Naveau column: The best and worst things about the Big Ten’s schedule changes


Now they tell me.

After 14 trips to lovely, but very remote State College, Pa., totaling 10,640 miles and nearly 200 hours in the car to watch Ohio State and Penn State play football, the Big Ten, Ohio State and Penn State told me – and you – that the rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions isn’t one of the Big Ten’s big games year after year.

That was one of the things we learned when the Big Ten announced what the match-ups would be in its league games for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, the first two seasons USC and UCLA will be part of that conference.

All kidding aside about how long the drive to Penn State is, this seems like a significant departure from recent tradition.

OSU and Penn State will play each other this season and next season. But in 2025 the two teams are not scheduled to play each other for the first time since 1992, which is the year before the Nittany Lions started to play in the Big Ten.

Big Ten teams could designate up to three protected rivalry games. Ohio State chose one game, against Michigan, as its protected game. Michigan designated Ohio State and Michigan State as the teams it wanted to play every year. Iowa used all of its three games and chose Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Penn State did not protect any of its rivalries and also was not chosen by any other Big Ten team as an opponent it wanted to play every year.

Ohio State will play five Big Ten opponents in Ohio Stadium in 2024 – Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. Its Big Ten road games will be at Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and UCLA.

In 2025 the Buckeyes will play Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska and USC at home and go on the road to play Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Those protected match-ups could change by the 2026 season. So Ohio State and Penn State could return to playing each other every year sometime in the future. But there is no guarantee that will happen.

Another scheduling change is that every Big Ten team will play every other team in the league over a two-year time span.

The Big Ten also did away with its divisions. It kept its championship game, which will match the two top teams in the league starting in 2024 rather than the two division winners.

So, what’s the good and what’s the bad in these changes for Ohio State?

Maybe the best thing is by not having divisions, there will be more interesting games against teams like Wisconsin and Iowa on Ohio State’s schedule and Rutgers and Maryland won’t be on the schedule every year.

Wisconsin was a game that developed into one of the top rivalries on OSU’s schedule when the two teams played each other 13 times in 15 years in the regular season from 1999 to 2013. But since 2014 when the Big Ten separated them by putting the Buckeyes and Badgers in opposite divisions, they have played each other during the regular season only three times in nine years.

With Luke Fickell coaching Wisconsin, this rivalry is going to heat up again.

What’s the worst thing? If you’re Ohio State it might be the possibility of playing Michigan in back to back games – the regular season game and the championship game – and losing them both.

If that happens, I’m disconnecting from the internet for a month and reading a couple of books.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

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