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New Big Ten Schedule Released Today: What would make you happy?

No more divisions, two new teams...will anyone be happy?

Keyshawn Johnson USC

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled, SBNation-mandated rizzing and livving for some Big Ten football news:

Early reports from Nicole Auerbach are that the Big Ten will adopt the “Flex Protect” model of scheduling:

This strikes me as an MLS-style attempt to make up the rules to fit your needs—see Lionel Messi coming to Inter Miami FC yesterday with the financing rules basically rewritten to protect your brands. We could see the likes of Minnesota and Iowa getting all three of their rivals protected, others like Indiana guaranteed a game with Purdue and mercifully freed from their Big Ten East commitments...

...and, of course, the elephant in the room will be what happens to the marquee brands: will USC and Ohio State have a protected rivalry, too? What of UCLA and Michigan? How do you keep all sixteen schools relatively happy?

So a couple questions, writers:

(1) What’s the best 16-team scheduling model, in your mind? (Yes, that precludes the witty “Kick Rutgers out” answers. We’re all thinking it, but move on.)

MNW: The idea of a “flex protect” seems dumb to me, personally — just give everyone three “protected rivals” and then revisit it every five years or so.

Should it result in most of the Quadrangle just getting re-upped every five years? Probably! But that’s fine, especially if it results in new series like UCLA-Nebraska or whatever else. Don’t give the headache of some teams playing the 3-6 model and others not: construct a system that’s at least got a blanket rule the whole conference follows.

misdreavus79: What am I hoping to see? Not both Rutgers and Maryland. What am I going to see? Both Rutgers and Maryland.

Thumpasaurus: It’s a fool’s errand to come at this as though any of this is permanent anyway. This won’t last five years. The absolute essential annual rivalry games should be protected and everything else should create compelling matchups, with rivalry taken into consideration as a factor for a compelling matchup.

Honestly, having a league where there are more teams than each team plays games in a season requires some kind of divisional playoff system, but we all have to keep pretending these intermediate steps towards whatever the endgame is are Totally Legit. Ilinois has shared a conference with Maryland for nine seasons and played them twice. From 2008-2016, we played Western Michigan three times. Everything is fundamentally meaningless.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some wildfire smoke to go get whatever-the-opposite-of-high-is on.

Kind of...: Agree with @Thumpasaurus but with 50% less sarcasm/fatalism. The boss (@MNW) isn’t giving us enough time to come up with truly unhinged scenarios, but I want to state a few principles I think the B1G should consider to stop “flex protect” from devolving into “whatever we say on the spur of the moment.”

  1. There should be protected rivals of varying number to account for the fact that not everybody has the same number of actual rivals.
  2. USC and UCLA, combined, will have 8 home B1G games a year, setting aside when they play each other. So, 16 games over two years. There are 14 B1G schools besides USC and UCLA and each one of them should get a West Coast trip every-other-year, at least for the first four years.
  3. I still like the picking up on the Covid idea and scheduling everybody the weekend of the B1G title game, with that being a big flex weekend. Have a de facto 3rd place game if it looks like the winner would have a clean shot at the CFP. Have your real rivalries played by this week, but keep second-tier rivalries in mind, especially for teams in a similar position, and have the last week count extra toward bowl pecking order or something. Have a game Friday night (3rd place game). Have two kickoff at 11:00 CST, two at 1:00, two at 3:00 and the B1G title game at the regular time.

Buffkomodo: Honestly, the best Indiana can hope for is that you don’t have to play Ohio State AND Penn State AND Michigan each year....but there will unfortunately be a year where we have to play all 3 AND Wisconsin...oh wait, we do that this year.

To answer your question, nothing short of 8 conference games with no P5 requirements would make me happy.

(2) Which rivalries do you think should be protected?

MNW: Going off the spreadsheet linked here, I was pleasantly surprised to see how few protected rivalries I think actually need to be a regular thing—and I think it helps me understand the popularity of “Flex Protect”, should Auerbach’s reporting be accurate.

Only 13 of the rivalries I listed in the “3” part of a 3-6 schedule needed to be retained long-term, and some of those (Penn State being set for life against Michigan State, Rutgers, and Maryland) are probably more marginal.

My point about having a uniform set of rules abides—though let’s not pretend college football cares about that—but you can see what the “Flex Protect” model is doing: making sure the loudest (read: Iowan) voices feel taken care of, then letting the big-hitters really make their money.

Sort of like farm subsidies, the more I think about it...

Thumpasaurus: We can do the Essentials for each team:

Illinois: Nern, Purdue
Indiana: Purdue, MSU
Iowa: Minnesota, Nebraska
Maryland: ?
MSU: Michigan, Indiana
Michigan: Ohio State, MSU
Minnesota: Wisconsin, Iowa
Nebraska: Iowa
Northwestern: Illinois
Ohio State: Michigan, Penn State
Penn State: Ohio State, Rutger
Purdue: Indiana, Illinois
Rutger: Penn State
Wisconsin: Minnesota

Sorry, Maryland! You didn’t bring any friends! Maybe Penn State can go on that list. Beyond that, it’s discretional. Wisconsin vs. Iowa has been an important series, but now that it has no division championship implications, does it matter?

Right now, you almost have to put Illinois and Iowa together due to Bielema and the juice from basketball spilling over. Eight years ago I’d have said you gotta put MSU with Ohio State, but there’s no point now. Northwestern and Indiana make a good pair now because they’re both bad and duel for the all-time losses record.

I think the schedule could be even more flexible. Why lock it in for five years? Give “Flex Protect” three years tops. Dynamics can change in a can conference allegiances.

Kind of...: As a supporter of a Quadrangle school, I think Thump’s list is a bit light, but I do realize some rivalries are going to fall off. I think there will end up being a lot of “play team x twice over four years” rivalries. Already happened with Iowa and Wisconsin in the early 2010’s, and that was with a 12-team league. If you’re not going to have divisions, it’s going to happen.

Buffkomodo: If there isn’t a Crimson Trophy game between Indiana and Rutgers each year then we’re completely failing as a society. Winner gets the CQ front page for a week.

(3) What do you think the Big Ten will actually do?

MNW: Honestly, I’d prepped this article prepared to be a lot more cynical about the final outcome than I actually am. I would prefer a uniform set of rules, but I think some of the “Do you need this team on your schedule?” questioning I did...

...well, I guess I’m accepting of the change. College football just isn’t what it was in the mid-90s when a lot of you cut your teeth, and it’s not what it was in the mid-00s when I did. Money talks, and this new Big Ten schedule will probably show us just how many of our voices it’ll be drowning out.

Thumpasaurus: MNW, our site had a whole series on punting one year and invented its own metric. These TV people have folks like us by the short’n’curlys and they know it. Our voices don’t matter.

You know whose voices do matter? Whoever the fuck watches The Masked Singer. Figure out what they want to see and you’ll figure out what college football is going to try to do.

Kind of...: Thump is right. sigh

Here’s your open thread for the live Big Ten schedule reveal:

  • Where: Big Ten Network and the BTN App
  • When: Thursday, June 8, 3:30pm CT

Feel free to let us know your preferences! We’ll have more reactions later tonight!