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The Big Ten’s New Scheduling Model To Go Into Effect In 2024

The Big Ten's new scheduling model will go into affect in 2024 and it brings with it plenty of change and exciting matchups.
Big Ten's New Scheduling Model

We’re not sure if you’ve heard the news. The Big Ten is set to add USC and UCLA to its ranks in 2024. The Big Ten, with the addition of their West Coast friends, will increase to a whopping 16 teams. That’s a far cry from the old 10-team lineup from before 1991. With the new members comes the Big Ten’s new scheduling model. This will be in an attempt to make sense of the massive logistical ask. Considering how much ground USC and UCLA (as well as those playing them) will have to cover, a new model was needed.

The Big Ten’s New Scheduling Model Starting in 2024

Nine is Fine

Leading into the announcement, there was some talk to go the same route as other P5 conferences in regard to their scheduling. It would mean only eight conference games. Since the CFP began in 2014, no team who played nine conference games took the title. If you’re thinking of 2014 Ohio State, they only played eight. Logic would dictate the Big Ten’s new scheduling model would follow suit in order to give their teams the best shot in the new 12-team format.

Alas, ’twas not to be. On the Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday, new Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti re-affirmed the conference’s commitment to a nine-game Big Ten schedule.

This news came shortly after the rumor surfaced that the conference would scrap the “requirement” to schedule at least one Power 5 non-conference and no FCS teams.

Petitti’s First Task

Petitti had this to say about the nine-game schedule:

“The conference is playing nine games, there’s a commitment to continue to do that,” Petitti said. “You don’t want to go too long where schools continue to miss each other in terms of how often they play. I think just by comparison, one of the great things that we changed at MLB (Petitti was previously a deputy commissioner) was this year, if you look at the schedule, everybody plays everybody now. So if you’re the Yankees, you’re playing the Dodgers every year; you played them once at home, and then next year, you go on the road potentially. However, it alternates.

But it just allows you to not have to wait that long as a fan to see those teams, especially when those teams have star players. I think it’s exactly the same sort of idea here; one, it’s easier to have competitive balance, you’re playing more frequently. So I think those are some of the really important tenets you’ll see when we announce what the format is.”

Gone will be the days when certain teams play yearly for no reason and don’t play another for five or more seasons. In all essence, that’s what makes a conference great. Imagine if the Big Ten had a model where Ohio State played only the weakest teams in the West and never faced off against Wisconsin. Off the top of your head, when was the last time the two best SEC schools (Alabama and Georgia) faced off in the regular season? Since Nick Saban came to town, the two have faced off four times in the regular season: 207, 2008, 2015, and 2020 (the year they HAD to due to COVID-19). The Big Ten wants to avoid such a mockery.

For comparison, Ohio State and Wisconsin have played 10 times in the regular season in that span.

Guaranteed Matchups!

As an old and storied conference, rivalries are some of the most important things ever. With USC and UCLA, some Big Ten team will have “protected” rivalries that will be played yearly. In total, there are 11 matchups that are certain to happen yearly: Ohio State-Michigan, Michigan-Michigan State, Indiana-Purdue, Rutgers-Maryland, Illinois-Northwestern, Illinois-Purdue, Iowa-Minnesota, Iowa-Nebraska, Iowa-Wisconsin, Minnesota-Wisconsin, and USC-UCLA.

Penn State remains #Unrivaled.

Aside from those guaranteed matchups, each team will face off against one another on a rotating home-and-home basis.

It is interesting to note that despite the recent history, Ohio State and Penn State will not be protected. However, it’s good to know that the dollar signs were not too big in the Big Ten’s eyes. They very easily could have made it so that Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, etc would have to play USC and/or UCLA yearly.

No More Divisions

The pièce de résistance of the Big Ten’s new scheduling model is the long-overdue move to get rid of divisions and go back to the pre-2011 format. Now, there will be no more 12-win East team vs an eight-win West team fighting for the Big Ten title.

Pitting the two best teams against one another in the Big Ten Championship is the right way to go. Now with 16 teams, there is still a very good possibility that there will not be a rematch.

Instead of the rigid 3-6-6 model of three protected rivalries and a rotating six other teams, the Big Ten elected to go with a “flex schedule.” It will have a bit more of a fluid, rotational look. However, on the surface, it’ll look a bit like a 3-6-6.

Without the divisions, the Big Ten can work to make every team face off against one another as frequently as they’d like.

For the 2024 and 2025 seasons, the Big Ten’s new scheduling model, in addition to the protected rivalries, added “two-play opponents” to fully round it out. In other words, each does have a sort of 3-6-6 feel where they’ll play home and homes with certain opponents. Those are as follows:

  • Illinois: Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue
  • Indiana: Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue
  • Iowa: Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin
  • Maryland: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers
  • Michigan: Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State
  • Michigan State: Indiana, Michigan, Penn State
  • Minnesota: Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin
  • Nebraska: Iowa, Minnesota, UCLA
  • Northwestern: Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue
  • Ohio State: Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern
  • Penn State: Michigan State, Rutgers, USC
  • Purdue: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern
  • Rutgers: Maryland, Penn State, UCLA
  • UCLA: Nebraska, Rutgers, USC
  • USC: Penn State, UCLA, Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin: Iowa, Minnesota, USC

The non-guaranteed matchups will likely be re-assessed and re-assigned prior to the 2026 season. The Big Ten mentioned that they were looking for two-year models and plenty of flexibility.

All in all, this is a positive step in the right direction for the Big Ten.

Big Ten's New Scheduling Model

Photo courtesy: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports



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