The Big Ten announced its new schedule model for the 2024 and 2025 seasons as the conference prepares for the addition of USC and UCLA. The Big Ten calls its plan the “Flex Protect Plus model,” one which ensures schools will play one another at least once every two years with home-and-away meetings against everybody at least once every four years.
The league is sticking with a nine-game conference schedule but scrapping the East and West divisions. Going division-less is a trend sweeping nearly every Power Five league with the focus becoming the best two teams meeting in conference championship games.
That’s the simple part of the plan. After that, things get a bit complicated — particularly when it comes to protected rivalries, which are not apples to apples across the conference. For instance, Iowa has three protected rivalries (Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin) yet five schools only have two protected rivals, nine have just one and Penn State is a rivalry orphan with none.
Here are some primary takeaways from the Big Ten scheduling announcement.
This was the path of least resistance
Logically, the 3-6-6 model made the most sense. Each school would have three protected rivals and rotate between the other 12 conference schools six at a time. That ensures teams play one another once every two years and home-and-away every four years — creating a “balanced” schedule for all involved. The problem with the 3-6-6 model and the 2-7-7 (same idea but with two protected rivalries) is getting 16 different schools to agree on their rivals. Particularly when two of those 16 schools (USC, UCLA) are located thousands of miles away and have no established history against the rest of the conference outside of Rose Bowls meet-ups.
The Flex Protect…