College football realignment and conference expansion is back in the news after USC and UCLA decided to leave the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten. With the Trojans and Bruins departing, the Pac-12 is down to 10 teams. Although the conference has yet to respond with an official declaration of expansion, moves may need to happen to bolster the league back to 12 or even 14 teams. The Pac-12 could also decide to stick at 10 programs for the future and opt to pass on expansion. However, with the danger of more expansion in the Big Ten, adding programs seems like the best course of action for the Pac-12.
Which programs should the Pac-12 consider for expansion to replace USC and UCLA? Athlon Sports profiles the teams to watch:
Pac-12 Expansion Candidates to Replace USC and UCLA
The Bears were one of the programs mentioned last summer as a potential expansion candidate for the Pac-12. With a strong football and basketball program, Baylor should be near the top of potential additions if the Pac-12 looks to expand into Texas.
The Broncos are one of the top Group of 5 programs in the nation and would be an easy geographic fit into the North Division with Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State. Boise State wouldn't add a huge television market but this would be a competitive football program right away in the Pac-12.
The Pac-12 hasn't had much interest in BYU in previous rounds of realignment but could that change now? Would Utah pushback on its in-state rival getting an invite to the conference? The Cougars are set to join the Big 12 next season but remain one of the top programs not in a Power 5 conference going into '22.
The Cougars are on their way to the Big 12 in 2023. But what if the Pac-12 comes calling? With the Pac-12 losing two huge brands, expansion into a new market (Texas) should be on the table.
Iowa State is unlikely to be at the top of the Pac-12 expansion list, but this is a solid athletic department with a passionate fanbase to fill Jack Trice Stadium for every home game.
The Jayhawks have struggled to have success in football recent years, but there's little doubt Kansas would add value to the Pac-12 for potential markets (Kansas City and St. Louis) and a standout basketball team.
Even though the Wildcats have been more successful than their in-state rival (Kansas) on the gridiron in recent years, K-State would likely rank behind the Jayhawks in terms of expansion interest from the Pac-12.
Oklahoma State was another program mentioned prominently last summer in potential expansion for the Pac-12. In the new-look Big 12, the Cowboys would be one of the top programs available and interested in a move to a bigger and better conference. Oklahoma State has been a consistent winner under coach Mike Gundy and hasn't recorded a losing season on the gridiron since 2005.