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How will Big Ten conference realignment impact the 2024 Penn State football schedule?

The Big Ten will have to revamp its conference schedule with Oregon and Washington now added to the conference. How much should we expect the 2024 Penn State football schedule to change? One insider may have already shed insight on the answer.



Big Ten conference realignment, Big Ten, Penn State football, Oregon, Washington
Nov 12, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Big Ten logos on yardage markers during warmups prior to the game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 48-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, the college football world was rocked by the news that Oregon and Washington will join the Big Ten. The logistics of having an 18-team conference that stretches from coast to coast will create interesting dynamics on many fronts, including football scheduling. Less than two months ago, the conference released its “Flex Protect Plus” scheduling model based on a 16-team league that left Penn State fans scratching their heads in many areas. But how will this latest Big Ten conference realignment news impact the 2024 Penn State football schedule?

Does conference realignment mean it’s back to the drawing board for the 2024 Big Ten schedule?

In June, the Big Ten released a conference scheduling structure with the additions of USC and UCLA starting in 2024. The “Flex Protect Plus” model included no divisions and gave teams protected rivals and rotating conference matchups for the 2024 and 2025 seasons. The model created several exciting matchups for the Nittany Lions, such as home games against USC and UCLA in 2024 and 2025, respectively, and a road trip to face the Trojans in Los Angeles in two years. However, the “Flex Protect Plus” format didn’t do much protecting for Penn State, leaving the Nittany Lions as the only Big Ten school without an annual rival.

But now, the Big Ten must figure out a new schedule with the additions of Oregon and Washington to the conference. Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, who was one of the first reporters to break the conference realignment bombshell news, explained in a piece Friday that the Big Ten does not plan to completely scrap the “Flex Protect Plus” model moving forward.

“Many of the same principles will apply for the 18-team model, including the goals of protecting key games and rotating the others,” Rittenberg wrote. “The Big Ten has remained committed to nine-game league schedules, and both Oregon and Washington come from a league that plays nine. Still, the math gets a bit trickier with two more members. Divisions are not expected to be added to the 18-team model. The general philosophy behind the schedule model isn’t expected to change much.”

Will Penn State football get a protected rival in an updated scheduling format?

Fans who felt that the Big Ten took Penn State’s “Unrivaled” motto a little too literally may be disappointed when the next iteration of the “Flex Protect Plus” schedule is eventually released. Rittenberg explained that according to ESPN’s interviews with Big Ten chief operating officer Kerry Kenny this summer, the conference “capped” the number of protected rivalries at 11.

Now, Rittenberg says this rule could be amended slightly. Oregon and Washington maintain a fierce rivalry, so Rittenberg expects that this game will be protected by the Big Ten moving forward. But, as Kenny told ESPN in June, “The more protected matchups you’ve included in the model, the less flexibility you had to create a really balanced model for everybody.”

So, Penn State fans can look forward to seeing how the new additions of Oregon and Washington will be integrated into the Nittany Lions’ schedule. Much like the model released in June, we can probably expect one of these teams to make an appearance in Beaver Stadium soon. But ultimately, this latest round of Big Ten conference realignment will likely leave Penn State football with the same status in the league as it had before: “Unrivaled.”

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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