Clemson Football always tries to schedule one big-time out-of-conference opponent every season. This year it is Notre Dame, and in other seasons it is often an SEC opponent. Next season it will be Georgia in Atlanta before starting a home-home series with LSU.
Next season LSU will open against the USC Trojans in Las Vegas, Nevada. When this contest was scheduled, USC was expected to be a member of the PAC-12. Instead, it will be their first game representing the Big Ten.
When you look at this season’s schedule, you will notice something: there isn’t a single regular season matchup between the Big Ten and the SEC, which are becoming known as the Power Two conferences.
There are future matchups for the Power Two outside of the LSU-USC game in 2024. Alabama is scheduled to play a home & home against Wisconsin before playing Ohio State in 2028-29. Georgia will begin a series against UCLA in 2025. Michigan has both Texas and Oklahoma scheduled in the coming years.
All of those matchups were scheduled before the latest round of realignment was started with Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC. It is fair to ask the question: will the Power Two continue to schedule each other in the years to come? Or will the politics of perception lead them to avoid each other until they clash in the playoffs?
Saturday Down South has already suggested what football needs is an SEC-Big Ten Challenge, akin to the way conferences square off in basketball. This would be an absolute blast for the fans to see some of the premier programs face each other to kick off the season. It would also make the conferences quite a bit of money, and we know money speaks.
The question is whether money on the front end will cost either conference money on the back end, or down the line. Perception can become reality, and if either conference is perceived as weaker than the other because of a strong record in an early season challenge, it could shape the way observers, such as the College Football Playoff committee, think about the teams.
If Clemson Football were to join the Big Ten, they could be pressured to avoid playing the SEC in the regular season
CFP members may claim they don’t pay attention to such things, but the first few weeks of a season often determine how people think about the conferences later in the season when teams almost exclusively play intra-conference matchups.
Even if Power Two schools face off in the next few years, the conferences could begin encouraging them to schedule ACC, Big 12, and Group of Five programs instead, to avoid any perceptions of weakness.
This could become an issue for Clemson Football in the coming years if the Big Ten is a realistic landing spot for the program. How will the conference feel about continuing an in-state rivalry with the South Carolina Gamecocks? Or the rivalry against Georgia that is renewed every few years?
This is all just speculative and as soon as ESPN or FOX throws out the deal for the SEC-Big Ten Challenge, leadership might not give it another thought. Time will tell.