Back when the Big Ten broke into divisions, Iowa lost its most competitive rivalry – Wisconsin – and gained… Purdue.
But the Legends and Leaders era ended – and now divisions will, too. Starting in 2024, the East and West will be no more.
The Hawkeyes, winners of the West in 2015 and 2021 and seemingly a game away nearly every other season, learned who their Big Ten football opponents will be when USC and UCLA join the conference.
As fate would have it, both the Trojans and Bruins are on the new menu. The West is gone, yet travel is more westward than ever, with a visit to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in Iowa’s near future. The Hawkeyes last played USC in the 2019 Holiday Bowl, a 49-24 win. Their last matchup with UCLA was in the 45-28 Rose Bowl loss in 1986. The long-awaited rematch is next year at Kinnick Stadium.
But those new faces won’t replace any of the old standbys – namely the rivalries. The Badgers and Gophers will still play the Hawkeyes for the Heartland Trophy and Floyd of Rosedale every season. The manufactured rivalries like Purdue are in the past – unless you count Nebraska. The Huskers are back, too. Well, not back back. They’re on Iowa’s 2024 and 2025 schedule.
Other Big Ten teams, like Penn State, weren’t so lucky. The Nittany Lions are now mysteriously rival-less. Not even the legendary Land Grant Trophy survived as an annual tilt. Most teams got one or two, but Iowa 3, Penn State 0. Seems fitting.
I’m on record on at least two separate sites advocating for an Iowa-Illinois rivalry with a trophy commemorating our future Bison Bridge National Park, but maybe that’s the Quad Cities in me. The Big Ten has never shown much interest in stoking the Hawkeye-Illini flames — but it’s worthy in history and sealed in ink. It’s the conference’s own Forgottonia.
With no divisions, Big Ten Championship Game opponents will be determined by the top two teams in the overall standings starting in 2024.
2024 Iowa opponents
Maryland, Nebraska, UCLA and Wisconsin
Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Rutgers and USC
2025 Iowa opponents
Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State
Indiana, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin