The Michigan State–Penn State football rivalry is an American college footballrivalry between the Michigan State Spartans and Penn State Nittany Lions. The Land Grant Trophy is presented to the winner of the game. The Spartans retained the trophy after beating Penn State 55–16 in 2015. Michigan State leads the series 15–14–1.
When Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in 1993, the Nittany Lions and Spartans were designated as permanent rivals, and met each other for the trophy in the last week of conference play. The trophy, designed by former Michigan State coach George Perles, features pictures of Penn State's Old Main and Michigan State's Beaumont Tower.
In 2011, Nebraska joined the Big Ten, and the conference split into two divisions. Michigan State was in the Legends division and Penn State was in the Leaders division, so they no longer played each other annually. Instead, Indiana and Nebraska were designated as Michigan State and Penn State's permanent rivals, respectively. Under this setup, Penn State and Michigan State would compete on average two out of every five years, but the two teams did not play against each other during the three years that this system was in effect (2011–13).
In 2014, when Maryland and Rutgers joined the Big Ten, the conference was realigned into two geographically-based divisions, East and West. Michigan State and Penn State are both in the East division, and thus resumed a yearly series. As before, the game is played on the final weekend of the regular season, which is the week before the Big Ten Championship Game.
Michigan State University followed by Penn State University are the nation's oldest land-grant universities, hence the name for the trophy. In 1955 on the 100th year anniversary of the founding of the land grant system, Michigan State and Penn State were commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp honoring the "First of the Land-Grant Colleges". These two universities were the first ever universities to be placed on a U.S. postage stamp.
They are the 4th and 5th most recently joined members of the Big Ten, after Nebraska, who joined in 2011, Maryland and Rutgers, who both joined in 2014. Fellow Big Ten members Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin all these being land-grant schools.