If you thought Texas and Oklahoma were a surprise that came out of nowhere, this news went from rumor to confirmation in a matter of hours. In a move no one saw coming, The University of Southern California and The University of California, Los Angeles, otherwise known as USC and UCLA, reached out to the Big Ten and quickly worked out a deal to become the 15th and 16th members of the conference.
The staff shares their initial reactions to the move. We’ll also have “former contributor and now special guest” Dylan Callaghan-Croley of Nittany Nation to share his thoughts as well.
Q: What are your initial reactions to the news that The Big Ten is adding USC and UCLA to the conference?
Lando: I have mixed feelings about the addition of USC and UCLA. I would love to see some new rivalries develop between these schools (Revenge for the Rose Bowl, anyone?). Probably the biggest plus might have to be the realignment or deletion of the divisions in the Big Ten. Adding two traditional blue-blood programs also boosts the conference as a whole, but presents a whole new group of challenges for the Nittany Lions.
Chris: I love this so much. Conference realignment is so much fun, and this is wayyyyy outside the box. It honestly opens up a whole slew of “what if” expansion and realignment opportunities in the near future, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the ACC got raided by the B1G and SEC, Notre Dame is out there, and perhaps some other Pac-12 teams become viable options as well.
Bennet: To quote Canadian artist Peaches in her most famous song, 2000’s “F*#! The Pain Away”: Huh. Right, what? Uh.
I was sitting with my nearly 80-year-old father, who coached high school football for 30-plus years and still thinks bubble screens are fancy, when I learned the news and I turned and told him.
“No,” he simply said. Then, he left the room.
I don’t think the addition and ultimate reconfiguration of what the Big Ten and college football can necessarily be boiled down to a “this is great” or “no, this should have never happened” answer. But, I do think all it’s the full-on realization that we are about to be big-time followers and fans of not our father’s or grandfather’s or even our own vision of what we want college football to be.
That’s why I quote Peaches - I’m still processing a whole lot of thoughts. Right, what?
Marty: Geographically, for now at least, it’s weird, but it adds one true blue blood ot the conference (USC) and another program that is a solid addition as well. In the ever changing landscape of college football conferences can expand or die, good to see the Big Ten not choose the die option.
Jared: It brought me back to the early days of Twitter where anyone could post any rumor and it would spread through the college football world like wildfire. I was a bit shocked though when legitimate sources began reporting it. I wasn’t expecting any PAC 12 schools to be in the discussion for obvious reasons.
Dylan: In words that I can say, “wow” would be the first. It’s not terribly shocking I think that the Big Ten added two teams after seeing what the SEC did last season but I believe this is truly more seismic than Oklahoma and Texas making the move last year.
This move will force the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 to all consider potential moves of their own and while last year’s moves got the proverbial ball rolling, the ball is now going down hill at full speed, there’s no stopping it. While I’m not expecting anything in the immediate future, this has most definitely begun the next decade of realignment as we move towards super conferences. What will happen to Oregon, Washington, Stanford? Clemson, FSU, and Miami, could they be headed to the SEC? What about Notre Dame? So many teams, so many questions that will be answered over the next 10 years in my opinion.
Tim: Personally, I’m looking forward to playing USC in late October in Happy Valley for a White Out under the lights, instead of a de-facto road game at the Rose Bowl. Obviously, this is a huge coup for the conference as a whole with two storied West Coast institutions joining and will cause a major earthquake in college sports that is likely to lead to two or three super conferences.
Eli: Some people may be bemoaning the end of college football as we know it, but to those folks I say, “college football has ended as we knew it about seven different times already.” We can go as far back as when the sport resembled what Americans call soccer, or maybe a little less back, when the Military academies ruled the sport, or when the forward pass was invented, or when the NCAA had exclusive rights to broadcast games, or when all the independents joined conferences, you get the point. Fact of the matter is that change has been a pretty big constant in the sport, and this is just the next best thing.
Not to mention, the Rose Bowl has never meant anything to me, so I’m glad to see it hopefully put to pasture after this move.
Q: Is this good for Penn State? How?
Lando: Optimistic Lando would say that this has the potential to raise Penn State’s facility, donor, and recruiting game. The coaches leading the major sports have already shown themselves to be vocal when it comes to calling for facility upgrades, fundraising support, and NIL opportunities.
Pessimist Lando worries that Penn State could fall from the upper echelon of the conference if USC gets a foothold in traditional Big Ten recruiting strongholds. Plus, there’s the distance for regular season games.
With that said, Penn State fans should be looking forward to this new challenge.
Chris: It brings two huge programs into an already prestigious power conference, how could it not be?
Bennet: I think so.
Anything that continues to push the Big Ten (x2) brand away from “The Game”, Ohio State/Michigan, midwestern rust belt, etc. is good.
It’s this simple - college football drives the bus. We are headed to two superpower conferences. Penn State has a seat on that bus and already IS a huge brand when it comes to college football. A bigger Big Ten (x2) means Penn State is in the national conversation by default, on the big networks at prime time, et al.
College football is now a truly national sport (that’s the sad part - as the regional perspective is what made this sport unique) and Penn State will be a national player with recruiting, with television, and with that sweet, sweet money.
From a fan’s perspective, even though I think scheduling will still have a regional tilt (more on that below), seeing USC or UCLA come into Beaver Stadium on an October night seems pretty sweet. I’m personally saving my pennies starting right now to get out to the Coliseum or Rose Bowl to see those all-white road uniforms under the California sunset. You can’t deny that won’t be a lot of fun.
Marty: Adding USC to the conference makes it much more difficult for Penn State to be the second best program in the B1G behind Ohio State. When USC is cooking, which they will be with Lincoln Riley, they have the right of first refusal to every highly rated recruit west of the Rocky Mountains. So while that may not be good for the Nittany Lions, a strong as possible Big Ten is a great thing for Penn State.
Jared: I like it - it brings a couple more interesting - possibly marquee games into the mix. It should also help improve the footprint of recruiting in California and the West Coast in general. I’m curious to see how the schedule will be set up moving forward though.
Dylan: This will help Penn State in the aspect that the Big Ten’s upcoming TV contract just probably added an extra quarter to half-billion dollars but it will certainly make it tougher to stay atop of the Big Ten in football and adding UCLA basketball makes an already daunting conference all the more better.
Tim: There are quite a few PSU alumni that live out in Southern California and the west coast in general, so I’m happy they all get an easy road game to attend either at USC or UCLA. You get two more storied opponents to play in football and hoops, as well.
Eli: Someone already mentioned this, but having two big, storied brands added to the fold will hopefully lessen the focus on ThE gAmE at the end of the season. The circle jerk will never go away, and it’s up to USC and UCLA to hold their end of the bargain, but I think this will help kind of divest Penn State from being latched onto Ohio State and Michigan like that one graphic we see floating around from time to time.
Besides, Penn State needs to even the series with USC!
Q: Assuming the Big Ten isn’t done, what other teams would you like to see added?
Lando: I would love to add Oregon, Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Pitt.
Chris: Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, and perhaps some ACC teams like UVA, UNC, Duke, and Georgia Tech.
Bennet: I’d like the Big Ten to get to 20 teams. Dream world.... give me Washington, Stanford, Duke, and North Carolina. This takes care of adding some west coast markets and beautiful cities, while also adding two programs who should be capable of finally helping the Big Ten end its NCAA basketball tournament title drought (assuming the NCAA still matters).
Are UNC and NC State linked somehow? If that’s the case - head to Atlanta and lock up Georgia Tech.
Marty: My top choice would be Notre Dame. Largely because I loathe them and would love to watch Penn State play them every year. Assuming the Big Ten wants to continue expanding West, would also like to see Oregon, Stanford, and Washington join the fold.
Jared: I’ve always wanted to see Notre Dame added to the mix, but pretty much gave up hope on that. However, they may come around after being hurt last season by not being in a conference. West Virginia would be a nice addition as well - just seems like a great fit and a much better regional rival than those other two schools that were added a few years back. While we’re taking PAC 12 schools, let’s add Stanford to the mix. They’ve been my PAC 12 team for years and would be good company for Northwestern.
Dylan: Think there’s a few ways you can go about this. We’re looking at 20 teams when this is all said and done. I think numerous schools fit the bill here though a lot of it depends if the Big Ten will continue the AAU membership requirement. Either way, the Arizona schools could make sense (ASU is already part of Big Ten hockey), Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington all make sense as. Adding Missouri from the SEC could make sense, they would have no problem replacing them. From the ACC, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, and Virginia Tech all make sense as well. So many different scenarios.
Tim: I’d like to see Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and maybe one of the Arizona schools added if we’re going to take this to 20 teams.
Eli: If we’re headed to 20, and I’m pretty sure we’re headed to 20, I’d like to see Washington, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Pitt added to the fold. Everyone gets their natural rivals at the end of the season!
Q: What teams is the Big Ten actually going to add?
Lando: Washington and Oregon.
Chris: I’m going to say they’re shooting for 20 teams, so I’ll pick Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, and wildcard is Mizzou jumping from the SEC.
Bennet: I think Notre Dame finally cracks. I couldn’t care less about them actually getting in at this point, but it seems they’ll find a seat at the table and I’d love for the Big Ten to leave them. But, they probably won’t.
I think they have to go west to find two others - Stanford and Cal.
The last slot? Probably someone boring like the University of Cincinnati.
Marty: I think Notre Dame will finally cave and join the Big Ten. Stanford is a safe bet too I believe.
Jared: USC and UCLA seem pretty set. Outside of that it’s anyone’s guess. I’ve heard rumblings of Texas A&M and UNC for years, so maybe they’re next.
Dylan: Oregon, Stanford, Notre Dame, and one ACC school.
Tim: At this point, who knows. Supposedly the Big Ten claims that USC and UCLA are it for now, but given how clandestine this whole coup was, I have a hard time believing we’re done and that the PAC-12 will get further raided of the teams I just mentioned above.
Eli: Oregon and Washington have reportedly already applied, so it all depends on whether Notre Dame is ready to join a conference. And, at that point, it’s either going to be Stanford, some random ACC school, or some random Big 12 school for the last spot. If Notre Dame decides to take their chances with the ACC or Independence, we could be looking at Stanford and Cal, to mirror the USC/UCLA additions.
Q: What will scheduling look like with 16, or even 20 teams?
Lando: This largely depends on how many conference games are played in a season-if it’s 16 teams, play about half the conference one year and the other half the next.
If it’s 20 teams, maybe the conference goes to 10 conference games. Logistics would probably dictate things in both cases, with maybe two East Coast-West Coast matchups max per year?
I’m also interested in the conference title game location. Does it move to somewhere more central? I know it’s not really convenient, but why not play in JerryWorld?
Chris: PODS BABYYYYYYYY. Four 5-team pods, which gives you 4 conference games. One game from each of the other pods gets you to 7 conference games. Then perhaps everyone has a rivalry week setup for an 8th game?
Bennet: I think one of the big things will be that teams will only have two non-conference games. So, everyone gets their MACrificies at home each year.
20 teams - two divisions of 10 teams. Play all nine in your side, then a game against one of the other division. The clear downside is that this would mean you’re in a conference with a team you see play at home once every two decades.
16 teams - two divisions of 8. Play all seven on your side and you have 2-3 to play with when it comes to facing teams from the other division (maybe you keep a third non-conference game at this point).
I think those divisions will still have geography heavily in play.
These seem the most basic. So, it will probably be what happens.
How fun would a relegation style conference slate look like? Anything else fun? I’d love to spend a day coming up with ideas.
Marty: Go pods. If you’re at 16 teams have four pods with four teams each, if you go to 20 either do four pods of five teams, or five pods of four.
Jared: I can’t think of anything I would be particularly fond about off the top of my head. Each team will play half or less than half of the conference. Strength of schedule will determine who plays in the championship game most years. We’ll be having regular debates if team X deserves to be in the championship after missing Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, especially compared to the next team in line who played four of those opponents.
Dylan: We’re going to see pods of four or five teams that make up your primary opponents and then you’ll face two or three crossover teams each year on top of your non-conference schedules.
Tim: I would think we’re going to see “pods” of teams that will play each other every year regardless. The rest will be rotated in and out every two years.
Eli: If I don’t hear the word “pods” ever again, I’ll die a happy man. So let’s call them, I don’t know, protected rivalries maybe? At 16, they’ll very cleanly fit into three protected rivals per school, cycle through the rest. At 20, it’ll be four protected rivals per school, cycle through the rest.
Bring back the “championship weekend” that worked so well during the COVID year, and play the two best records, then the next two, etc., all the way down to the bottom feeders.
Of course, the conference champion is the winner of the game between the two teams with the best records.
Q: Any other thoughts?
Lando: Conference expansion always gets me pumped up. Let’s see how the dominos fall.
Chris: Just when we hit peak off-season doldrums we get this. College football is awesome.
Bennet: We’ve gone national, baby. That’s all that’s really on my mind. I’m still refreshing Twitter every five seconds and seeing what might be coming next or what someone might even just think is coming next.
From a Penn State football perspective, I repeat that this should be something exciting. I became a fan as a young person right at the close of the Independent era. What I do remember about that time was that it seemed like MOST weeks, Penn State was playing a big game that a lot of people cared about watching. BYU. Miami. Notre Dame. Alabama. Texas. USC. Those were teams I watched Penn State line up against in big ABC or CBS tilts.
Sure, there were home games against Syracuse and Maryland and Rutgers. But those were fodder. This news about USC/UCLA and the seemingly bigger picture that the Big Ten isn’t done adding should give us hope that Penn State will forever be entrenched as a major brand in a major conference each and every year. That’s what we want, right?
Marty: Like it or not this is the future of college football. We are getting closer to a world where 50-60 teams that make up two or three super conferences breakaway from the NCAA and form their own league. Just be thankful that Penn State is not just one of those 50-60 schools, but in the upper echelon of those schools and that they will not be one of the schools left scrambling looking for a home/future.
Jared: Let the chaos ensue.
Dylan: I’m not sure this is what’s best for college football, I’d probably lean towards it likely not being in actuality. That being said, if we are watching a slow, or even perhaps fast downfall of college football as we know it, at least in the meantime, it’s going to be fun.
Tim: Dude, I am still wrapping my mind around all this less than 24 hours later.
Eli: You know what I find amazing? The Big 12, ACC, and Pac-12 just sat there, waiting to be eaten alive by the Big Ten and SEC. And they’re going to continue to sit there, waiting to be eaten alive.
Maybe, I don’t know, work your way to 20 teams yourselves? The Pac-12 should be doing everything in their power to merge with the Big 12 right this very second, and the ACC should be doing everything in their power to get Notre Dame to join for football, while picking off the remainder of the Big 12 or whatever’s left of the little guys. But nope, they’re just going to sit there and wait till the Big Ten and SEC are done. That’s their prerogative I guess.