In 2024, USC and UCLA will become full-fledged members of the Big Ten Conference. The move represents the continuing colossal shift in the world of college sports. Ironically, the Big Ten will have 16 full-time members, while the Pac-12, the conference USC and UCLA are leaving, will be left with 10.
Here’s a question: What will the additions of USC and UCLA have on the Big Ten college football betting market? These are two well-known schools with rich histories. However, it has been a long time since either has contended for a college football national championship.
Let’s analyze where these schools are now and try to predict where they might fit in the Big Ten pecking order come 2024.
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2022 CFP National Championship Odds for USC, UCLA, Big Ten Teams
|Team||FanDuel Sportsbook||Caesars Sportsbook||DraftKings Sportsbook||BetMGM Sportsbook|
Odds listed for four of the top sportsbooks as of Aug. 19, 2022.
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What the Odds Tell Us About 2022 College Football
Based on the odds from four of the top sportsbooks in the US, oddsmakers think USC is one step below Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State heading into the 2022 season. That is a good sign for the Trojans, who figure to slide right in as contenders in 2024.
USC made a big splash by hiring former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley as the school’s new head football coach. However, they are only expected to have QB Caleb Williams, who followed his coach from Oklahoma to USC, for the next two seasons. That means the Trojans’ Heisman Trophy candidate will likely be off to the NFL by the time USC joins the Big Ten in 2024.
Meanwhile, UCLA is hovering in the middle along with other Big Ten teams that no one expects to make a lot of noise this season. To put that in perspective, the Bruins project as the fourth-best team in the Pac-12 this season in terms of national title odds, while there are currently seven Big Ten teams listed ahead of them.
The Bruins are going into their fifth year with Chip Kelly as head coach. Last year was their best year with him at the helm. UCLA finished 8-4 and qualified for a bowl game. However, its 2021 Holiday Bowl matchup against North Carolina State was canceled due to COVID-19 protocols. Could UCLA make a jump in 2022? Absolutely. Will they make a big enough jump to be considered contenders in the Big Ten by 2024? Doubtful.
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Will USC Be Ready to Compete in the Big Ten Right Away?
Last year, Michigan won the Big Ten for the first time since 2004 as the Wolverines knocked off Iowa in the Big Ten title game. Ohio State’s four-year run as champions came to an end, and Michigan represented the conference in the College Football Playoff (CFP).
This year, the Buckeyes are once again the odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten. Meanwhile, USC is projected to win the Pac-12. Let’s say these two teams meet in the CFP, and USC can put up a fight against the favored Buckeyes. That would set the Trojans up in a big way in terms of recruiting and locking in quality transfer prospects in 2023 and 2024.
With all this in mind, USC would be a solid bet to win the Big Ten in 2024. Ohio State will likely be the favorite, as always. However, USC could be right behind the Buckeyes, with better odds for your pockets than Ohio State could ever provide.
According to 247Sports, USC had the sixth-best recruiting class in 2022. That’s higher than any other team in the Big Ten besides Ohio State, who was ranked fourth. In theory, that 2022 class will be rounding into form in 2024. Not to mention that Riley has already secured commitments from two five-star recruits in his 2023 class, which currently ranks 13th in the country. (Ohio State’s 2023 class is currently fourth.)
Even now, the Trojans can recruit with the Buckeyes, and that gap will only get closer once USC officially joins the conference.
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— malachi nelson (@Malachi) April 4, 2022
Where Experts See USC and UCLA Fitting Into the Big Ten
Jamal Spencer is the sports director for the local ABC station in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Spencer has covered Big Ten sports for years and is also an alum of Michigan State. He says that USC’s name alone will allow the school to compete with the other powerhouses in the Big Ten.
“The Big Ten does brands. Michigan is a brand. Ohio State is a brand. USC is a brand,” Spencer told California Casinos. “What a brand can do is it can recruit itself even when it’s losing. I think in two years, you’re going to look up, and the Trojans are arguably going to be a top-three team in the Big Ten if for no other reason than the talent that they bring in.”
On the other hand, UCLA will have an uphill battle to join the top contenders in the Big Ten. Not only do the Bruins have USC to compete with for California recruiting, but they’ll also have to deal with a much tougher slate of games against more vigorous opponents in the Big Ten.
“UCLA doesn’t win a ton for games, but they still recruit in football,” Spencer said. “I think UCLA will be great for basketball. This is a program that just made a Final Four in 2021. And for football, they still have enough leeway to get big-time recruits.”
Spencer believes that UCLA will start in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten while they find their footing. However, he says this move could spell bad news for some of the other middle-tier schools like Minnesota, Rutgers, and Illinois.
“This is just going to be more competition for them, and these programs have already proven that they can’t hang with Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. They can’t beat them,” Spencer said. “How are they going to beat a team like USC or UCLA once they get rolling? I think it’s going to be better for those California schools than it’s going to be for those middle-tier Big Ten schools.”
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Looking Ahead to 2024 Big Ten Sports Betting
It is unclear how the Big Ten will divide the teams in its conference. Will they keep the two divisions as they currently stand and just have USC join one division while UCLA joins the other? Or will there be a complete realignment? That could become a big deal when the oddsmakers figure out where to slot teams in 2024 across all sports.
Spencer believes sports bettors in Big Ten country already have their eyes on what USC and UCLA are doing in the Pac-12.
“When you look at someone in Wisconsin, they probably never really had the interest to pay attention to the Pac-12 in any sport,” he said. “But now they’re paying attention to Oregon, they’re paying attention to USC, they’re paying attention to UCLA.”
Spencer says that works both ways for fans of the Trojans and the Bruins. By 2024, California sports betting will very likely be launched in some way. And 12 of the current 14 Big Ten schools are in states where sports betting is legal.
Future of College Basketball in the Big Ten
USC and UCLA have each traditionally had strong college basketball programs to go alongside solid football programs. They will undoubtedly add to an already stacked Big Ten college basketball gauntlet.
In 2022, both the Trojans and the Bruins qualified for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Meanwhile, nine Big Ten schools made it to March Madness last season, more than any other conference.
There is a thought that USC and UCLA will simply knock out a couple of the middle-of-the-pack schools out of NCAA Tournament contention. On the flip side, two schools may only strengthen the resumes of the other schools, even if that means they end up with more losses in the future. That will be up to the selection committee to decide.