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USC and UCLA to the Big Ten: What's Next for the Pac-12, Big Ten and College Football?

USC Trojans College Football

UCLA and USC could leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in time for the 2024 college football season

June 30 will go down as another massive day in the world of college football, as news broke of USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten by 2024. The moves aren't finalized, but all indications are both programs will join the Big Ten officially in the next couple of weeks. Oklahoma and Texas announced their intention to join the SEC by 2025 last summer to give college football a 16-team Power 5 conference. The additions of USC and UCLA rival the SEC's last move and are the Big Ten's answer to the Sooners and Longhorns. 

What's next for USC, UCLA, the Big Ten, and Pac-12? Athlon Sports editors Steven Lassan and Ben Weinrib answer the burning questions from today's massive news:

USC and UCLA to the Big Ten: What's Next for the Pac-12, Big Ten and College Football?

What's Your First Reaction to the News of USC and UCLA Joining the Big Ten?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven):
Wow! This news doesn't come as a total surprise considering the rumor mill has suggested the Big Ten could look to the West Coast in its next round of realignment. However, the timing (and very little rumor mill churn prior) is surprising. Adding USC and UCLA is obviously a huge deal for the Big Ten. The conference is now a coast-to-coast league and added two huge brands to counter the SEC's addition of Oklahoma and Texas. Having Ohio State, Michigan, USC and UCLA in the same league is a massive get for the Big Ten.

Ben Weinrib (@BenWeinrib): The immediate reaction has to be shock. We all knew more conference expansion was coming, but this came out of nowhere. We've had weird geographic fits like West Virginia (and later UCF and BYU) in the Big 12, but this means that the Big Ten will officially stretch from coast to coast. The Big Ten prides itself on being one of the better academic conferences, which makes USC and UCLA a solid fit in that way, but the money involved in joining a more prestigious conference may have been hard to turn down.

Related: Tracking Big Ten Expansion News and Rumors and the Latest on USC and UCLA

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What Does This Mean for USC and UCLA?
Steven: Many things. Things are moving fast in the world of college football and having a seat at the table in one of the top two conferences (Big Ten and SEC) is a must. Both programs now have a seat at the table at one of those two leagues and will get a massive financial windfall as a result. Some reports have indicated USC and UCLA would get nearly $100 million a year as a member of the Big Ten — a significant increase from future Pac-12 projections. The geography of this move is certainly odd. However, as we've seen in college football recently, geography matters little to conferences. Of course, this move for USC and UCLA could make even more sense if the Big Ten adds a couple of other teams from the Pac-12, including Washington, Oregon, or Stanford.

Ben: I hope Lincoln Riley didn't leave Oklahoma for USC in large part to improve his title chances because the new Big Ten may not be too far behind the new SEC. Neither USC not UCLA has contended for a title in football recently, but their arrows are pointed up. And they remain formidable in basketball, for what that's worth. It's going to be odd to lose the Pac-12 rivalries and play the likes of Indiana and Minnesota instead, but it probably won't take too long for them to form new rivalries. Just pray for the non-revenue sports who will be flying five-plus hours to play midweek games.

What's Next for the Pac-12?
Stating the obvious first: Losing USC and UCLA would be massive for the conference. Those two programs are great brands and two teams with the ability, resources and recruiting footprint to compete at a high level. Without USC and UCLA, the Pac-12 certainly takes a hit in the conference rankings, and it's fair to wonder what is next in terms of membership or realignment. The Pac-12 can't replace the brands of USC and UCLA, so who can they add that moves the needle? Also, the Pac-12 should be worried about the Big Ten coming for more of its members. The first move for commissioner George Kliavkoff should be to shore up the 10 remaining members. Is expansion necessary or could the Pac-12 remain at 10 for a while? If expansion is a must, the conference could look to programs like Boise State, BYU, Houston, Oklahoma State, or Kansas to bolster the membership. 

Ben: The Pac-12 needs to come up with answers fast because the other conferences will be circling like vultures. The Big 12 did a great job of making sure no other members left when Texas and Oklahoma bolted for the SEC, but they've picked off some of the low-hanging G5 fruit like BYU and Houston who could've been good fits. Boise State is an obvious fit, and San Diego State could help make sure they have a footprint in Southern California. Perhaps it's wishful thinking to consider North Dakota State and other FCS teams as an option, but the Pac-12 will likely have to look beyond the west coast to stay relevant.

What's Next for the Big Ten?
Are we sure they are finished with expansion? If I was the Big Ten, I would inquire about Oregon and Washington and maybe Stanford, Colorado, or even Kansas. Considering the departure of USC and UCLA, any Pac-12 program has to be interested in a move alongside their (former) conference mates. Even if the Big Ten stays at 16, it's simply a massive win for a conference and a major home run in realignment. Getting USC and UCLA adds big-time brands to go with Michigan and Ohio State and gives the conference the ability to schedule games in almost every time zone for viewing windows on television. 

Ben: Scheduling and travel will be a nightmare — who even are UCLA's three biggest rivals in the new Big Ten? — but it's hard not to see more expansion on the horizon. Could they poach more schools from the Pac-12 like Oregon and Washington? Kansas was rumored to be an option when the Big 12 looked perilous, and the ACC could be the next conference to fall apart. But the true white whale would be landing Notre Dame, which has always been a better cultural fit in the Big Ten than the ACC

Will This Encourage the SEC to Expand?
Potentially? Hard to say for sure. Any move the SEC makes would have to be a major home-run type addition - think Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, or Miami. Superconferences seem inevitable at this point, but the SEC isn't going to add just to add — any program coming in has to bring value. Complicating matters is the ACC Grant of Rights, which would tie any expansion candidate from that conference to the ACC until 2035-36.

Ben: Arms races tend not to stop, so we can only expect the SEC to strike next. The ACC is the obvious target, unless we’re totally throwing geography out of the window. One problem is that Florida may not be a fan of FSU or Miami joining, and South Carolina may have a problem with Clemson encroaching on its territory. North Carolina and Virginia Tech have been discussed as potential members in the past, but would they want to leave their existing rivalries to get routed in football? The money will be enormous, so expect more additions to the SEC before long.