The USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins have announced their intentions to join the Big 10, and while that may be good for the money, it certainly isn’t for winning.
The confirmation of both USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten Conference in 2024 is detrimental to the Pac-12 for what should be rather obvious reasons. However, chances are that it will not treat either program too much better.
For years, the Big Ten has been one of college football’s strongest conferences, leading to many regarding it as the toughest outside of the infamous SEC.
Some of the league’s most prominent powers as of late include Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. What do all of those teams have in common? Each and every one of them could go toe-to-toe with both the Trojans and Bruins today. Considering that I just listed half of the conference, that isn’t something that should be blindly swept under the rug.
This goes without even mentioning the fact that a huge portion of the hype that the Pac-12 pair has received is unwarranted to say the least, as neither half of it has seen a 9-win season since 2017 (Trojans went 11-3 that year).
USC is coming off of a 4-8 run, with all of its hype surrounding the arrival of new head coach Lincoln Riley, along with those of big-name talents like quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Jordan Addison.
In other words, the Trojans are being propped up on a pedestal for success that is entirely hypothetical, revolving around: a new head coach known for failing to get over the hump, a less-experienced QB that showcased strong (yet not spectacular) play under that same head coach last year, and a WR that built his image in a flawed ACC–and with a better passer, too.
How is anyone supposed to believe that a squad like USC deserves an ounce of its hype after moving all of that from the worst Power 5 league to the 2nd-best?
As for UCLA, its 2021 season was actually one to remember due to it being the best one seen in years. The Bruins won eight games, with their respectable run being headlined by convincing victories over all three of their in-state conference rivals. And considering that it was their first time going unbeaten against the three since 1998, such a feat is far from meaningless.
However, one good season after several mediocre ones is still not enough to convince me that they are a consistent power anywhere, much less in a bloodbath like the Big Ten.
A relocation like this is obviously not something pulled off overnight; there is a ton of strategizing that goes into it, considering both the good and bad, short-term and long-term consequences of particular league affiliations. Each program has surely thought this through and sees a potential setback in their competitiveness as nothing more than a small price to pay for all of the upsides.
But nonetheless, combining a teaspoon of promise and a decent performance in a weak conference was apparently enough to get a surplus of hype surrounding USC and UCLA. But while those things may have meant a lot in the Pac-12, they are sure to mean very little in a welcoming party hosted by the Big Ten.