The tides of the collegiate conferences are shifting and a major shake-up may be on the horizon.
The news of the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins potential arrival in the Big Ten conference in 2024 leaves the Pac 12 vulnerable. Reports of the Big 12 talking to a few other Pac-12 schools have come to light in the wake of the west coast announcement, as conference expansion becomes a hot-button issue. With only a few weeks to the season, we're normally discussing who will make it to the College Football Playoff. Instead, we're talking both about how more and more it looks like we might be shifting from a Power Five conference system to a Super Three realignment.
The Era of NCAA superconferences is upon us. Thanks, California.
Can the Pac 12 and ACC survive the seismic shift in the college landscape by hanging on to Stanford and Clemson? Or are smaller schools like West Virginia, Rutgers, Northwestern, Iowa State and others be pushed out of their conference in favor of bigger cash cows? The days of settling for a bowl game appear to be over. The Los Angeles exodus from the Pac 12 was the first domino, which school will be next?
Here are a few schools we think could end up joining USC and UCLA in the Big Ten in the near future.
Washington plays a very Big 10 brand of football, to begin with. Hard-nosed defense, run the ball down your throat, gritty wins. They would be a perfect fit in the Big Ten. A move into the Big Ten would have huge recruiting benefits in the Pacific Northwest. Especially if the Huskies can sense the writing on the wall. It might be time to preemptively jump ship. Although, the thought of having to travel to Maryland or Ohio State, may not be enticing enough to get Washington to join the Big Ten, so the Big 12 makes way more sense.
Current rumors are they are one of six potential Big 12 landing spots, but with the Big 12 also reportedly in talks with Oregon, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State, we see Washington as open for the taking if the Big Ten should so desire. Although, the thought of having to travel to Maryland or Ohio State, may not be enticing enough to get Washington to join the Big Ten, so the Big 12 makes way more sense.
When the dust settles and the college landscape has shifted from Power 5 to Super 3, we're betting the ACC will be one of the 5 that doesn't survive. This means those prime ACC schools are up for grabs to the remaining conferences. Leaving the Big Ten in a good spot to land the Tarheels. North Carolina is one of the dual-threat schools like Oregon. Basketball is king down in Chappel Hill, but the college football program has grown leaps and bounds in the past several years into a respectable program under former Texas Longhorns head coach, Mack Brown.
Duke Blue Devils
The curious case for the Duke Blue Devils is they have the nation's best basketball program, but boast the worst football program out of any Power 5 school. Duke's been in a similar position as other hoops-heavy schools like Kentucky and Kansas in that regard. Nevertheless, I can't live in a world where the Tobacco Road Rivalry doesn't exist. I can't, I won't. Regardless, at this point, we see UNC and Duke as more of a package deal just based on the basketball rivalry being one of the best in the country in any sport -- and that is good for Duke. The Big Ten gives them the best looks from a football perspective. They would get trounced much worse in the Big 12 or SEC. My apologies to any basketball players in the Big Ten if Duke does make the move, however.
From a geographical standpoint, a move to the Big Ten makes the most sense for the Panthers. Pitt is located right smack dab in the heart of Big Ten country. The once annual Pitt/Penn State rivalry would be restored to its former glory. And Pitt's once and current proud football program could test its metal against the Big Ten heavyweights. No shortage of top NFL players have come through Pitt in recent years: Larry Fitzgerald, Aaron Donald, James Conner -- and that crop of alumni also includes 2021's QB1, Kenny Pickett.
Pitt's departure from the ACC could also open up some interest possibilities for castaways from the Big Ten and Big 12. Purdue and Indiana could find some new basketball life in the ACC. It may also make sense for Rutgers to join the ACC, too. After all, Rutgers is closer to the Atlantic Ocean than any other team in the Big Ten.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
And now we have come to the crown jewel of the college football world. If the bidding war for Notre Dame hasn't already begun in light of the USC and UCLA news, I would be shocked. If any of the still-standing conferences get nothing else but landing Notre Dame, they've won college football. The Fighting Irish are college football royalty. And how we wouldn't love to see them regularly in the Big House, or Happy Valley or the Horseshoe. Or how about a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1926? Notre Dame vs. USC, a game Knute Rockne called the best game he'd ever seen. Aw hell, just call it the Rockne Bowl, make it the last game on the schedule each year. Sell out the Rose Bowl, pack South Bend. College GameDay, 8 p.m. ABC. Best ratings of the year. BOOK IT! DONE!