The Big Ten released its new football scheduling model back in June, along with conference opponent slates for 2024 and 2025. Indiana drew a 2024 schedule to be excited about, with Michigan and Ohio State absent. And the “Flex Protect Plus” model meant IU would play Purdue every year, and would see Maryland and Michigan State in both 2024 and 2025.
But the conference — and college sports at large — has undergone drastic change since then. The Big Ten added Oregon and Washington to its western expansion beginning next year, and that necessitated revisiting the football schedules.
The updated plan was released Thursday, with its “Flex Protect XVIII” model. IU-Purdue remains an annual fixture, one of the 12 matchups that will take place every year.
The June version had teams playing every other conference opponent at least twice in a four-year period. With the two teams added, the new version extends that to two or three matchups in a five-year period.
Realistically, the plans aren’t that dissimilar. Adjustments had to be made with the league up to 18 teams, and now with four teams in pacific time. Oregon and Washington are both stronger football programs, so there are just more of those teams to play in the rotating schedule.
Indiana’s 2024 schedule now has both Michigan (home) and Ohio State (away), which is less than ideal for the Hoosiers. But IU previously faced Penn State in 2024, and the Nittany Lions are no longer on tap for Indiana. So it’s still not as bad as the current gauntlet the Hoosiers have to run through. And the 2025 slate does give Indiana its reprieve from the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
IU had to feel like a winner coming out of the last schedule release, given the forthcoming year without Ohio State and Michigan. And while that is now delayed a year, IU still gets that season. And IU will face Ohio State just twice in the next five years — an unquestionable scheduling win.
But the conference is loaded with good football programs, even beyond those three. USC and Oregon are right up there with them among the top programs in the country. Wisconsin and Iowa have been tough over the years, and IU could see some of those Big Ten West programs more frequently now.
Indiana, as we said before, has to take advantage of any opportunities created by the new scheduling format for it to matter. And at 2-3 with an offensive coordinator change during the bye week, this doesn’t currently look like a program ready to do that.
But the mere opportunity for a schedule without Ohio State and Michigan is a victory for Indiana. The Hoosiers were among the biggest benefactors of the scheduling format released in June, along with similarly-positioned Big Ten East programs Maryland and Rutgers. The roads could be tougher for those schools with two more strong football programs joining the Big Ten, but that group remains the biggest winners of this new format.