Myles Johnson, a Southern California native and veteran of multiple Big Ten winters, knows the first words likely to be uttered by former Pac-12 athletes when their new conference hits them like a midwinter breeze on Lake Michigan.
Johnson, the one-time Rutgers center who spent his final college basketball season at UCLA as a graduate, recently retweeted a meme showing a man in a burly winter coat standing in a subway doorway asking for help asks.
The caption: “UCLA players as they step off the plane in Minnesota in December.”
Yes, it’s getting brutally cold. It will be harrowing in other ways too.
Bruins guard Jaylen Clark retweeted a meme of a terrified boy being woken from bed, along with a caption that read, “USC and UCLA players are waking up for their 9 o’clock Big Ten games.”
Aside from the facts of the brutal weather and earlier start times that UCLA and USC expect after defecting to the Big Ten in 2024, numerous questions remain. Here are some answers more than two years before the move:
Will Chip Kelly lead the Bruins onto the field for their first Big Ten game?
This likely depends more on how UCLA performs in 2023 than it will in 2022.
The Bruins’ 2022 schedule sees them practically eight wins. A non-conference list from Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama offers the easiest home schedule since a favorite movie, followed by chocolate milk and a bedtime story.
UCLA will win enough games this season to keep Kelly busy. The question is whether the Bruins can maintain their success in 2023 when they bring in a new quarterback.
Also remember that Kelly’s buyout as part of his new four-year contract is extremely friendly to UCLA, so it would cost the school nothing to ditch him as early as December 16, 2023.
The long-suffering Bruins fans hope that it won’t come to that. UCLA last appeared in a Rose Bowl game as a member of the Pac-10 on January 1, 1999 and is yearning for a return before moving to the Big Ten. Kelly’s 18-25 start at school will be forgiven if he can bring the Bruins back to their home stadium on New Year’s Day.
Geographically, it would make sense to put the Big Ten’s newest members in the West Division and push Northwestern and Purdue to the east.
This move would have the added benefit of strengthening the weaker West against an East that includes traditional powers like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
Another option would be to ditch the divisions altogether in favor of a rotating schedule with protected rivals like Michigan and Ohio State. USC will likely want to keep Notre Dame on its schedule, and UCLA may try to maintain its rivalry with California.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain: the Bruins and Trojans will continue to face each other every season.
USC against one of the traditional Big Ten powers will be both an instant craze and a ratings bonanza.
UCLA-Michigan should be intrigued at the next game as the Wolverines recently pulled out of a home-and-home series between teams scheduled for 2022 and 2023.
Given the bi-coastal nature of the 16-team conference, there’s also plenty of room for creativity. Perhaps UCLA-Rutgers will become the Battle of the Coasts, with a tanned tidal wave bestowed upon the winner.
Is the Big Ten really a better basketball conference than the Pac-12?
Yes, but like most things, it’s complicated.
A Pac-12 team has not won a national championship since Arizona in 1997. The Big Ten have won just one national title since Michigan State knocked down the Nets in 2000. Maryland also won a national championship in 2002, albeit as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The more important metric to consider is NCAA tournament bids. The Pac-12 typically lags behind its major conference counterparts in this department. Remember the 2012 awkwardness when Washington won the Pac-12 regular season title but finished in the National Invitation Tournament?
Last season, the Pac-12 received just three NCAA tournament applications for the nine of the Big Ten. More bids mean more room for slip-ups and less pressure to finish at the top of the conference. It should also improve the seeding of the conference champion.
Is there a way to avoid all the frequent flyer miles associated with a Bicostal conference?
Probably not for soccer and men’s basketball.
These games are played at home stadiums in the interest of the fans, tradition and, let’s face it, television.
Some creative solutions might be in store for the Olympic sports. For example, UCLA’s softball team could fly to Chicago to play back-to-back series against Penn State and Rutgers, reducing the need for so much cross-country travel.
“Meet me halfway” could take on a literal meaning.
What about the cold weather puzzle?
One option would be for UCLA and USC to play as many Big Ten street football games as possible before the end of October, with benefits across the board.
The Bruins and Trojans would avoid playing on snow-covered fields while fans of frozen Midwestern outposts could enjoy Southern California in November. Trips to the Rose Bowl and Coliseum could be billed as travel packages that fill seats, not to mention the coffers of the athletic departments of the visiting schools.
What kind of reception can the Bruins and Trojans expect on the road in their final Pac-12 seasons?
Bad, bad, bad.
Fans at Arizona’s McKale Center didn’t need extra incentive to pour hate on rival UCLA. Well, to borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap, the Vitriol will presumably go to 11 for the Bruins’ final voyages into the desert.
Arizona State students could pull back the curtain of distraction at Desert Financial Arena to reveal a Penn State Nittany Lion mauling a Trojan or a Bruin frozen forever.
The most scathing response will come from UCLA and USC after their final Pac-12 games are played.
Goodbye and get well soon.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-07-04/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-new-big-ten Everything you need to know about UCLA and USC joining the Big Ten