After months of speculation as to how the newly expanded Big Ten would manage scheduling with its four new members, the conference released the 2024-2028 Big Ten football schedule format.
In 2024, Indiana will travel to some familiar Big Ten East (RIP [not really]) foes, like Michigan State and Ohio State. The Hoosiers lone trip out west will be a mid-season matchup with UCLA, which is (maybe) somewhat balanced out by a short road trip to Evanston to face the Wildcats.
The Hoosiers will play five home games compared to those four road games in 2024, hosting Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue and Washington. Again, this appears to be a mix of old divisional opponents, schools from the obsolete Big Ten West, and some Big Ten newcomers.
Another thing that jumps out in this first year is the uneven distribution of games against the new, West Coast members of the conference. Indiana plays two in Washington and UCLA, while Illinois has a schedule consisting entirely of Old Big Ten teams, excepting one trip to Oregon.
Unsurprisingly, the schedule appears to feature a good number of made-for-TV games between the bigger brands in the new conference. Michigan, for example, will see Oregon, Washington, and USC in year one of the nation-wide conference.
Time will tell whether any new rivalries develop, but it appears as though the conference is taking the safe bet in year one with enough games that will draw the viewership that justified the realignment in the first place.
Looking beyond 2024, the Hoosiers will have at least one west coast road game per year. Indiana heads to Oregon in 2025, Washington in 2026, USC in 2027, and UCLA in 2028.
One of the stated goals of the conference in this new format is to “[b]alance of historic competitiveness and recent competitive trends,” but it’s not clear that the road will get easier for Indiana.
Instead of annual games against Maryland and Rutgers, which had been competitive losses lately, Indiana will see a mix of teams like Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin who have more program momentum than the Hoosiers at this point. The exception to this trend are the two games scheduled between Indiana and Nebraska. But Matt Rhule teams are bad in year one. Who knows how that ends up going.
In case it’s not obvious, Indiana needs to get serious about football in a hurry. Things will not get easier for a team that’s won two conference games over the last two seasons.
Based on the basketball TV schedules, Hoosier football fans may want to invest in a Peacock subscription if it doesn’t do something to become more competitive in the coming months.