If the Big Ten adds one school to get to the magic number of 12 to have a conference football championship game or adds three or five to grow to a 14- or 16-team superconference, the college athletics landscape is going to take on a much different look in the next year or two.
And the two main conferences in the Southeast are definitely going to be affected.
The Big Ten is going to expand, and the Pac-10 is likely to follow suit. There’s no way around it. It’s coming.
The Big Ten wants to get to at least 12 schools, so it can have a conference championship game in football and continue to expand the Big Ten Network. If it wants just one team, the conference will probably pick from Pittsburgh, Connecticut or Missouri, and the changes around the rest of the country won’t be that sweeping ... for now.
The Big East can live without Pitt or UConn, and the Big 12 could add Texas Christian to fill Missouri’s spot, and the changes wouldn’t be too bad ... until the next expansion.
But if the Big Ten decides to get really aggressive, the conferences we all know and love in the Southeast are going to take on much different looks.
Let’s say the Big Ten moves to a 14- or 16-team setup by adding some combination of Nebraska, Missouri, UConn, Pitt and Syracuse. Things are then going to go berserk. The SEC isn’t going to sit back and let the Big Ten become the dominant conference, and it is going to want to grow right along with the Big Ten.
What schools make the most sense? Well, Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech fit right in with the footprint of the SEC and would give the conference a stranglehold on the Southeast. Those schools also have built-in rivalries with teams in the SEC, and any of the four could add a lot of intrigue to the SEC.
But if those four schools leave the ACC for the SEC, or maybe just two of the four leave (if the Big Ten settles on 14 schools), the ACC is going to have to be ready to strike, as well. That’s not likely with John Swofford serving as the commissioner, but the conference needs to be ready and doesn’t need to stand pat as other conferences grow and expand.
The ACC won’t be able to match the SEC’s firepower (no surprise there), but it would be attractive to schools like Louisville, Syracuse and maybe even East Carolina and South Florida. And even if the ACC lost Florida State, Miami, Clemson and/or Georgia Tech, it could survive with that lineup.
And in a couple of years, everything is going to be about survival.