The matchups are set! The Big Ten has released the conference pairings for the 2024-28 football seasons, and Penn State’s slate is stacked! The Flex Protect Plus™ model departs, and in comes the Flex Protect 18™!
Every Big Ten team will play every other conference opponent at least twice every five seasons, once at home, and once away. Outside of the protected matchups, no team will play another team more than three times during the five-year cycle. Unlike some previous rumors, the conference stayed at nine conference games. Also, the gap between games for a given pairing will not exceed three seasons. In other words, a if team X plays team Y in 2024, they are guaranteed to play team Y again in 2027, if they didn’t play in ‘25 and ‘26.
Last but not least, travel. No team will head west more than once in a season (so, plenty of double-road games in the west coach in our future), and the West Coast teams will factor their rivalry games into the road/home split. In other words, in years where USC has five road games, UCLA will be one of those road contests, and vice-versa. The underlying assumption, thus, is that the Oregon/Washington and USC/UCLA pairs will have opposite road/home splits to accommodate that schedule quirk.
The existing 11 protected games from the previous model remain, and a new one, Oregon/Washington, is now on the docket. As a refresher, these are the protected matchups:
- Iowa kept its three protected games from the previous model, so they get Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota every year.
- Illinois gets Northwestern and Purdue each season, while the Boilers get the Illini and Indiana.
- Michigan gets Ohio State and Michigan State every season.
- Maryland and Rutgers are joined at the hip.
- The other protected matchup in the quadrangle is Minnesota and Wisconsin.
- And, of course, Oregon/Washington and USC/UCLA are paired with each other, respectively.
The Nittany Lions remain the lone Unrivaled™ team in the new iteration of the model, they will have the most schedule flexibility, not being tied to a single opponent for any one season.
Penn State will welcome Washington and UCLA in 2024, and will travel to USC. In 2025, they’ll travel UCLA, and will welcome Oregon to Beaver Stadium. Ohio State plays the Lions in both seasons. For a full list of schedules, feel free to peruse the Big Ten website.
While Penn State loses the yearly matchup with Ohio State and Michigan, they will now play at least two of the Big Six (Oregon, Washington, USC, UCLA, and the aforementioned two, along with Penn State, of course) every season, so in terms of schedule difficulty (and potential Whiteout prospects), there’s plenty of meat on the bone for the Nittany Lions.