The Gophers are going to the Rose Bowl in 2024 … to play UCLA in the regular season. Fellow Big Ten newcomer USC will visit Minneapolis the following year.
Minnesota's trophy games against Iowa and Wisconsin will continue to be played on an annual basis.
And, as the Big Ten telegraphed, the East/West divisions are going away after this coming season. Starting in 2024, to reach the Big Ten title game, a team needs to finish first or second in the 16-team conference standings.
Those are a few takeaways from the Big Ten's Thursday announcement of its 2024 and '25 football scheduling model, which will accommodate the additions of UCLA and USC. The Gophers will play UCLA, whose home is Rose Bowl Stadium, during the Bruins' inaugural season in the Big Ten.
For 2024, the Gophers will have conference home games against Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State and Rutgers, and they'll travel to UCLA, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
In 2025, the Gophers will play host to Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, USC and Wisconsin. Minnesota will travel to Illinois, Iowa, Penn State and Purdue. Dates for all Big Ten games both years are to be determined.
Under a new scheduling model called "Flex Protect Plus," teams were allowed to designate up to three permanent rivalry opponents. In the Gophers' case, Iowa and Wisconsin are designated as permanent rivals, continuing the Floyd of Rosedale and Paul Bunyan's Axe matchups every year.
The Gophers have played Wisconsin 132 times and Iowa 116 times, and Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle and coach P.J. Fleck emphasized their desire to keep those rivalries protected.
The Big Ten's other designated rivals are: Illinois-Northwestern, Illinois-Purdue, Indiana-Purdue, Iowa-Nebraska, Iowa-Wisconsin, Michigan-Ohio State, Michigan-Michigan State, Maryland-Rutgers, and UCLA-USC.
Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti on BTN listed, "preserving some of the matchups that are important to Big Ten fans and member institutions" and "being able to see more opponents more frequently" as two goals the new schedule accomplished.
Other highlights of the plan:
- Teams will play every other conference opponent at least twice — once home and once away — in a four-year period.
"If you are a football student-athlete at one of our institutions and you play for four years, you're gonna play in every other Big Ten stadium," Kerry Kenny, the Big Ten's chief operating officer, said on BTN. "That's a really meaningful experience."
- Competitive balance was a factor in dropping the division format, which began in 2011 with the Leader and Legends divisions. Since the East-West alignment started in 2014, no West team has won the Big Ten Championship Game. Starting in 2024, it'll be a battle of first and second place, with specific rules on tiebreakers announced later.
"By moving to a no-division format, you get to create a more fluid rotation of opponents," Kenny said.
- The conference schedule will remain at nine games.
Minnesota's matchup against UCLA will be the teams' first in Pasadena since the 1961 season, when the Gophers beat the Bruins 21-3 in the Rose Bowl game. The teams played a series in the 1970s, with the Gophers winning 27-13 at Memorial Stadium in 1977 and the Bruins prevailing 17-3 the next year at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The Gophers and USC have played eight times, with the Trojans owning a 6-1-1 record. They last met in 2011, with USC winning 19-17 in Los Angeles.
Aug. 29 vs. North Carolina
Sept. 7 vs. Rhode Island
Sept. 14 vs. Nevada
Conference (dates to be determined)
Home games: Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers
Road games: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, UCLA, Wisconsin
Aug. 28 vs. Buffalo
Sept. 6 vs. Bowling Green
Sept. 13 at California
Conference (dates to be determined)
Home games: Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, USC, Wisconsin
Road games: Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, Purdue