Mailbag: Marquee Big Ten matchups on the West Coast, Pac-2 legal affairs, CFP access, Hotline coverage plans and more

The 2024 season brings three Big Ten heavyweights to the West Coast

Which of the Big Ten matchups on the four West Coast campuses are you most excited to see in 2024? — @DouglasTS

There are three choices and no incorrect answers.

The Big Ten used an extremely complex scheduling model, which yielded 261 unsatisfactory options for the 2024-28 opponent rotation, but the 262nd version was perfect.

The 18 schools were divided into two groups of nine, three groups of six, and six groups of three in order to achieve balance within each bucket.

We couldn’t help but notice that over the next five years, Oregon will play nine games against the Big Ten’s Big Three (Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State). UCLA has seven, while the Trojans and Huskies each have eight.

Is this a sign that the Bruins have been assigned to a different (lower) bucket than the other three? Perhaps. UCLA’s on-field success over the years cannot compare to that of the Trojans, Ducks, and Huskies, so the Big Ten would have been justified in doing so.

This much is certain: UCLA’s home schedule for the 2024 season is far less exciting than the existing Big Ten schools’: Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota will all visit the Rose Bowl. Those aren’t exactly must-see opponents for UCLA fans (though the visitors will almost certainly draw a large crowd in Pasadena).

On the other hand, on the other three West Coast campuses, we have these marquee games:

— Ohio State at Oregon

— Penn State at USC

— Michigan at Washington

Each has multiple layers of intrigue, but if we had to pick one, it would be the Seattle showdown.

Why? Because the Wolverines were supposed to play in Husky Stadium at the start of the 2020 season, but COVID had other plans, and the game was rescheduled for September 9, 2028.

What’s more, guess what? The Big Ten schedule accounted for this: the Wolverines will visit Washington in 2028, though most likely not in September.

(The Big Ten’s 2024 schedule will most likely be released in November or December.)

Some Hotline readers may recall that Michigan’s visit to Seattle in September 2020 wasn’t the only matchup planned for the Pacific Northwest that month. One week later, Ohio State was supposed to visit Autzen Stadium, but that, too, was canceled due to COVID.

Later, the Ducks and Buckeyes announced a home-and-home series for 2032-33, which could be included on a future Big Ten schedule. However, the teams will meet at least three times between now and then: the Buckeyes will visit Eugene in 2024 and 2027, while Oregon will visit Columbus in 2026.

Given that any appearance by Ohio State is an A+ event, we would place the OSU-Oregon game just behind the Michigan-Washington game.

But USC-Penn State is a top matchup, thanks in part to the rematch: the schools met in one of the greatest Rose Bowls in history, with the Trojans winning 52-49 in January 2017.

There is, once again, no wrong answer. All three clashes will be must-see television, which is why Fox and friends have decided to invest more than $1 billion per year in the Big Ten’s media rights.

The new, restructured Big Ten schedule came out Thursday, and Washington’s travel has almost tripled from this year. How do the Huskies afford this on the halved revenue until the next media rights deal in 2030? — @Cargoman0363

Inquire with Ana Mari Cauce.

Washington’s president agreed to the Big Ten move knowing that her athletic department would receive half of the media rights revenue — or about $32.5 million on average — through the 2030 fiscal year.

She also agreed to the move knowing how much travel would be involved.

And that the cost of charter flights is increasing.

And knowing that UW’s football program must be funded to allow the Huskies to compete for the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff berths.

Otherwise, Washington might as well be Maryland, a coastal school content to be a member of the Chicago-based conference but with little chance of making an impact in the most important sport.

Is it historically more difficult for East Coast teams to play in the Pacific Time Zone than for West Coast teams to play in the Eastern Time Zone? Follow up: Did USC torpedo the Big Ten’s West Coast quartet being protected matchups? — @keithdennis

To begin with, I have no knowledge of the situation in question. There are none.

Big Ten executives, on the other hand, were extremely convincing Thursday when they explained that greater scheduling immersion for new members aids in conference cohesion. The more West Coast schools that play Purdue, Illinois, and Iowa, the better.

The decision to limit the protected West Coast matchups to USC-UCLA and Oregon-Washington came from the conference office, we believe.

In terms of the effect of travel on performance, our unscientific opinion is as follows: It is determined by the start time.

Nothing is more difficult than West Coast schools playing in the Eastern Time Zone at 12 p.m.

Late games on the West Coast (7:30 p.m. kickoffs locally) aren’t always easy for Eastern Time Zone teams. Because of the body clock disruption, the players are up early and must wait 15 or more hours to take the field.

Can Oregon State and Washington State really wait things out for legal action against the outgoing schools? If so, how much do they realistically stand to claim? If not, how do you see it playing out money-wise for all involved via a negotiated settlement? — @jjfuller72

They can wait a few more months and are hoping that will suffice.

The preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for November 14 in Whitman County (Washington) Superior Court. Of course, the two parties could reach an agreement before then. However, if clarity comes in November, the Cougars and Beavers should have enough time to make whatever moves are necessary.

If the dispute goes to trial, which is almost certain to take place in 2024, the timing becomes complicated because of all the issues that must be resolved in addition to the name and makeup of their conference.

The two schools require schedules for 2024, a media contract for 2024, and clarity on NCAA governance issues for 2024. And the Mountain West requires answers as well.

There are 14 schools waiting for the Pac-12 to provide the necessary documents and for the legal process to begin, not two.

Other than the NCAA Tournament units, which translate to more than $60 million over the six-year payout period beginning in the spring of 2025, we don’t have enough information to make an informed guess on the assets and liabilities.

The Hotline will have financial estimates as soon as the conference structure and assets and liabilities are clear. Even though it’s getting late, it’s simply too early to tell.

Why didn’t ESPN pick up Washington State-UCLA this weekend? (It’s on the Pac-12 Networks.) — @Jmadden509

Because ESPN would rather have ninth-ranked, unbeaten USC (led by Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams) than unranked, one-loss UCLA any day of the week, and 15 times on Saturday.

Yes, Washington State is a more appealing opponent than Arizona and has traditionally drawn a larger crowd than the Wildcats.

However, under the current circumstances, the gap between WSU and Arizona is not nearly as large as the gap between USC and UCLA.

There are no FBS or FCS games inside California in Week 7. Is this unusual, or does it happen most years? — @CurtisBlack

I can’t say how frequently this happens, but it’s just a coincidence of the calendar.

There is no coordinated effort on the part of the schools or conferences to get everyone on the road in a given week.

What are the voting margins required for College Football Playoff changes by the board of managers? I keep hearing decisions must be unanimous, but that seems odd. Are the votes required for changes different for the 2024/25 editions of the CFP than in 2026? — @AmbitiousCoug

The College Football Playoff Board of Managers must unanimously approve all major issues, including revenue sharing. (Kirk Schulz, president of Washington State, represents the Pac-12.)

However, ESPN’s CFP contract expires after the 2025 season, leaving a blank slate for 2026 and beyond. If the SEC and Big Ten felt compelled, they could create their own playoff and collaborate with ESPN or Fox, leaving everyone else in the dust.

My advice to WSU and OSU fans is to assume that the playoff will rewrite the revenue sharing policy and format in order to diminish the role of the restructured conference that houses the Cougars and Beavers.

However, it’s safe to assume that the top-ranked team from outside the power conferences will receive an automatic bid.

In other words, there will be five AQ spots and seven at-large berths in a Power Four world.

If WSU or OSU win the Mountain West or the rebuilt Pac-12, they will have a strong chance of making the playoffs.

What are your coverage plans for next year? — @stanley07

Will next year’s “Everything But The SEC Hotline” feature weekly Fantasy-Pac-12 Power Ratings? — @RajaMuh16021485

Thank you for the questions and the good line. Regardless of conference affiliation, the “ACC/Big Ten/Big 12/Pac-2” Hotline will continue to report on issues affecting the schools.

As an example, I would direct readers to the content from Thursday. We not only reported on the Big Ten’s schedule format for 2024-28 (https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/10/05/big-ten-schedule-format-revealed-usc-ucla-oregon-and-uw-to-face-heavyweight-foes-in-first-season-in-the-new-conferencerotation-release/), with a focus on the marquee matchups for the four West Coast schools

Should the conference think about [playing non-conference games in November]?to mirror the SEC’s late-season cupcake offering (https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/10/05/big-ten-coo-talks-football-scheduling-strategy-friday-games-730-p-m-kickoffs-placement-of-non-conference-games-and-more/)?

The additions of the four West Coast schools, combined with the Big Ten’s nine-game league schedule, will, in our opinion, exacerbate the schedule difficulty disparity with the SEC, which plays eight league games. And this could affect CFP access, seeding, and success.

One way to counteract the SEC’s advantage is to insert a non-conference game, or a bye week, into the Big Ten’s late-season schedule.

We will cover the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12/MW in the same manner.

The only thing that has changed on the Hotline is the quantity: more issues, markets, readers, and content.

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