USC football Big Ten schedule analysis: Trojans enter new league with loaded 2024 slate

LOS ANGELES — The Big Ten officially announced its future schedules (2024 through 2028) on Thursday morning, offering a glimpse into what life will be like for USC once it enters its new home next summer.

Here are some takeaways from the Big Ten’s schedule release and the Trojans’ future slates.

1. This was already known but, man, USC’s 2024 schedule is loaded.

Home: Utah State, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
Away: Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and UCLA.
Neutral: LSU

I’ve written it before but this schedule is why there needs to be a great sense of urgency with this season. It’s potentially (or probably) the last season with Caleb Williams, and life is going to be more difficult in a new conference — though the Pac-12 is very strong and more balanced than the Big Ten this season.

2. I’ve seen some stuff on social media about how difficult Michigan’s schedule will be in 2024. The Wolverines host Texas, USC and Oregon and play at Ohio State and Washington.

Welcome to life in the new college football setup, though. Pretty much everyone in the SEC and Big Ten is going to have a difficult schedule moving forward.

3. With the addition of Washington and Oregon to the Big Ten, there were some changes to the 2024 schedule. USC is playing Penn State at home instead of in Happy Valley now. It’s playing Michigan on the road instead of home. Purdue and Northwestern fell off the list of road games. Illinois and Iowa are no longer coming to the Coliseum.

4. Under the initial Big Ten schedules, with only the two Los Angeles schools in the league, USC was slated to play at Ohio State in 2025. The Trojans and Buckeyes won’t face off until 2026 under this new format, and that game will be in the Coliseum.

So that’s a marquee matchup USC fans will have to wait a few years for.

5. The Wisconsin game in 2024 should be pretty interesting. When USC fired Clay Helton in 2021, everyone viewed Luke Fickell as one of the leading candidates to replace him primarily because of his connection to then-athletic director Mike Bohn, who hired Fickell at Cincinnati.

The Badgers also have Phil Longo — a Mike Leach disciple — as offensive coordinator. Longo runs the Air Raid, though there is more run game involved with his scheme. Purdue also runs an Air Raid with former USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.

Lincoln Riley’s scheme is much different than Longo’s and Harrell’s, but watching how those offenses do in the Big Ten this year could potentially be an interesting case study for Trojans fans as they prepare for a different style of play in a new conference.

6. It’s interesting that USC is not going to play all three West Coast schools every season. The rivalry game against UCLA was protected by the Big Ten, but the Trojans will play all three West Coast schools in the same year only once, in 2026.

USC will play at Washington next season but will not face the Huskies again until 2026. It won’t play Oregon until 2025. That game will be in Autzen Stadium.

The Trojans won’t host the Ducks until 2026. So USC will go six seasons without hosting Oregon for a regular-season game (that does not count the 2020 Pac-12 title game).

“I honestly felt like the West Coast piece, I think they did what they needed to do,” Riley said. “The reality is we’re still going to play half of our games, and most years a little more than half of our games, on the West Coast. I don’t think we’re going to be hurting for it here.

“Overall, it’s kind of a new concept. There’s a lot we’re going to learn once we get into it, but I think for the most part — other than some of the home-and-home and multiple away visits in a row — it was pretty well done.”

7. It’s difficult, but I think USC had a win with this 2024 schedule. Sure there’s no Northwestern anymore, but Iowa was replaced with Rutgers. Nebraska should be improved in Year 2 under Matt Rhule, who had plenty of battles with Riley back in the Big 12, but that’s not too daunting. Neither is a road trip to Minnesota. And Maryland likes to air it out and throw the ball, which is a style USC is familiar with.

8. It’ll be interesting to see what Riley does at quarterback this offseason. Malachi Nelson and Miller Moss are both unproven and inexperienced.

Does he want to start a quarterback who could be described with those two adjectives to play this schedule? So that’ll be fascinating to watch — unless Williams stuns the world and decides to return.

(Photo of Lincoln Riley: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

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