The college football world has been flipped on its head this offseason with a number of momentous events, including name image and likeness legislation, talks of an expanded College Football Playoff, and conference realignment with Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC.
Then it flipped one more time this week with the news that the Pac-12, Big Ten, and the ACC are forming an alliance.
What does that mean? In short, the three conferences are collaborating to create a partnership in scheduling primarily in football, men's basketball, and women's basketball, as well as to "stabilize a volatile environment" in college athletics. The move was first discussed a couple of weeks ago and likely sprouted as a result of the SEC growing into a "superconference" with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma.
You can read more about the news below.
Let's slow down.
The Pac-12 is not merging with the Big Ten and the ACC, so any rumors of that happening can rest in peace. In reality, this move doesn't do a whole lot right now, or maybe even for a few years.
This is in part because each conference has a TV rights deal that impacts scheduling — the Big Ten's runs through 2023, the Pac-12's expires in 2024, and the ACC just signed a deal within the last two years through the 2036 season.
That doesn't necessarily mean that we will wait until 2036 to see the alliance, but scheduling games with the broadcast networks usually takes a while. Then again, some conferences and networks were able to pull games from thin air during the 2020 season, so maybe schedule adjustments will happen sooner rather than later. The three conferences already have 68 existing matchups in the future between 2022 and 2036.
So how does all of this affect Oregon, the perennial Pac-12 powerhouse? As I explained, right now it doesn't. But in several years, expect to see an annual matchup against an ACC opponent and another against a Big Ten opponent.
For example, we could see Oregon face Clemson and Michigan one year, and North Carolina and Penn State the next. Perhaps the home-and-home format that you normally see with Power 5 non-conference matchups remains an option.
Why are games against ACC and Big Ten teams important for Oregon? It's a question that truly answers why the alliance overall is important for the Ducks.
It helps build a solid resumé for a potential College Football Playoff bid, especially if the playoff structure expands to 12 teams in the near future. A game against Clemson, almost regardless of the outcome, can boost the Ducks' resumé and build national attention for the program, especially when its main competition is against a conference that is perceived to be weaker than the rest of the Power 5.
Take this season for example.
Yes, USC, Washington, Utah, and Arizona State are all ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 this season, along with Oregon. The preseason is quite different from the regular season though, and the Pac-12 is usually lucky to field two of its teams in the final rankings at the conclusion of the season.
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Let's face it: if Oregon loses to Ohio State but wins the conference title without a loss the rest of the way, there's no guarantee that the Ducks are in the College Football Playoff with the traditional four-team system in place.
In a 12-team playoff bracket and the alliance, it's possible that at least two Pac-12 teams could be in the bracket and in contention for the national championship every year. With the track record that Mario Cristobal and his staff have had in recent years on the recruiting trail, the alliance should give the Ducks a boost in their national title aspirations and aspirations of consistently signing top-five recruiting classes.
Recruits want to play against the best in order to be the best, and the Big Ten and ACC have some of the best programs in the country. The Ducks competing, and even winning against the likes of Ohio State, Clemson, Penn State, North Carolina, and Wisconsin will mean more eyes on the Ducks from across the country.
It's tough to convince recruits not to go to SEC programs like Alabama, Georgia, and LSU, which constantly pull in the top talent all around the country, but Oregon is doing it. The only criticism about the Ducks as a recruiting powerhouse has been about their schedule. Adding a couple of annual matchups against ACC and Big Ten opponents will slowly ease that stigma.
The same goes for men's and women's basketball. Dana Altman and Kelly Graves have built elite programs on the court and on the recruiting trail, and if the Ducks can compete against national brands like Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Syracuse, and Michigan, more elite players will come to Eugene, and the chances of bringing back the elusive national championship trophy will undoubtedly grow.
If the alliance is successful, the Oregon Ducks brand will grow, and national championships — yes, as in plural — could be on the horizon.
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