College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (2024)

The first big wave of college football conference realignment became official on July 1, with five programs making the switch to their new home ahead of the 2024 season, and still more big moves are yet to become official in the next few weeks.

Conference expansion involving the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and finally the ACC will forever change the national college football map, upset some rivalry games, renew others that went dormant after previous realignments, and generally upend strength of schedule metrics for major teams.

What can we expect from the schools on the move this year? Let's predict which will improve in their new settings, and which will take a step backward in their new conference neighborhoods.

13. Stanford

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (1)

Slump. The Cardinal won just 3 games a year ago and move into the ACC facing a tough schedule that includes Clemson, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and fellow-newcomer SMU, and it's tough to see the talent on the roster to come away with wins there.

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (2)

Jump. The Mustangs should put together another 9-win season in their ACC debut thanks to a favorable schedule and the return of quarterback Preston Stone. A visit from TCU might be a loss, but otherwise SMU should win its other non-conference games.

11. Arizona State

Slump. How much of a step back can the Sun Devils take after winning one conference game a year ago? Looking at this schedule in the school's Big 12 debut, it's tough to find a lot of wins facing the class of the league and even drawing Mississippi State as a non-conference matchup.

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (4)

Slump. Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter returning are huge for the Buffaloes, but even their presence wasn't enough to win more than 5 games last season in the Pac-12. The Big 12 will prove to be tougher, and Colorado's schedule is stacked on the back end with some of the league's best teams. Coach Prime closes against Utah, at Kansas, and against Oklahoma State.

9. Cal

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (5)

Slump. We count four likely wins on Cal's schedule moving into the ACC, which would be a step back from its 6-6 mark a year ago. There's an early road game against Auburn and a league slate that includes the Seminoles (on the road), Miami, Pitt, and NC State. Right now, those are all losses.

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (6)

Slump. Three of the Wildcats' first four Big 12 games are on the road and against tough opponents like Kansas State, Utah, and BYU. The schedule lightens up in the second half, but there's still a road game against TCU. The return of Noah Fifita at quarterback and Tetairoa McMillan at receiver are big, but other personnel losses, including that of head coach Jedd Fisch, are potentially de-stabilizing.

7. UCLA

Slump. Not only is UCLA moving to the Big Ten, but it's also undergoing major coaching change. Deshaun Foster steps in for the departed Chip Kelly with highly-promising coordinators like Eric Bieniemy on offense and Ikaika Malloe on defense, but much of the Bruins' superb defensive rotation is gone, as is quarterback Dante Moore.

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (8)

Slump. Jedd Fisch steps in at a program that lost most of the talent that got it to the national title game a year ago and heads into the Big Ten with transfers at key positions. Among them is gunslinger quarterback Will Rogers from Mississippi State. While the Huskies should start strong, there are tough games against Michigan, at Iowa and Penn State, and against USC. We count 6 wins.

5. USC

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (9)

Jump. While it's all the rage to dump on Lincoln Riley these days, and his 19-8 record in two years warrants much of it, the addition of D'Anton Lynn as defensive play-caller is major. He led UCLA's defense to a No. 10 national ranking a year ago, and even modest improvement on that side of the ball could spell big things when combined with Riley's offense. USC should have the speed advantage against most of the Big Ten defenses on its schedule.

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (10)

Jump. The return of quarterback Cameron Rising from an injury that kept him off the field since last January, and of tight end Brant Kuithe, combined with the addition of transfer receiver Dorian Singer and another hard-nosed defense should put the Utes in the driver's seat for the expanded Big 12 title. And from there, contention in the 12-team College Football Playoff.

3. Oregon

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (11)

Jump. Since making the move to the Big Ten, the Ducks have been a credible pick to win the league title in 2024. Boasting two of college football's most dominant lines and arguably the nation's premier receiving corps, Oregon presents a brand of physicality and perimeter speed that will make Big Ten opponents dizzy. If it can beat Ohio State at home and Michigan on the road, Oregon could potentially finish undefeated.

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (12)

Slump. In the long-run, Brent Venables has everything he needs to make the Sooners in a winner in the SEC. But in Year 1, this schedule might conspire against him. Two early tests come at home against the Vols and at Auburn before the bye week. Wins there would be a great foundation looking ahead to the Red River Shootout, road games against Ole Miss, Missouri, and LSU, with a home date against Alabama, too. That's a hard road, and OU needs to maintain those expected defensive improvements and get solid play from a good rotation of skill players.

1. Texas

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (13)

Jump. Texas moves into the SEC at a perfect time, building serious momentum as a program coming off a Big 12 title. Quinn Ewers is back under center, aided by elite receiver transfers and key defensive pickups like edge rusher Trey Moore. A win at Michigan in Week 2 will be an early statement, and a home test against Georgia following the OU game will be even bigger. A reunion with Texas A&M in the finale caps everything off for a Longhorns team that has the firepower to win 11 games.

-

More college football from SI: Top 25 Rankings | Schedule | Teams

Follow College Football HQ: Bookmark | Rankings | Picks

College football realignment: What teams improve, slump after conference expansion (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 5814

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Birthday: 1996-12-09

Address: Apt. 141 1406 Mitch Summit, New Teganshire, UT 82655-0699

Phone: +2296092334654

Job: Technology Architect

Hobby: Snowboarding, Scouting, Foreign language learning, Dowsing, Baton twirling, Sculpting, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Francesca Jacobs Ret, I am a innocent, super, beautiful, charming, lucky, gentle, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.