Big Ten football won’t come with predicted success for USC and UCLA in first season

LOS ANGELES, CALIF.  - SEP.  17, 2022. USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley leads pregame warmups.

USC coach Lincoln Riley leads pregame warmups ahead of a win over Fresno State on Sept. 17. USC and UCLA will face many challenges in their first season in the Big Ten. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

USC and UCLA won’t be able to fight their way into the Big Ten.

Football schedules for their 2024 inaugural season, announced by the conference on Thursday, include a strong sprinkling of traditional powerhouses.

USC will face Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin at a time when it is unlikely to have Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams left to try his luck in the NFL.

UCLA gets Michigan And Ohio State in a season in which he will also play at Louisiana State, ending all the jokes about the ease of the Bruins’ recent schedules that included opponents from the Football Championship Subdivision.

The dates of the matches and the order of the opponents have not been announced. UCLA’s first Big Ten program will feature Ohio State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Minnesota and USC in the Rose Bowl in addition to road games against Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Rutgers .

“The football program is very focused on the 2023 season and making it a great season,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said. “That said, it’s exciting to see future conference games that fans can experience at the Rose Bowl.”

USC’s 2024 conference schedule includes Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois at the Coliseum as well as road games against Penn State, Purdue, Maryland, Northwestern and UCLA.

The Trojans and Bruins have another common opponent – ​​LSU – in 2024. Although UCLA will travel to Baton Rouge to face the Tigers, USC will face them in a neutral site game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. .

It’s a good thing that the college football playoffs will expand to 12 teams starting in the 2024 season, because even the best teams in the Big Ten stand to lose at least a handful of games given those demanding schedules. The upside is that the schedule strength factor could eventually help the conference recruit three or more teams to the CFP.

As expected, Trojans and Bruins will log plenty of frequent flyer miles. Excluding his trip to the Rose Bowl, USC’s other four conference road games in 2024 will require trips of more than 2,000 miles. UCLA’s closest road conference game that season will be in Iowa City, Iowa, about 1,796 miles from Los Angeles. The Bruins will also travel about 2,751 miles to face Rutgers after flying to Hawaii for a non-conference game. They may want to budget for a jet lag specialist.

No Big Ten team will have to make two trips to Los Angeles in one season under the published schedules for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

The idea for the scheduling model was to preserve games that mattered to Big Ten fans, conference commissioner Tony Petitti said in an interview on the Big Ten Network. With the Los Angeles Schools additions, Petitti said, he wanted teams to rotate more opponents with increased frequency; every Big Ten team is guaranteed to play each other at least once every two years.

Big Ten divisions will be eliminated beginning in 2024, and teams will have up to three protected rivals they will face each season, although Penn State will have none. Unsurprisingly, USC and UCLA will be the only rivals protected from each other.

Under a so-called flex protect-plus programming model, teams will face three home and away opponents in 2024 and 2025. In addition to UCLA, USC will face Penn State and Wisconsin each of those seasons, and the Bruins will play Nebraska and Rutgers.

The Trojans aren’t catching any breaks as part of their 2025 conference schedule given that they play at Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State. UCLA will face Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State as part of its 2025 Big Ten schedule. Also on the Bruins’ schedule in 2025 is a home game against two-time national champion Georgia.

By then, a resounding success will force UCLA and USC to drop a parade of heavyweights as part of their new conference roster.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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