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When the Big Ten unveiled its new scheduling format for the 2024 and 2025 seasons earlier this week, which eliminates divisions and protects specific rivalries upon the impending arrival of USC and UCLA, it created a grueling dynamic: No other conference in major college football requires certain members to make true cross-country road trips like the ones the Bruins and Trojans will embark upon in their debut seasons. 

UCLA and USC will each travel more than 15,000 miles roundtrip in conference play during their inaugural Big Ten season. In 2024 alone, the Bruins will travel to Rutgers, which is more than 4,800 miles roundtrip, while USC travels to Maryland and Penn State, each of which are more than 4,400 miles roundtrip. 

The team who travels the most in Big Ten play behind the Southern California schools is Nebraska — and USC and UCLA are traveling over 225% more than Nebraska’s 7,022 mile roundtrip conference schedule. Purdue and Indiana travel the least in the conference next fall, and the new schools will travel 618% more miles than its conference foes.  

UCLA also has trips to Hawaii and LSU booked on the 2024 schedule. So, in total, the Bruins will travel over 25,000 miles roundtrip. UCLA’s shortest conference road trip is to Iowa, which is 3,082 miles roundtrip. 

This type of travel is unusual within other Power Five conferences, even with expansion. For example: The Big 12 welcomes BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF later this summer, meaning Provo, Utah, to Orlando, Florida, now becomes the furthest distance traveled between two Big 12 members. Still, it’s about 1,100 miles less roundtrip than what USC and UCLA will have to endure during conference play. 

The SEC will also look different starting in the 2024 season with the arrival of Texas and Oklahoma. The conference announced earlier this month it will keep an eight-game schedule just for the 2024 season, with the one-year stop-gap meaning divisional standings go away with the top two teams in conference standings meeting in the SEC Championship Game.  

The new “Flex Protect Plus” model the Big Ten introduced will see a new team get a favorable travel schedule every season. The new format will give most schools to up to three protected annual rivalries (Penn State is the only team with zero protected rivalries) while keeping a nine-game schedule featuring a rotation of conference opponents on a two-year basis. In doing so, each Big Ten team will face every other conference member twice — one home and one away — over a four-year period.

Here is how far each Big Ten school will have to travel for their conference games in the 2024 season. 

1. USC

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 16,134
Notable games of distance: Maryland (4,596 miles roundtrip) , Penn State, Purdue

What it means: USC has a brutal travel schedule, having to go visit the East Coast twice for matchups with Penn State and Maryland. The Trojans only have to travel 34 total miles down the road for the annual matchup with rival UCLA at the Rose Bowl, though. 

2. UCLA

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 15,412
Longest trips: Rutgers (4,846), Michigan, Indiana

If having to adjust to a cross-country schedule for conference play wasn’t bad enough, UCLA also plays nonconference road games at Hawaii and LSU. UCLA players and coaches will be racking up the airline miles.

3. Nebraska 

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 7,022
Longest trips: UCLA (2,532), Penn State, Purdue

The Cornhuskers will visit Southern California in back-to-back seasons. Nebraska plays UCLA at the Rose Bowl in 2024 and at the Coliseum in 2025 against USC.

4. Iowa 

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 6,682
Longest trips: USC (3,082), Rutgers, Ohio State

Iowa got the short end of the stick with its conference schedule in 2024. The Hawkeyes will travel to Southern California to face USC and Columbus, Ohio, to play Ohio State. Both of those teams will be consensus top-10 teams heading into the season.

5. Ohio State

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 6,496
Longest trips: UCLA (3,946), Michigan State, Penn State

Aside from the Rose Bowl trip to battle UCLA, Ohio State’s road conference schedule is very manageable. Minnesota and Penn State, in particular, are short trips. 

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 6,470
Longest trips: UCLA (3,494), Penn State, Purdue

Northwestern plays five road games, and the matchup with UCLA inflates the team’s travel. Three of the five games are all less than 700 miles roundtrip. The matchup with Ohio State is the shortest at just over 560 miles.

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 6,436
Longest trips: USC (3,336), Maryland, Nebraska 

Wisconsin is one of six schools in the conference that protected more than one opponent annually, and the Badgers will have to travel less than 300 miles to play one of those protected opponents (Iowa).

8. Minnesota 

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 6,258
Longest trips: UCLA (3,042), Indiana, Michigan

Minnesota heads to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA in 2024, but will get a break in 2025 as it hosts USC instead of traveling back to California. Minnesota also only has four road conference games next season.

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 6,204
Longest trips: USC (3,394), Rutgers, Ohio State

Facing both USC and Ohio State on the road is a tough task. Illinois found themselves with a similar draw as Iowa in Year 1 of the new scheduling format.

10. Michigan

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 5,762
Longest trips: USC (3,886), Rutgers, Illinois 

The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry was, of course, one of the rivalries protected by the conference. The Wolverines get a very favorable road schedule, but the true test will be when they face USC on the road.

11. Maryland

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 4,462
Longest trips: Iowa (1,578), Indiana, Illinois  

Maryland avoids playing bother newcomers in their first season but will travel to face UCLA in 2025.

12. Rutgers

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 4,322
Longest trips: Minnesota (2,002), Michigan State, Ohio State

What it means: Rutgers will be a very long travel destination for UCLA and USC. UCLA travels to New Brunswick in 2024 and USC returns the favor the following season. UCLA/USC to Rutgers represents the furthest distance between Power Five conference teams.

13. Penn State

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 3,478
Longest trips: Wisconsin (1,224), Purdue, Indiana

Penn State was the only Big Ten school to not have any protected opponents under the new format. The Nittany Lions host USC and travel to UCLA in 2025.

14. Michigan State

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 3,058
Longest trips: Nebraska (1,284), Maryland, Penn State

Michigan State only protected its rivalry with Michigan going forward but will essentially have a home-and-home conference series with Indiana and Penn State starting next year. The Spartans get the chance to host Indiana first.

15. Indiana 

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 2,668
Longest trips: Nebraska (1,098), Wisconsin, Michigan State

Indiana only protected its rivalry with Purdue and will get a chance to host the Boilermakers in 2024. Indiana avoids a trip to Southern California in 2024 and 2025 as well. 

16. Purdue

Total miles traveled for Big Ten away games: 2,436
Longest trips: Maryland (1,260), Wisconsin, Michigan State

Despite being one of eight Big Ten teams to have five road games in 2024, Purdue will have the shortest distance traveled of any team in the conference. However, Purdue didn’t luck out like Indiana as the Boilermakers head to Southern California for a date with UCLA in 2025. 



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