When it comes to tradition, passion and rivalries, there is nothing quite like college football. But we all need to cherish this 2023 season because, after it, the sport will never be the same.
This will be the last season for the Pac-12 as we know it. The last for the Big 12 with Texas and Oklahoma. And the last with just four playoff teams.
The Pac-12 crumbles
With their TV deal set to expire after this season and with no impressive offer from ESPN or Fox on the table, the Pac-12 watched team after team leave for greener pastures.
USC and UCLA began the conference’s demise when they announced last year that they were leaving for the Big 10 in 2024.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the conference’s future, Colorado was the next to make the move, signing up to rejoin the Big 12, where they competed from 1996 to 2010.
That set off an avalanche as Arizona, Arizona State and Utah then said, “The Big 12 sounds nice, we’ll go there too.” As the Pac-12 was in free fall, Washington and Oregon jumped ship and landed in the Big 10.
Legendary broadcaster Brad Nessler, who has called college football games all over the country for 30 years, said the Pac-12’s demise is a loss for the sport.
“You know, when you’ve got UCLA or USC going to play Rutgers or whatever the case might be, it’s really going to be different,” said Nessler.
“You’re going to lose a lot of rivalries. And to see a whole conference blow up like that was sad.”
Left behind with an uncertain future now are Stanford, California, Washington State and Oregon State.
Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said that, while all of this happened quickly, the collapse was years in the making.
“It wasn’t one singular thing that led to the destruction of the Pac-12 as we know it,” said Chun. “It was a bunch of decisions and failed strategies that put us in this position.”
So… 2023 will likely be the last year for the Pac-12’s existence. Cherish this season!
The Super Conference era
Next year will mark the Super Conference Era for college football. The Big 10 will have 18 (!!!) teams and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) will have 16 teams, as will the Big 12. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), meanwhile, will have 14.
This will be the last season for Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 before they move to the SEC. Since Oklahoma is leaving the conference, that means one of the best rivalries in college football – Bedlam – will play its final game in 2023. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said that losing such a fun game is a shame for college football – though it’s not his school’s fault.
“The Bedlam game is over because Oklahoma chose to leave the Big 12. Period. It has nothing to do with Oklahoma State. So do I like that? No,” said Gundy.
So, moving forward, the Bedlam game is gone. Texas versus Texas Tech is gone. USC versus Stanford is gone. The Apple Cup – Washington versus Washington State – is also gone. Oregon versus Oregon State? Yep, gone. Who knows if these rivalries will ever get scheduled as non-conference games in the future? But, for now, cherish 2023!
(The Texas vs. Texas A&M game, however, will return in 2024, which is pretty cool!)
Everybody makes the playoffs
The 2023 season will be the last for college football with just four playoff teams. In 2024, it expands – pretty dramatically – to 12 teams.
Traditionally, college football has had the best regular season in all of sports. Why? Because every single week matters. This season’s Week 1 game between LSU and Florida State and the Week 2 game between Alabama and Texas are super important for all of those teams’ playoff hopes. A loss means their chances of making the final four would be very slim.
The limited slots for college football’s biggest prize means we are basically getting playoff-type games very early in the season. But what about when there are 12 playoff teams? Losing a game early would not have nearly the same consequences. Cherish these 2023 games!
But according to Nessler, one positive from an expanded playoffs is that more teams will get the opportunity to play on the sport’s biggest stage.
“I personally think that there’s about six teams, maybe eight teams, that have a chance to win in the national championship,” he said.
“So I think that the cream of that crop is always going to rise and you’re always going to have the usual [teams] top that group. But if it helps a Tulane get in or a Boise State or Cincinnati, I’m all for that.”