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College football realignment: What happens after USC, UCLA move to the Big Ten?

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Like it or not, college football is going to look more like the NFL from now on.

Major conference realignment is in the air once again as USC and UCLA plan to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten in 2024, according to multiple reports.

But even that bombshell move won't signal the end of all the change.

Get ready for the Power 2 in college football

A new report from The Athletic indicates that the final phase of realignment will end up with the sport being defined by two "mega-conferences": the Big Ten and the SEC, each league boasting up to 20 member schools each.

Not unlike the NFL, which is divided between the AFC and NFC. Of course, college football won't be so neatly defined between the two leagues, but the concentration of resources, recruiting base, and talent will make it a virtual two-league sport.

The days of the Power 5 appear to be over as college football enters the Power 2 era.

Where things stand now

The pecking order is simple: First and foremost is the SEC, way out in front after winning 12 of the last 16 national championships in college football.

In second place is the Big Ten, top-heavy with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and in future, a potentially re-energized powerhouse in USC.

The ACC places third, with Clemson that league's only real College Football Playoff contender. In fourth is the re-organized Big 12, fresh off the black eye of losing Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC, but adding BYU, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF.

And in fifth place, the Pac-12: fresh off losing its two Los Angeles-based schools and almost certainly waiting to see other big revenue programs leaving, too.

What's next?

The next question is whether the Big Ten and SEC will continue to expand further in the weeks and months to come.

Neither league is publicly clamoring for more additions, but as the USC/UCLA move shows, there could be plenty of interest going on behind the scenes.

As those two conferences continue to grow in stature and in revenue potential, more schools won't have another choice but to court interest in joining up.

Including schools in what remains of the Pac-12. Oregon springs to mind as the next domino to fall, in addition to the two Arizona schools and potentially Washington. Reigning Pac-12 champion Utah might be looking for a new home, too.

One league that doesn't appear able to undergo any major change is the ACC. It has no real bargaining power to lure teams away from the SEC, and judging by its current grant of rights agreement, nobody in that league is budging, either.

That agreement makes it virtually impossible for any of its current 14 members to leave: Any school doing so would mean giving up its TV revenue to the ACC until 2036, a deal absolutely no one would take.

Which means we likely won't see schools like Clemson or Miami or Florida State making a run for the SEC anytime soon.

Not long ago, there were talks that the Big 12 and Pac-12 would merge in order to offset the loss of Texas and Oklahoma. Now, the Big 12 probably isn't in the mood to entertain that notion again after getting rebuffed by the then-confident Pac-12.

And looking ahead to potential Pac-12 expansion doesn't reveal any quality replacements for the likes of USC and UCLA.

Which makes college football a two-horse race for the foreseeable future. Every team that has a real chance at the playoff is based in the Big Ten or the SEC. Or is about to be.

(h/t The Athletic)

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