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Big Ten Reveals Divisonless Schedule and Protected Opponents

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Illinois football

No More Divisions

It’s a new day in the Big Ten, with USC and UCLA arriving next year. The California schools addition balloons the Big ‘Ten’ to 16 schools. With these additions, it was inevitable that there would be a change in scheduling. On Thursday the conference announced that they would be ditching divisions starting in 2024. Instead, each team will have two ‘protected’ opponents that would be played every year. Outside of the two protected opponents, the rest of the schedule will rotate year to year. They released a graphic to help visualize the setup.

2024 Away

Michigan State

Northwestern

Ohio State

Rutgers

USC

2024 Home

Iowa

Maryland

Michigan

Purdue

2025 Away

Nebraska

Penn State

Purdue

Wisconsin

2025 Home

Indiana

Minnesota

Northwestern

Ohio State

UCLA

Takeaways

The Illini’s protected opponents are Purdue and Northwestern. While not the most glamorous names, its a draw that makes sense for a program usually in the middle tier of the conference in good years. Northwestern was a gimme, due to being the only other Big Ten team in the state. Purdue is a similar stature program, and for entertainment purposes you can do worse than having Ryan Walters and Bret Bielema go head to head.

In the short term, the Illini face a brutal 2024 schedule. Featuring trips to Los Angeles to face USC and Colombus, Illinois will only play three members of the formerly Big Ten West. Iowa is the only non-protected West member the Illini will see in the debut season of this schedule. With Michigan coming to town, it’s possible the Illini will face three top 10 teams with two of them away from Memorial Stadium.

Conference expansion is a reality that isn’t going away anytime soon. With the two headline California universities making the jump, it is likely that others will follow. For now Illinois will reap the benefits of the bigger pie, but will have to deal with some big fish added to the pond.

Brian is a former sports writer for the Daily Illini who has been covering Illinois Basketball for over 5 years. Brian is now the lead basketball reporter for Armchair Illini, the go-to source for Illinois athletics news. He has had work published on Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, USA Today and more.

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