What each conference could look like

The world of college football will look drastically different in just a couple of seasons. With Texas and Oklahoma joining the SEC and USC and UCLA heading to the Big Ten, it appears the era of superconferences is upon us. But this is only the beginning, with many more moves to come. So let’s delve into the Power Five and discuss what each conference could look like in 2024 and beyond.

SEC

When SEC chairmen unanimously voted to allow Texas and Oklahoma to join the conference, the official date of the transition was 2025. However, the two programs are trying to expedite the move, seeking passage in 2023 or 2024. Nevertheless, their additions raise the SEC’s number of schools to 16.

So what’s next? With the Big Ten taking over Los Angeles and snatching the Trojans and Bruins, many predict the SEC will expand even further. Not so fast. Both conferences are at 16 teams, and they aren’t going to add schools just to do so. Texas and Oklahoma met the SEC’s criteria for admission last year: blue blood programs, big media draws, and excellent on-the-field play.

Which remaining schools fall in the same line? The top ACC programs (Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, and Miami) are sure to be in the SEC’s crosshairs, but nothing has come to fruition. Unless the Big Ten grows its empire, the SEC seems content with its 16-team product and keeping college football intact.

Big Ten

The Big Ten is in a similar position as the SEC. They are the reigning “Power Two” conferences, sporting some of the richest schools in the nation — both financially and historically. There are rumblings of the Big Ten adding Oregon and Washington, effectively securing the top four football programs from the Pac-12. But neither seems to be the Big Ten’s No. 1 target.

That label reportedly belongs to Notre Dame. The issue is that the Fighting Irish’s TV deal with NBC isn’t up until 2025, placing time and leverage into their hands. And if the Big Ten did persuade ND to give up their independence, they would need to acquire another school along with them. For now, like the SEC, the Big Ten is in a bit of a holding pattern.

Big 12

It’s alive! Following the departure of Texas and Oklahoma, many overexaggerated the demise of the Big 12. To recoup their losses, the conference nabbed BYU and snuck into the AAC’s back door, leaving with three of their top schools: Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati. Still, the Big 12 is currently sitting at 12 members once Texas and Oklahoma officially move, leaving them four teams behind the SEC and Big Ten.

Last week, reports about the conference having back-channel conversations with various schools ran rampant. Chief among them were Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah. The conference isn’t waiting around to be left in the dust. They want to push the SEC and Big Ten for a Power Three. Thus, the Big 12 appears the most likely to cause additional realignment news in the near future.

While they plan to be on the offensive, they also have to ensure their current programs aren’t poached. Kansas, TCU, and West Virginia have been rumored as possible additions to other conferences.

Pac-12

The Pac-12 is the “This Is Fine” meme, with the dog sitting at a table as the house is burning around him. Although USC and UCLA have won just one conference championship in the last 13 years, their markets are massive. Their losses definitely hurt, but the bigger problem is that there is now a hole in the fence for other schools to leave through.

Now, the Pac-12 did accelerate the timeline for their media rights negotiation (2023), affording the conferences and its members some time to breathe. Reports surfaced of the Pac-12 and ACC discussing a TV partnership. Details have yet to be confirmed, but the two could schedule non-conference games as well as potentially hold a joint title match, with the conferences’ champions duking it out at the end of the season.

But here’s the rub: the schools should obtain revenue projections from the proposed agreement soon. If those numbers are underwhelming, which ESPN’s Pete Thamel noted they are expected to be, the ACC may pull out and simply try to keep up with the arms race on their own. That scenario could also be the catalyst that pushes the likes of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah to the Big 12. Furthermore, Oregon and Washington would presumably file for an invitation to the SEC or Big Ten if they don’t receive one before then.

acc

The ACC has quietly stood by as earthquake after earthquake reshaped the college football landscape. But it’s only a matter of time before the effects are felt on the Atlantic Coast. We’ve discussed the proposed partnership between the ACC and the Pac-12. Assuming those plans dissolve, all eyes should turn to Notre Dame. It’s time for the ACC and the program to quit flirting and finally put a ring on it.

As for their own members, the ACC already has a grant of rights and a TV deal locked with ESPN until 2036. Regardless, their top programs are going to be counting pockets in the SEC and Big Ten, putting pressure on the conference. So, maneuvering into new markets — such as Cal and Stanford — for the ACC Network seems like a smart play. Still, it’s important to note that the ACC’s binding contract creates a long and arduous path for schools to break free from.

James Fragoza is a Writer and News Editor at Pro Football Network. You can read his others work here and follow him on Twitter @JamesFragoza.

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