A native of Southern California and a veteran of several Big Ten winters, Miles Johnson knows the first words probably spoken former Pac-12 athletes as soon as their new conference blows over them like the wind from Lake Michigan in the middle of winter.
Johnson, a former Rutgers center who played his last college basketball season in University of California at Los Angeles as an alumni translation, I recently retweeted a meme of a man in a burly winter coat standing on the subway begging for help.
Caption: “UCLA players as they step off a plane in Minnesota in December.”
Yes, it will be very cold. It will also be annoying in a different way.
Bruins defenseman Jaylen Clark retweeted a meme of a terrified boy getting out of bed with a caption that read: “USC and UCLA players wake up for their Big Ten games at 9am.”
In addition to the harsh weather and earlier start times that await UCLA and USC on their 2024 move to the big ten, many questions remain. Here are some answers from more than two years before the move:
Will Chip Kelly take the Bruins to the field in their first Big Ten game?
It probably depends more on how UCLA fares in 2023 than it does in 2022.
The Bruins’ 2022 schedule brings them practically eight wins. Bowling Green, Alabama, and South Alabama’s non-conference list provides the easiest home schedule after watching your favorite movie, followed by chocolate milk and a bedtime story.
UCLA is going to win enough games this season to keep Kelly’s job. The question is whether the Bruins can maintain their success in 2023 when they get a new quarterback.
Also keep in mind that Kelly’s buyout on his new four-year contract is extremely favorable for UCLA, so it won’t cost anything for the school to jettison him overboard as early as December. 16, 2023.
The hope of long-suffering Bruins fans is that it won’t come to that. UCLA last competed in the Rose Bowl with the Pac-10 on January 1, 2019. January 1, 1999 and longing for a comeback before moving into the Big Ten. Kelly’s 6-25 start at school would be forgiven if he could get the Bruins back to their home arena on New Year’s Day.
From a geographical point of view, it would make sense to place the new members of the Big Ten in the West division, and the Northwest and Perdue in the East.
The move will have the added benefit of bolstering the weaker West against the East, which includes the traditional powers of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Another option would be to drop the divisions entirely in favor of a shift schedule with protected rivals like the states of Michigan and Ohio. USC will apparently want to keep Notre Dame on its schedule, and UCLA may try to keep the rivalry with California.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain: the Bruins and Trojans will still face each other every season.
USC against any of the traditional powers of the “Big Ten” will become not only a hype, but also a ratings bonanza.
UCLA should be filled with intrigue the next time they play, given the Wolverines recently dropped a home-to-home series between the teams scheduled for 2022 and 2023.
There’s also plenty of room for creativity, given the two-way nature of the 16-team conference. Maybe UCLA and Rutgers will be a battle on the coasts, where the bronze tide will go to the winner.
Is the Big Ten really a better basketball conference than the Pac-12?
Yes, but like most things, it’s complicated.
The Pac-12 team has not won a national championship since Arizona in 1997. The Big Ten have only won one national title since then, Michigan State cut the nets in 2000. Maryland also won the national championship in 2002, albeit as a member. Atlantic coast conferences.
A more important metric to consider is NCAA Tournament Applications. In this regard, the Pac-12 usually lags behind its counterparts at major conferences. Remember the shame of 2012 when Washington won the Pac-12 regular season title but made it to the National Invitation Tournament?
The Pac-12 received just three NCAA Tournament entries last season against nine of the Big Ten. The more entries, the more opportunities for misses and less pressure to finish at the top of the conference. It should also improve the seeding of the conference champion.
Is there any way to avoid all the frequent flyer miles associated with a two-way conference?
Probably not for football and men’s basketball.
These games will be held at home stadiums for the sake of fans, traditions and, let’s face it, television.
Some creative solutions may be in store for Olympic sports. For example, the UCLA softball team could fly to Chicago to play back-to-back series against Penn State and Rutgers, which would lessen the need for so many cross-country trips.
“Meet me halfway” can have a literal meaning.
How about a cold weather puzzle?
One option would be for UCLA and USC to host as many Big Ten away football games as possible before the end of October, which benefits across the board.
The Bruins and Trojans avoided playing on snowy fields while still allowing fans from frostbitten Midwestern outposts to enjoy Southern California in November. Trips to the Rose Bowl and the Colosseum can be billed as travel packages that fill up places, not to mention the coffers of the attending schools’ sports departments.
What reception should the Bruins and Trojans expect on the road in their final Pac-12 seasons?
Dirty, nasty, nasty.
Fans of the McKale Center in Arizona didn’t need any extra stimulus to heap hatred on rival UCLA. Now, borrowing a phrase from “Spinal Tap”, vitriol will presumably go all the way to 11 for the Bruins’ latest trips to the desert.
Arizona students can lift the distraction curtain in the Desert Financial Arena to see a Pennsylvania Nittani lion mauling a Trojan, or a Bruin frozen forever.
The sharpest response comes from UCLA and USC after their latest Pac-12 games are played.
Goodbye, and goodbye.