Say goodbye to the Big Ten’s football divisions.
The league unveiled a new schedule format called the Flex Protect Plus model that will start in 2024. Each school will have protected and rotating opponents. This ensures that IU and Purdue, for example, will retain their annual rivalry, as will traditional rivals like Michigan and Ohio State.
Teams will play nine conference games per season with five home games one year and four home games the next. Times and dates for the 2024 and 2025 schedules will be announced later, the league said.
How the Flex Protect Plus model works
The 2024 and 2025 schedules feature annual protected opponents and “two-play” opponents. Essentially, annual protected opponents will play each other every year. Two-play opponents will have a home-and-home series during a two-year span.
Each team will play non-protected opponents twice—once home and once away—during a four-year span. For example, UCLA is on Indiana’s schedule for 2024, but the Hoosiers don’t play the Bruins in 2025. They will play the Bruins one more time—either in 2026 or 2027—at UCLA. By the same token, Purdue plays at Maryland in 2024, but the Terps aren’t on the schedule for 2025. That means Purdue will host Maryland in 2026 or 2027.
The addition of California schools UCLA and USC necessitated the changes, swelling the league’s size to 16 teams. The Big Ten shifted to a format with two divisions when Nebraska joined the conference in 2011.
Protected annual rivalries
Here are the guaranteed annual protected matchups, according to the Big Ten:
- Michigan-Michigan State
- Michigan-Ohio State
Penn State is the only Big Ten team without an annual protected opponent.
What Indiana’s schedule looks like
In 2024, IU will play home games against Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue and UCLA. The Hoosiers will have road games against Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
For the 2025 season, IU will host Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Rutgers. They’ll play road games against Illinois, Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue and USC.
The annual protected opponent for IU is Purdue, meaning the two teams will play every year, alternating home and away games. The two-play opponents are Maryland and Michigan State—which means IU will play both teams in 2024 and 2025.
What Purdue’s schedule looks like
In 2024, Purdue will host Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and USC. The Boilermakers will have road games against Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
For the 2025 season, Purdue will have home games against Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State. They’ll be on the road against Michigan, Northwestern, Rutgers and UCLA.
Purdue has two protected annual opponents: Illinois and Indiana. The Boilers will play both teams every year, alternating home and away games. Its sole two-play protected opponent is Northwestern, meaning the teams will play a home-and-home series during a two-year span.
How will the conference championship game work?
Since the introduction of Big Ten divisions, the winners of each division have played in the Big Ten Championship Game. The divisions were originally titled “Legends” and “Leaders” before being renamed “East” and “West” when the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers in 2014.
The new format scraps divisions entirely.
Without divisional winners, the championship game will feature the two teams with the best records in the overall conference standings. The league will announce its tiebreaking procedures at a later date.
Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium is the site of the 2024 championship game.