Big Ten New Scheduling Format

    The landscape of college football is rapidly changing. From NIL to recruiting to conference expansion and realignment. The world of college football is very different from what it was a few years ago. Schools are leaving their old conferences for new ones. They’re seizing the opportunity to play in a more prestigious, make more money, and participate in higher-stakes games. The most notable changes are the SEC bringing in national football brands and Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas. While the Big Ten will welcome West Coast stalwarts UCLA and USC to expand the conference from coast to coast. I believe that the Big Ten is taking positive steps towards a better football schedule. It’s doing right by its fans, players, and members, both current and future of the Flex Protect Model, and eliminating divisions starting in 2024.

    Field Yates on Twitter: "The Big 10 map, effective 2024 ...

    Photo Cred: Twitter

    The Big Ten announced a new scheduling format known as the Flex Protect Plus model will take place starting in the 2024 season with the addition of USC and UCLA to the conference. This model keeps a nine-game conference schedule and allows each team to play every other conference opponent once every two years and twice every four years, once at home and once at the other team’s stadium. It also protects matchups that will happen yearly, based on rivalry and trophy games. Iowa has three protected matchups, electing to protect Big Ten West rivalry games with Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Penn State has no protected matchups.

    Every other Big Ten team falls somewhere in the middle with one or two protected matchups. Teams also have what is known as “two-plays,” opponents they will play against in both 2024 and 2025. For example, Rutgers will play Penn State and UCLA twice in 2024 and 2025, in addition to their protected opponent in Maryland. The two-play opponents will change for the 2026-27 seasons and rotate through every two years, except for protected matchups, which remain on the schedule.


    The conference also eliminated divisions. A step that the Pac-12 has already taken. The ACC and SEC are on course to do so. Therefore, the top two teams in the Big Ten by record will compete in the conference championship game starting in 2024. Since the Big Ten introduced geographic divisions in 2014, a team from the Big Ten East has won the conference championship game every year, often in blowout fashion. In most years, the top three teams in the conference are all in the East division, with Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State ranked in the top ten teams nationally. However, only one of these three teams gets to compete for the Big Ten championship. A team from the Big Ten West, often with several fewer wins gets to play in the same game where they usually do not stand a chance to win.

    For example, last year, College Football Playoff participant Michigan represented the Big Ten East with an undefeated regular season at 12-0. Their opponent was Purdue, who was no slouch. They had an 8-4 record in the regular season before losing to Michigan by a score of 43-22 in the Big Ten Championship Game. Meanwhile, Ohio State, who also made the College Football Playoff with an 11-1 record and just one loss to Michigan all season, missed out on a chance to play for the conference championship, despite having the second-best record in the entire Big Ten.

    2024 Big Ten Football Championship - Lucas Oil Stadium

    Photo Cred: Lucas Oil Stadium

    Penn State finished third in the conference at 10-2 with losses to both Ohio State and Michigan. They were better than Purdue, both in the record and in a head-to-head matchup. However, the Purdue Boilermakers ended up in the Big Ten Championship, where they proceeded to get blown out by the Michigan Wolverines.

    Viewers will see matchups between the two best teams in the conference, regardless of previous divisions. The Big Ten East division tends to be much stronger than the West division. This will create better conference championship games and provide more parity in the league. Now each team will play against every other team once at home and once away every four years. The other teams in the Big Ten East are often not as good as the mediocre Big Ten West. Schools such as Indiana, Rutgers, and Maryland benefit from not playing Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. They have a chance to earn more wins against lesser opponents.

    Big-10 conference expected to grow by two teams

    Photo Cred: WVLT

    Meanwhile, the entire conference will see every other team twice in four years. All Big Ten football players can play at every other stadium. They also host every other Big Ten team at their own stadium. The changes in college football are immense nationwide. The Big Ten is taking the necessary steps to be competitive for the College Football Playoff. The conference is an example for others by eliminating divisions. The Big Ten will welcome USC and UCLA, and college football fans cannot wait to see cross-country matchups.

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