TreVeyon Henderson Buckeyes

Removing Penn State From Schedule Adds Needed Variety For Buckeyes, Big Ten

The Big Ten announced a new scheduling format for their soon-to-be 16 conference teams this past Wednesday. While the dates aren’t yet set, the opponents for each team were announced for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, and in so doing, we finally learned who would be playing newest Big Ten schools USC and UCLA upon their official entry.

The two California schools are going to be indoctrinated quickly, as they will play every Big Ten team at least once over the course of those two seasons. In addition, USC will play Penn State and Wisconsin in both 2024 and 2025, and UCLA will play Rutgers and Nebraska in each of those two years as well.

My advice to the West Coasters planning on traveling? Don’t wait until the last minute to start building up your gut’s tolerance for Midwestern foods. You don’t want be stuck on the plane when Runza’s Revenge hits. I implore you to start conditioning yourselves with fried cheese curds soon. You’re in the Big Ten now. It’s time to start acting like it.

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One of the more disappointing aspects of the new schedule, however, is that Ohio State and Penn State are no longer protected rivals.

That’s right, the Buckeyes’ longest-running uninterrupted rivalry is coming to an end. These two teams have played every year since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993. They will play one final time in Happy Valley in 2024 before taking a break in 2025. (The 2024 season will also be the final year of Ohio State’s second- and third-longest-running uninterrupted series as Michigan State and Rutgers will also fall off the schedule for the 2025 season.)

Moving forward, the Buckeyes’ only protected rival will be Michigan, while Penn State’s only protected rival will be the Big Ten refs.

When the news came out about Penn State and Ohio State being split up, I posted a poll on Twitter to see how fans were taking it. Over 60% didn’t like it — though only 18.6% of the 1,000+ people said they actually hated it, and that’s a number that the Big Ten and both universities can live with.

Personally, I think Penn State fans have to love this, especially since FOX’s Big Noon Saturday has greatly diminished the likelihood of a White Out Game against Ohio State every two years. Playing the Buckeyes at noon or 3:30 is less appealing to Penn State fans than playing them at night, even though the likelihood of a loss remains extremely high regardless of kickoff time.

To be fair to all teams, we need to appreciate what expansion has done for the Big Ten. With the addition of USC and UCLA, the conference has introduced a fourth “superpower” to the league. The Big Ten will now have a “Big Four” of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and USC.

Those four teams individually will play just two of the other “superpowers” in each of the first two years, and it may be unlikely that playing three happens with any kind of regularity in the years after that as well.

With the Big Ten going divisionless, however, a third game between two of the Big Four could occur in the conference championship game. If the conference ever schedules any of those schools to play the other three in a given season, a conference championship game could see them play a fourth game against one of the Big Four.

Good luck getting to the playoffs playing four games like that. It’s certainly not impossible, but the chances of suffering a defeat that keeps a team out of the playoffs increases every time one of the Big Four is on the schedule.

Basically, if two of the Big Four are in the Big Ten Championship Game, then somebody is leaving with a loss, and that loss could eliminate the loser from the playoff. Those chances of elimination go way up every time two of those teams play.

It’s almost as if the Big Ten was thinking about the playoffs when they put the schedules together. We can assume the Big Four will eventually play a round robin of sorts at some point, but you can also expect some complaining to occur when it happens.

And anyway, having to play three of the Big Four in any given year would be too much to ask of them. That’s why the Big Ten asked Michigan State and their $95 million dollar coach to do it instead.

The Spartans face Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State in 2024, and then USC, Penn State, and Michigan in 2025. They are the only program that will face three in each of the first two years. Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, and the Big Four are the only schools that won’t face three in a single year over the course of the 2024 and 2025 schedules.

But don’t worry, OSU and PSU will still play quite often. As part of the Big Ten’s new scheduling model, every four-year player will have the opportunity to play against each of the other 15 schools twice, and will visit every campus at least once.

That means Buckeye fans will also get to see every Big Ten team come into Ohio Stadium at least once in a four-year period.

Sure, people will miss the Penn State game. The last three decades of games against the Nittany Lions have created memories that will last a lifetime. But absence will make the heart grow more surly.

And just think how many more urine-filled balloons Penn State fans can store when they’ve had multiple years to prepare!

This also means you’ll get to take a break from seeing Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers every year as well. Some new teams will come to town. You’ll see new uniform combinations that you don’t normally get to see.

Plus, as the famous saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life. Pennsylvania is the spice of nothing. Pine scent is not a spice, after all.”

Freeing up Ohio State and Penn State allows for more marquee games — including Ohio State and Penn State at least twice every four years.

Just as long as nobody cancels, of course.

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