College Football Realignment: 2 Super Conferences are Inevitable
College Football Realignment is in the air once again after USC and UCLA decided to join the Big Ten. This has reopened the discussion of conference realignment and has everyone questioning whether it is good or bad for college football. This wave of realignment all started after Texas and Oklahoma, the two biggest schools in the Big-12 packed up shop and plan to join the SEC in 2026.. This move by Texas and Oklahoma was followed by USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten and then BYU, Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati joining the Big 12.
What’s Next in College Football Realignment?
So that begs that question. What is next in this college football realignment movement? I believe that the Big Ten and the SEC will each add up to four more schools to create two “Super Conferences.” This would mean that each conference would have 20 teams, and would stretch from coast to coast. I laid out the four teams that I think will join both the Big Ten and SEC. These 40 schools that I believe will be a part of the two Super Conferences have collectively won the last 31 College Football National Championships.
What Happens to the Other Conferences?
If the Big Ten and SEC do each add four schools and form two Super Conferences, what will happen to the other Power 5 conferences in college football? I think the Big 12 has already shown what they are trying to do by bringing BYU, Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati into the fold. They will try their hardest to compete as the third-best conference in College Football, and with schools potentially leaving the Pac-12 and ACC, I think that is very possible. The Big 12 still has major players in CFB including Baylor and Oklahoma State who both finished inside the top seven in last season’s final AP top 25 poll. Additionally, newcomer Cincinnati made the College Football Playoff just last season.
For the ACC and Pac-12, I think they will lose too many teams to continue to be able to move on by themselves. This means that I think these two conferences will actually partner and join together. If this did happen both the ACC-12, or whatever they will call it, and the Big 12 would be able to compete as the third best conference in CFB. This conjoined conference would still bolster top programs such as Utah, Virginia Tech, and Iowa State.
BREAKING: The Pac-12 and ACC have discussed a "loose partnership" that could include a championship game in Las Vegas, per @CBSSports.
The ACC reportedly proposed the move in an effort to boost the conferences' media rights value to ESPN. pic.twitter.com/wYIBbvLPaf
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 6, 2022
Who Will the Big Ten Add?
Now, what teams will the Big Ten add to reach 20 teams and become a Super Conference? The most obvious one and one the Big Ten has been chasing for many years is Notre Dame. Notre Dame is very clearly the biggest fish left in the pond and the Big Ten has been aggressively pursuing them for quite some time for a few different reasons. First, they have a great TV deal with NBC and will bring a national audience wherever they go. Second, they consistently have talented football teams and have made the College Football Playoff twice in the past four seasons.
The next teams I think the Big Ten will add are somewhat of a package deal, and that is Oregon and Washington. Minutes after the news that USC and UCLA were leaving for the Big Ten, the eyes of the College Football world turned to the Ducks. Oregon has consistently been a national championship contender and has a huge fanbase. Additionally, they have important connections with Nike, whose co-founder Phil Knight, is a major booster. Very similar to Oregon, Washington is a solid academic and athletic institution that would bring a major media market to the Big Ten, Seattle.
The last team that will join the Big Ten is anyone’s guess right now, but my prediction is Stanford. The Cardinals are an institute that screams elite. They have one of the country’s biggest endowments, unchallenged academic prestige, and a solid athletic department as well. They may not be in the running for transfer portal quarterbacks like USC but in 2022 they’re recruiting class ranked 19th in the country. In addition to granting the Big Ten access to the San Francisco TV market.
How Does the SEC Move Forward?
According to reports from SEC schools, the SEC seems content to stay at their current 16 teams, but if the Big Ten expanded to 20 while adding Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, and Stanford I think that would force the SEC’s hand. This would cause a dilemma for the SEC, but ultimately they will need to expand to 20 to be able to keep up with the Big Ten. So the question becomes, what four teams would the SEC add?
The best way to look at future expansion:
Vanderbilt and Northwestern will make $80 million annually in the SEC and B1G.
USC was making low $30s in the PAC-12.
— Matt Hayes (@MattHayesCFB) June 30, 2022
Now before I begin, I would like to preface this with the fact that all of these are ACC schools, that are locked into a TV contract until 2036. So this is going under the assumption they are able to get out from under that contract or pay the exit fee before joining the SEC. Now to begin, the first team I think the SEC will pursue is the Clemson Tigers. Simply put, Clemson is an SEC school residing in the ACC. The Tigers would be a natural fit given their location, culture, and football pedigree. The only other program in the country with more recent success than Clemson is the Alabama Crimson Tide. The next team I think the SEC will go after is the Florida State Seminoles. Similarly to Clemson, the Seminoles have an SEC-like fan base and football program, who have won a national championship and a Heisman within the past ten years.
Continuing with the trend of poaching teams from the ACC, the next school the SEC could add is North Carolina. The Tar Heels are both a great geographical and cultural fit with the rest of the SEC. Furthermore, the SEC offices are actually headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, but the conference includes no teams from the state. The last team the SEC goes after is the Miami Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have one of the best possible locations and boast a massive recruiting and fan base. Their recruiting isn’t on the level of Texas right now, who may have the next EA Sports NCAA 2023 cover athlete, but with Mario Cristobal helm they’ve been killing it on the recruiting trail. This is also a historically great program in college football that could bring that culture to the SEC.