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Potential rivalries brewing in the new era of Big Ten football

What will Big Ten football look like this season?



The Big Ten Conference has always been built upon its storied rivalries, from the longest-running trophy game for Paul Bunyan’s Axe to “The Big Game” between blue bloods Michigan and Ohio State. With the Big Ten entering a new era of college sports, let’s look at the potential new rivalries that could come from USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington.

Minnesota (or other “middle of the pack” Big Ten teams) and UCLA

UCLA has been one of the blue-blood basketball programs for nearly its eternity, while having some success in football, but will now enter a stage of rebuilding. The Bruins should fit in near the middle to bottom of the teams in the Big Ten for football, which could mean tight games with teams like Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State, etc. Although a rivalry in this case could stem from anywhere, I chose Minnesota as they seem to be a very comparable team from the original Big Ten teams and already have some huge butterfly effect history in the past with UCLA. For those who do not know, the University of Minnesota was looking like it was set to hire legend John Wooden as its head basketball coach in the winter of 1948 when a blizzard took out phone lines all across the state. The University could not get the call off to offer Coach Wooden the job, who did instead get a call from UCLA, where he ended up taking the job. Wooden went on to be possibly the greatest college basketball coach of all time at UCLA and built the program to be a sustained powerhouse even to this day. With the “what could have been” history between these two teams and already being fairly even on paper, there is definite potential for a new Gopher rivalry to begin brewing, and it could start next season on October 12th at the Rose Bowl. 

Washington and Michigan 

This one is somewhat obvious, as these two teams met last year in the National Championship game, where Michigan went on to win. With the recent high-stake history between these programs, there is clear potential for some boil-over from the championship game, as well as the Huskies looking to avenge their loss. Which could lead to many heated games between these two teams in the near future.

The only thing potentially holding this back is that both squads are going into 2024 with new head coaches, Michigan with Sherrone Moore and Washington with Jedd Fisch. Although they both lost their head coaches and are coming off of a championship run, they are not in equal places whatsoever. Michigan elevated one of the top assistants in the league, who also coached during Harbaugh’s suspension, and has reloaded the team to be in position to possibly win another championship. While Washington was shocked by the departure of Kalen DeBoer when he left for Alabama, and lost much of the star power that led them on their run to the NFL or the portal. This all led them to now be in a large rebuild, where another title run would be a miracle. All in all, the Huskies will be hungry for years to come to get revenge for their title game loss, leading to huge storylines and a lot of press around the future matchups, with the first coming next season on October 5th in Washington. 

USC and/or Oregon and the Big Ten Blue Bloods

This one could result in numerous rivalries, as football powerhouses USC and Oregon will join the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State as the national contenders from the Big Ten. The past matchups between Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State, have always been must-watch TV, as the stakes are much more elevated than other Big Ten games, and now two new programs will join them year in and year out at the top of the pack.

The Lincoln Riley and Dan Lanning-led programs are very familiar with storied rivalry games, such as the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma (where Riley formerly coached) and Texas and the Border War between Oregon and Washington. Both coaches lead fiery, high-powered, tenacious football teams that will be dead-set on entering the Big Ten with a bang, which would be beating the best of the best in the conference and trying to win a title. In addition to the regular season games between all of these teams, the new playoff layout could lead to even higher stakes, as they could be matched up with a lot more on the line. Next season, Oregon will see Ohio State on October 12th and Michigan on November 2nd. While USC will get Michigan on September 21st and Penn State on October 12th.

Reignited rivalries between original Big Ten Teams

The newly added teams caused a much-needed change within the structure of the Big Ten, as the East and West divisions were dismantled. This could mean reignited rivalries between teams that were rivals before but were separated while the divisions took place. A few potential rivalries that could be reignited are; Purdue and Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket, Illinois and Ohio State for the Illibuck trophy, Michigan and Northwestern for the George Jewett trophy, Minnesota and Penn State for the Governor’s Victory Bell, Minnesota and Michigan for the Little Brown Jug, and many more. With the division line separating these teams no longer, as well as the Big Ten setting yearly “permanent rivalry games”, there is tons of potential for teams to find that hatred again for their rivals and reignite the fire that was dwindling for the past few years.