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— Martin Leir (@MartyLeir) February 9, 2018
ANSWER: When the 14-team Big Ten opted for a nine-game league schedule beginning with the 2016 season, only the Indiana-Purdue crossover series between the Big Ten East and Big Ten West was deemed permanent. That was a factor why athletics directors approved a second realignment without issue and shifted the primary tenet from competitive equality to geography after the league expanded to include Maryland and Rutgers.
The lesser-known part of the realignment discussion was to ensure all football players face every other Big Ten school during their careers. Additionally to make its games as attractive as possible to potential television suitors, the league also wanted to make sure there were several matchups among the league’s high-profile programs. So on a three-year basis, every team has an annual crossover opponent and plays the other six teams once. Iowa faces Penn State every year from 2016 through 2021. The other annual crossover series spanning that time period include Nebraska-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Michigan, Northwestern-Michigan State, Minnesota-Maryland and Illinois-Rutgers.
The first batch of league schedules were released from 2016 through 2019, a four-year stretch. To finish the cycle beginning in 2019, the Big Ten maintained the current annual series through 2021. Beginning with the 2022 season, it’s likely those series will rotate in three-year blocks. So look for Iowa to face either Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State every year from 2022 through 2024.
Also, with college athletics’ unpredictability, the Big Ten has some scheduling wiggle room for a potential internal realignment — say Michigan State moves to the Big Ten West and Purdue moves to the Big Ten East — or further expansion to become a 16-school conference. But that’s purely speculative.
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