A few days ago the Big Ten released the conference schedules for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. While the dates of the games are yet to be determined, schools figured out who they will be playing in the conference’s first two seasons as a 16-team conference. Not only will the Big Ten be adding USC and UCLA, but the conference will also be moving away from the division format. As if those weren’t enough changes to wrap your head around, the 2024 season will also see the College Football Playoff expand to 12 teams.
Ohio State and Michigan could play in back-to-back weeks
Now that divisions are going away in the Big Ten, there’s a possibility Ohio State and Michigan could play in their final game of the regular season, and also in the Big Ten Championship Game the next week. Just imagine two weeks of intense rivalry hate instead of one! I don’t know if I can handle two straight weeks of nerds crossing out the letter M to show how much they hate the Wolverines!
What will be really interesting to see is how the Buckeyes and Wolverines approach the games if it looks like a given that both teams are going to make the 12-team playoff. Obviously, they would care about the Big Ten Championship Game if it guaranteed one team a bye in the playoff. What if both teams head into the regular season battle at 11-0 and say they are the top two teams in the country? I’m not saying either team is going to want to see the other win, but might the teams let up a little sooner than normal if they know they are going to play the next week in the Big Ten Championship Game, and there will also be a number of playoff games ahead of them?
An even crazier scenario than two straight weeks of Ohio State-Michigan games is if they ended up meeting a third time in a season in the College Football Playoff. Luckily there would be a few weeks to prepare for a third Ohio State-Michigan game if it did happen. I hope we do see a trifecta of Ohio State-Michigan games in a season at some point, but I’m not sure if my body and mind are prepared for it to happen on a regular basis since the games between the rivals are so taxing.
Ohio State’s 2024 home schedule is gross, 2025 home schedule is better
Aside from the battle with the Wolverines in Columbus at the end of November, the rest of Ohio State’s home schedule is awful. The Buckeyes play Southern Miss, Western Michigan, Marshall, Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, and Rutgers in Columbus. Nobody should be excited to see any of those games. I feel bad for the season ticket holders that have to pay for those games. There’s no reason that any of those games should be closer than 3-4 touchdowns.
It’s not all bad, though. The home schedule for Ohio State picks up in 2025, as not only will Texas visit Columbus, USC will make its first trip to Ohio’s capital city as a member of the Big Ten. There could also be a sneaky good game on the schedule if Matt Rhule is able to make strides at Nebraska. If the Cornhuskers can be even somewhat competitive, it could make for a fun matchup at Ohio Stadium.
Nobody cares about Penn State
For a while, the game on Ohio State’s schedule that scared Buckeye fans the most was the annual battle with Penn State. Even more so if that game was played under the lights in State College. During the time when Ohio State was dominating Michigan, it seemed as if the Nittany Lions would always push the Buckeyes to the limit. Even though Penn State has only beaten Ohio State once since 2012, it sure feels like the Nittany Lions have had a few more victories than that against the Buckeyes.
With the Big Ten’s announcement of their protected rivalry matchups, Penn State is the only school that doesn’t have a protected rival. It’s quite shocking that Ohio State and Penn State weren’t protected rivals, especially considering their memorable battles over the years. While the Buckeyes have a protected rival in Michigan, there are a number of schools in the conference that were given more than one protected rival.
If the conference didn’t want Ohio State playing both Penn State and Michigan each year to try and improve the conference’s shot at placing more teams in the expanded playoff, they still could have paired the Nittany Lions with someone as a protected rival. The most natural choice would have been Michigan State since the schools have played annually for the Land-Grant Trophy. Maryland would be a natural rival for Penn State because the schools are about three hours apart. Reportedly, PSU asked the conference to not have any protected rivalries, for whatever reason.
So, the Big Ten obliged and gave Penn State the Jan Brady treatment.
Iowa has three protected rivals!
I completely understand why Iowa was named as protected rivals for Nebraska, MInnesota, and Wisconsin. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t a strange look for the Big Ten to give the Hawkeyes three protected rivals, while most of the other schools have one, or none in Penn State’s case. Iowa plays Minnesota for a bronze pig, Nebraska for something called the “Heroes Trophy”, and Wisconsin for whatever the Heartland Trophy is. Honestly, a Heroes Trophy should be given to anyone that makes it through a whole Iowa-Nebraska game.
What I’m curious about is why Iowa’s rivalries matter more than other rivalries around the Big Ten. Did the Hawkeyes speak up more about preserving their rivalries than someone like Penn State did? Was Iowa given so many rivalry-protected games because they aren’t seen as big of a threat to make the College Football Playoff, so at least with more rivalry games, it will keep their fans interested in the season? Maybe these things work themselves out when the next set of Big Ten schedules is released, but it just looks really odd right now.
Hopefully USC and UCLA like flying
The Trojans and Bruins knew they were going to rack up the miles when they agreed to join the Big Ten. With their opponents for next season released, we now know just how much the teams from Los Angeles will be traveling. USC will travel over 16,000 miles for Big Ten games, while UCLA surpasses 15,000 miles. The amount of travel is over double Nebraska’s mileage, which clocks in third in the conference with scheduled travel of just over 7,000 miles.
These totals are just for their travel for Big Ten games and don’t take into account non-conference games, a possible Big Ten Championship Game, and potentially making the College Football Playoff. At least flying is a lot more comfortable these days than it used to be. Plus, USC and UCLA can splash some of that sweet Big Ten cash to upgrade their travel arrangements.
Even more hilarious about the travel mileage totals for the Big Ten teams next year, Purdue won’t even hit 2,500 miles, as their longest trip is to Maryland. The Boilermakers will barely have any time or distance away from the toxic wasteland that is West Lafayette!