You might have noticed that the Big Ten has released its football schedule for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, offering a framework and the list of opponents. The times and dates aren’t known, and that revelation won’t occur until at least December if not January or later. However, every Big Ten team knows which opponents it will play, and it knows which games will be home and away.
The Big Ten is also doing away with divisions, something the Pac-12 and ACC have recently done. The top two teams in the conference standings are the two teams which will play in the 2024 Big Ten Championship Game in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Big Ten has used a scheduling format called “flex protect plus,” in which not every team gets the same number of fixed annual opponents. Iowa has three fixed opponents — Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — while USC has only one fixed opponent, the UCLA Bruins.
You can look at USC’s schedule and evaluate it for yourself, but meanwhile, let’s look at the whole Big Ten and see if a few teams gained or lost something in the process of all these changes:
WINNER: PENN STATE
The Nittany Lions have had to play Michigan and Ohio State every year in the Big Ten East Division. With divisions being removed, Penn State won’t be playing both teams in the same season on some occasions. Penn State plays USC, Rutgers and Michigan State in both the 2024 and 2025 Big Ten seasons. The other 12 schools will be divided into the two seasons — six in one and six in the other. Penn State will get some schedule relief under the new setup.
Nebraska is the only Big Ten team to play USC, UCLA, Michigan, and Ohio State in the same season. That will happen in 2025. Ouch!
The Terrapins, like Penn State, get out of the Big Ten East trap. They won’t have to play Michigan and Ohio State and Penn State every year.
Indiana escapes the same Big Ten East prison Maryland and Penn State had to deal with. The Hoosiers won’t have to face the heavyweights every season.
UCLA can’t keep the tarps over its seats. The Bruins have to sell those tickets in order to make enough money for their school. When those seats become available to the general public, Big Ten fans from Ohio State and Nebraska and other places will snap them up. The Bruins are going to play a lot of road games even when they’re at home.
If teams in the Big Ten East are going to love division-less Big Ten football in 2024 and beyond, teams in the Big Ten West are going to feel differently about these changes. It’s going to be harder for West teams to handle the transition to division-free Big Ten football. Illinois is one example. The Illini didn’t have to play Ohio State every year under the previous divisional setup. They have to face the Buckeyes in both 2024 and 2025.
The Wildcats are in the same boat as their Illinois neighbors. They didn’t have to face Ohio State every year in the Big Ten West, but they play the Buckeyes in both 2024 and 2025 under the new schedule.
We talked to Hawkeyes Wire recently. Editor Josh Helmer told us fans wanted all three rivalry games protected: against Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Iowa got its wish. Those three games were all protected by the Big Ten in the new scheduling format.
USC isn’t a clear winner or loser. The Trojans are a winner in 2024 and a loser in 2025. They got a great schedule in 2024, with Michigan and Wisconsin both being home games. Penn State is the only really tough road game next year. The 2025 slate, however, involves road trips to both Ohio State and Wisconsin, with the Trojans also visiting Notre Dame out of conference. The 2024 schedule lines up favorably, but 2025 does not. It’s a split.