Big Ten schedule release: Breaking down the best and worst of the 2024 lineup for USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington

The schedules are reasonable but not equal, with plenty of travel.

As the Pac-12 football season comes to a close, the next era for four schools became clear on Thursday. The Big Ten announced its weekly schedule for the 2024 season, the first with USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington joining the 18-team behemoth.

The announcement came exactly four weeks after the Big Ten released the opponent rotation and secured games for the next five years.

As expected, the four Pac-12 transfers will make a number of cross-country trips next fall. However, not all schedules are created equal, especially when non-conference opponents are considered.

Our master schedule breakdown…

First, consider the parameters.

Each team will play nine conference games, including a late-November rivalry game. (On the West Coast, USC vs. UCLA and Washington vs. Oregon are the matchups.) The Big Ten will no longer have divisions starting next season; instead, the teams with the highest winning percentage in league play will advance to the championship game. The kickoff times for the 2024 season will be announced later.

The most difficult start

USC agreed two years ago to begin the 2024 season with a neutral site game against LSU on Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas. That match now kicks off a grueling September schedule for the Trojans, which includes a trip to Michigan (yes, USC opens Big Ten play in the Big House) and a visit from Wisconsin.

The most difficult finish

Washington’s stretch run is the most difficult anywhere. The Huskies begin November with a home game against USC, followed by road games against Penn State, UCLA, and Oregon. Best of luck with that.

Worst stretch

UCLA plays LSU on the road, Oregon at home, and Penn State on the road over three weekends beginning in late September. It’s difficult to believe any team in any conference has a three-game winning streak to match. (The LSU series was agreed upon more than a decade ago.)

A vacation from travel

The Big Ten made certain that none of the four West Coast teams played back-to-back road games in the Eastern or Central Time Zones. Both Washington and UCLA play back-to-back games across the Mississippi, but there is a bye in between. (We’ll see how that issue is handled once the basketball and Olympic sports conference schedules are finalized.)

The following Saturday

The frequency of road games in the eastern half of the country is only one aspect of the West Coast quartet’s larger challenge. The other is what happens the week following their cross-country journeys. In that regard, the Big Ten did the schools a favor: every trip east is followed by either a home game or a bye. However, some of the home games are intimidating, particularly for Washington. The Huskies host Michigan in early October after visiting Rutgers, USC in late October after visiting Indiana, and UCLA in mid-November after visiting Penn State.


In 2024, the NCAA competition calendar includes 14 weeks of regular-season games, giving each team two byes. The breaks are just right for UCLA and Washington: neither team plays more than four Big Ten games in a row. Oregon, on the other hand, has eight consecutive conference games, while USC has seven. Notable: Both Pacific Northwest teams have byes the week before their season finale in Eugene. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles schools are in action in the week leading up to their annual showdown.

Big Saturday

Nov. 2 (Week 10) kicks off an exciting slate of games across the conference, with Ohio State visiting Penn State, Wisconsin visiting Iowa, UCLA visiting Nebraska, Oregon visiting Michigan’s Big House for the first time since 2007, and USC visiting Washington. However, one of those games could be moved to Friday, with Wisconsin-Iowa and USC-Washington being the most likely candidates. (See below for more on the Friday factor.)

Scale of Brutality

Which West Coast team has the most demanding overall schedule? On a scale of 1 to 5, here is our rating.

Oregon: Taking advantage of the Hawaii exemption, the Ducks will play four non-conference games. They begin their season in Honolulu (in Week 0), and they also host Idaho, Texas Tech, and Boise State. Their conference schedule begins with a bang, with games against UCLA (away), Michigan State (home), and Ohio State (home) all in the same week, plus a trip to Ann Arbor in early November. 3 on the Brutality Scale

UCLA: The Bruins have arguably the most unusual schedule in the country, beginning with a trip to Hawaii, continuing with a trip to LSU, and concluding with a game against Fresno State. Penn State and all three West Coast teams are in the league lineup. We were struck by UCLA’s upcoming travel: The Bruins travel to LSU, Penn State, Rutgers, Nebraska, and Washington on alternate Saturdays. When you factor in the Hawaii trip, the total number of air miles logged will be insane. Scale of Brutality: 4

Washington: The Huskies are the only team on the West Coast with an incomplete schedule; they need to add a third non-conference game to join games against Weber State and Eastern Washington. The incredible finish with USC, Penn State, UCLA, and Oregon is the highlight of inside league play. “UW needed to win in September and October,” Captain Obvious said. Scale of Brutality: 4

USC: In addition to conference games against Michigan, Penn State, UCLA, and Washington, the Trojans will face LSU (in Las Vegas) and Notre Dame (at home). Add in the “easy” league matchups, which include Wisconsin and Rutgers, and the Trojans will almost certainly face 11 teams that were bowl-eligible this season. So Lincoln Riley has something to look forward to in Year 3. Scale of Brutality: 5

Finally, the Friday factor

The schedule released this week does not include any Friday games, but those are on the way.

The Hotline anticipates that five or six games will be moved to Friday evening, with Washington and Oregon likely suffering the most.

After all, Fox has plenty of premium programming for its Saturday morning and evening timeslots (9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.). It pays $65 million per year for the Huskies and Ducks to have Friday programming options.

(Unless a team has a bye, we don’t expect any teams to travel across the country for Friday games.)

According to a statement issued by the Big Ten on Thursday, “selected Saturday games in the 2024 season may be adjusted to select Fridays and other special dates, including Labor Day Sunday and Black Friday.”

Don’t be surprised if the Washington-Oregon squabble is given the Black Friday treatment.

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