (40 percent).

The full series history of Michigan State versus USC is below:

MSU-USC All-Time Football Series

Date Season Location Field Score
Date Season Location Field Score
12/31/1990 1990 El Paso, Texas Neutral W 17 - 16
1/1/1988 1987 Pasadena, Calif. Neutral W 20 - 17
9/7/1987 1987 East Lansing, Mich. Home W 27 - 13
9/29/1978 1978 Los Angeles, CA Away L 9 - 30
9/30/1972 1972 Los Angeles, CA Away L 6 - 51
9/30/1967 1967 East Lansing, Mich. Home L 17 - 21
10/3/1964 1964 East Lansing, Mich. Home W 17 - 7
10/4/1963 1963 Los Angeles, CA Away L 10 - 13

Besides the head-to-head competition, USC claims the following program achievements:

  • 856-360-54 All-time record (eighth in FBS)
  • 11 National Championships (second in FBS)
  • 37 Conference Championships (fifth in FBS)
  • 53 Bowl game appearances (34-19-0 record)
  • 82 Consensus All-Americans
  • 6 Heisman winners
  • 520 NFL Draft picks (second in FBS)
  • 787 Weeks in AP Poll (91 at No. 1)

By comparison, Michigan State claims the following:

  • 721-472-44 All-time record (26th in FBS)
  • 6 National Championships (ninth in FBS)
  • 9 Conference Championships
  • 30 Bowl game appearances (14-16-0 record)
  • 32 Consensus All-Americans
  • 0 Heisman winners
  • 319 NFL Draft picks (16th in FBS)
  • 416 Weeks in AP Poll (29 at No. 1)

Men’s Basketball

Michigan State has a perfect record over USC in men’s basketball, going exactly 1-0 all-time. The two teams have faced off just once in program history, an Elite Eight matchup in the 2009 NCAA Tournament in Minneapolis. The Spartans earned a 74-69 victory that punched the team’s ticket to the Final Four in Detroit, marking head coach Tom Izzo’s fifth Final Four.

As for the two programs all-time achievements and how they stack up against one another, here you have it.


  • 2 Final Four appearances (None in modern era, 1940 and 1954)
  • 19 NCAA Tournament appearances
  • 7 Conference Championships (Last in 1985)
  • 1 Conference Tournament Championship

Michigan State:

  • 2 National Championships
  • 10 Final Four appearances
  • 35 NCAA Tournament appearances (Including active 24-straight appearances)
  • 16 Conference Championships
  • 6 Conference Tournament Championships

Women’s Basketball

Michigan State’s women’s basketball team has never faced off against USC.


The MSU volleyball team holds a 1-1 record all-time against USC. The Spartans clinched a victory in a home matchup on Aug. 28, 2009, but were swept on a neutral court in Honolulu a year later on Sept. 4, 2010.

The 2009 matchup was the season opener for Michigan State and saw a thrilling battle against then No. 12 USC. The Spartans fell in a close one in the opening set, 25-23, but rallied to 27-25 and 25-18 victories in sets two and three, respectively. The Trojans refused to go quietly, however, as the ranked visitor took set four 25-22. MSU dominated the final set in a 15-9 victory to get the win.

Southern California got its revenge a year later at the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Classic with a sweep that saw set wins of 25-17, 25-23 and 25-15.

Baseball and Softball

The Spartans’ have never played the Trojans in baseball or softball.


The programs have never faced off in either men’s or women’s soccer.