Well That Was Boring

Oct 27, 2022

I've been hyping it for months. "The Big Ten pulled the 2022 and 2023 schedules after previously announcing them, and now, with UCLA and USC joining in 2024, they'll do a one-off schedule for 2023 with no restrictions." And then they simply announced the 2023 schedule that had been previously announced (and then pulled).

Well, there are a few changes. They switched up home and away for many of the games (not for ours), but for the most part, this is just the 2023 schedule they previously deleted with the dates moved around a bit. I WANTED CHAOS SCHEDULE.

Here's the general background here:

+ The Big Ten announces the 2022 through 2025 schedules on August 29, 2018. I dug up the old email from 2018 and here's the schedule they had laid out for 2023 for the Big Ten West:

+ That schedule was the start of the new six-year rotation. From 2016 to 2021 there had been a full schedule rotation laid out by the Big Ten. Purdue (West) and Indiana (East) kept their cross-division rivalry, which meant that to balance the schedule, every school needed a cross-division "rival". There weren't enough rivalries to go around when they split East/West, so the Big Ten decided to assign each school a "rival" for six years and then change it up for the next rotation. For Illinois, the first assigned rival was Rutgers. We played Rutgers every year from 2016 to 2021.

This was done to balance out a full rotation of the teams in the other division. Illinois would play every West team every year (6 games), the one "rival" every year (7th game), and then, over the six seasons, home-and-away games against the other six schools in the east (games 8 & 9). So for, say, Maryland, we played the Terps in 2018 (in DC) and then at home in 2021. Six games against Rutgers, two games each year against the other six teams in the East.

+ Then, in 2018, the Big Ten announced the next six-year rotation. The Illinois "rival" was changing from Rutgers to Penn State. Starting in 2022, Illinois would play Penn State for six consecutive years (and then every other Big Ten East school two times).

The dates for those games were only announced for 2022 through 2025. The last two years of that rotation (2026 and 2027) were a little far off so while the opponents were known, the dates couldn't be scheduled yet (mostly so non-conference dates could be finalized first). So we knew the full rotation for the next six years and the dates for four of the six years.

+ PLOT TWIST. Covid hits. And during the Covid year (2020), all kinds of crazy things happened. In order to make schedules work, some games were moved from where they were originally supposed to be played (like Michigan State-Indiana switching locations). Because the schedules went from 9 conference games to 8, some conference games were just flat-out removed from the original schedule (like Illinois-Indiana). And, obviously, some games were flat-out canceled due to positive tests (like Illinois-Ohio State).

The conference couldn't make-up all of the games, but they tried to accommodate some of them. Take the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry. In 2020, the location of the game was moved from East Lansing to Ann Arbor. So last year, the game was moved from Ann Arbor to East Lansing. Which meant that the 2022 game was moved from East Lansing to Ann Arbor. Which means that this 2023 schedule moves the game from Ann Arbor to East Lansing. The reason all of these changes were made source to that 2020 season and all of the schedule changes (and the games which were flat-out skipped).

Why did Illinois originally have Penn State on the 2022 schedule but then see that game changed to Indiana? Same reason. Illinois-Indiana had been dropped from the 2020 schedule (nine games reduced to eight), so they wanted to make it up in 2022, and since Illinois was scheduled to play Penn State the next six years, Penn State was dropped and Indiana was added.

So picture a dozen scenarios just like that. That's what made the 2021 and 2022 schedules a bit of a mess.

+ DOUBLE PLOT TWIST. USC and UCLA to join the Big Ten starting in 2024. So now that 2022~2027 six-year rotation is completely shot (which, let's be honest - it was already shot when they messed around with 2022 to make the Covid make-ups work). Starting in 2024, USC and UCLA will join and a new schedule will need to be released.

Which makes 2023 a complete one-off schedule. The new format will take hold in 2024 (with games fully moved-over to Fox, CBS, and NBC), and there might be pods, not divisions, and we'll be road-tripping to Los Angeles. So for the last three months, I've been wildly speculating about what the 2023 schedule might be.

Options I saw:

  • Do they look at which crossover matchups haven't happened in a while and schedule those for 2023? We haven't played Ohio State since 2017 (five full seasons without losing the Illibuck game). Would they move that to the front of the line?
  • Would they just put together some "name" matchups? Put Wisconsin against Ohio State and Northwestern playing Rutgers? (Side note: it feels so good to talk about Northwestern as the basement team again.)
  • Should they base it on the 2022 results where the top teams in the West play the top teams in the East?
  • Maybe just put all of the teams in a hat and draw opponents?

In the end, they went with... none of those. They took the 2023 schedule (year two of a six-year rotation), which had been deleted from every school's "future schedules" page last year, and they... put it back up. There are several location changes (based on those canceled or moved games in 2020), but it's just the same schedule again. It's weird that they chose that -- it was a schedule based on every team playing cross-divisional rivals two times in six years and they're just taking a one-year snapshot from that schedule -- but that's where they ended up.

There are a lot of changes to the dates of the games, and the Big Ten will say that this is why we had to take the schedule down and then put it back up. Illinois, for example, has a decently significant change to the order of games:

The final six games on the old 2023 schedule:

at Maryland
at Minnesota
at Iowa

The final six games on the 2023 schedule released yesterday:

at Maryland
at Minnesota
at Iowa

So yes, they had to take it down so they could move some games around. But they didn't change any of the opponents. This is just a snapshot of one year of a six-year rotation which no longer exists.

And since that six-year rotation didn't have us playing Ohio State until 2024 and 2027, well, we go yet another year without playing for Illinibuck. BORING.

Guess we'll just have to win back Illibuck on December 3rd.


bradidas on October 27, 2022 @ 02:07 PM

The real story is that Wisconsin has OSU while Minnesota and Purdue both have both Michigan and OSU. That could be a huge edge for us in the last version of the West.

Robert on October 27, 2022 @ 04:57 PM

My point is that Minnesota and Purdue both have Michigan and tOSU because the Big Ten chose to stick with the second year of the six-year rotation (a rotation that will not be completed). Had they chosen the fourth year of the six-year rotation, we would have had Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State.

We are fortunate that they stopped the music right when we were in front of the chair labeled "easy".

lucasmeducas on October 28, 2022 @ 06:46 AM

I don't give a damn about boring. I'm glad we got the old schedule back which is significantly easier than most of our B1G West counterparts!

Nall23 on October 28, 2022 @ 09:08 AM

Agreed. I don't fully understand this article. Everything that Robert has written in the past has been "I don't care about weak non-conference opponents; I want Illinois to do everything it can from a scheduling perspective to ensure that we win lots of games each year." Then this gift of a 2023 schedule is announced and the reaction is "This is boring and I wanted CHAOS Schedule!". I guess I don't get it?

Shemp89 on October 28, 2022 @ 12:27 PM

Thirded. I don't get excited by losing to tOSU by 40. Of course if we win it's great (2007), but the rarity of that is why we still talk about games from 15-20 years ago.

jdl on October 28, 2022 @ 09:35 AM

Illibuck drought continues, conference expansion sucks.

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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