Projecting every Big Ten team’s three permanent rivals once USC, UCLA join league

Expansion is coming to the Big Ten in 2024 and that means we should be entering a brand new world of scheduling in Big Ten football.

The league has yet to officially announce their intentions for scheduling once USC and UCLA join the Big Ten in 2024. But it’s assumed by many that the conference will ditch the East and West Divisions and go with a new scheduling model.

Speculation has it that the Big Ten will go with the 3-6-6 model, which I’m personally all in favor of for the conference. This model would give each Big Ten team three protected permanent rivals they’ll play every year, six games against half of the rest of the Big Ten one year and six games against the remaining six teams the following season. This model essentially protects the most important annual rivalries — such as Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Michigan, USC-UCLA or Wisconsin-Minnesota — and guarantees every four-year player will get to play the remaining teams once at home and once away.

The 3-6-6 model makes the most sense for the Big Ten when USC and UCLA join the conference so I’m going to take my best guess at how the permanent rivals will be distributed for each Big Ten team. Here’s a look at who I think the Spartans and every other Big Ten squad will get paired with as their three permanent rivals:


Permanent Rivals: Northwestern, Purdue and Rutgers

Northwestern and Purdue are common foes from Illinois’ time in the Big Ten West Division so they are easy pairing for the Fighting Illini. Rutgers would be a new regular opponent but should be a competitive matchup annually based on where each program fares historically.


Permanent Rivals: Maryland, Michigan State and Purdue

Purdue is the obvious choice as one of the protected rivals, and Michigan State and Maryland are both regular opponents from the Big Ten East Division. The Spartans and Hoosiers also annually play for the Brass Spittoon so it makes sense to continue that rivalry.


Permanent Rivals: Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin

Iowa was maybe one of the easiest teams to pick their protected rivals, with historic rivalries in place already for Minnesota and Wisconsin. The battle between the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers has also become a regular Black Friday rivalry matchup that I’m sure the Big Ten would like to continue once USC and UCLA join the league.


Permanent Rivals: Indiana, Rutgers and Penn State

Maryland is still considered one of the newcomers to the Big Ten so they don’t historically have hated rivals in the league yet. But, Penn State and Rutgers are both geographically close and Indiana has been a regular opponent within their division so all three make sense for the Terps.


Permanent Rivals: Michigan State, Ohio State and UCLA

Two of the Wolverines’ permanent rivals are obvious choices with Ohio State and Michigan State. There are a lot of teams that could be selected for the final spot but I think the Big Ten will want to link up one of the newcomers with one of its biggest brands so UCLA is the third selection here.


Permanent Rivals: Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin

Iowa and Wisconsin are historic rivals for the Golden Gophers so no reason to not continue those matchups annually. Northwestern is a common foe from the West Division so the Wildcats are another easy selection as the third rival.


Permanent Rivals: Iowa, Purdue and UCLA

Iowa has became a regular rival for Nebraska since joining the league, and Purdue is a fellow annual matchup from their time together in the West Division. UCLA paired up with one of the most historic programs from the league simply makes sense as a sexy annual matchup for the newcomer.


Permanent Rivals: Illinois, Minnesota and Rutgers

Illinois is an in-state foe and Minnesota is annual matchup for the Wildcats. Rutgers would be a fresh face for Northwestern and is also a similar level opponent for the Wildcats.

Ohio State

Permanent Rivals: Michigan, Penn State and USC

Ohio State will have the hardest draw of any Big Ten team, with Michigan and Penn State both needing to be annual rivalry matchups. The league will want to pair Ohio State with one of the newcomers as well and USC is the perfect fit.

Penn State

Permanent Rivals: Maryland, Michigan State and Ohio State

Each of Penn State’s three rivals make sense due to rivalry and geography ties. Ohio State will be a guaranteed matchup for the Nittany Lions, and Michigan State and Maryland are easy selections as well.


Permanent Rivals: Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska

Indiana is one of the obvious choices for Purdue as an in-state rival. Nebraska and Illinois provide some enticing tough matchups for the Boilermakers on a regular basis as well.


Permanent Rivals: Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern

Rutgers entered the Big Ten with Maryland so it’s fitting that these two east coast teams continue to annually play. The pairings don’t work out for Rutgers to also get Penn State, but Illinois and Northwestern are a pair of similar quality programs — which is a good thing for the Scarlet Knights.


Permanent Rivals: Michigan, Nebraska and USC

USC is a guarantee protected rival for the Bruins but the other two are intriguing to determine. I went with Nebraska (the most western school besides the newcomers) and Michigan since both are historically successful programs and fun matchups for UCLA.


Permanent Rivals: Ohio State, UCLA and Wisconsin

UCLA is an obvious choice to keep that annual rivalry intact. Like with the Bruins, the other two teams for the Trojans are fun to determine as I’m predicting the Big Ten will want to setup sexy annual matchups. Ohio State and Wisconsin fit that mold as traditional Big Ten powers.


Permanent Rivals: Iowa, Minnesota and USC

Iowa and Minnesota are historic rivalry games for Wisconsin so those two will certainly remain annual matchups. The final game could be a number of teams, but USC seems like a fun pairing for the Badgers.

Michigan State

Permanent Rivals: Indiana, Michigan and Penn State

The Spartans are pretty easy to determine, in my opinion. Indiana, Michigan and Penn State are all rivals of Michigan State, and while it may not be the most thrilling annual three rivals — it makes a lot of sense.

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