Changes are coming to the Big Ten. We know that for a fact.

Last month, the NCAA officially divested itself from the process of how leagues determine participants in their conference championship games for football. Almost immediately thereafter, the Pac-12 announced its title game representatives will be the teams with the two highest winning percentages in Pac-12 play, shunning the old model that sent the winners of each of the league's two divisions to the conference title game.

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Just a few days after that, Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller confirmed the Big Ten was "working through" changes of its own. That has led many to believe that the league will follow suit and abandon its division-based format.

RELATED: Abandoning Divisions? Adopting Pods? Expanding To 16 Members? Here Are 4 Scenarios For A Big Ten Realignment In Football

If/When that happens, conventional wisdom suggests that each Big Ten team would need three protected rivalries to help the league maintain a scheduling system. The idea is that each school would be guaranteed to play its three protected rivals each season, while the other six opponents on the nine-game conference schedule would rotate every two years so as to guarantee that each Big Ten member plays the other 13 teams every two seasons.

So what would that look like for Michigan State? It's safe to assume the Michigan game would be protected. But after that, who are the other opponents the Spartans would be guaranteed to face every season?

MSU's other in-conference rivalries are with Penn State (which is manufactured out of a commonality between the two schools that dates back to the Civl War era) and Indiana (thanks to a really old jar). The point is that there aren't two clear candidates beyond Michigan.

With that in mind, we've come up with a few options for Michigan State's protected rivalries in a divisionless Big Ten.

Michigan State's Protected Rivalries In A Divisionless Big Ten

There's much speculation among the media that the Big Ten will abandon it's division-based format for football in the 2023 season.

If/When that happens, each team will likely have three opponents that are protected. That means that that those specific games will be played each season.

With that in mind, we've come up with some choices for Michigan State's three protected games in a divisionless Big Ten.

Candidates for Big Ten Expansion

If the Big Ten plans to form a 16-team mega conference of its own to compete with the SEC's, it will need to add two schools. Here are a few candidates, including attributes that make them attractive to the Big Ten and some things that could make them bad fits.