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Pete Thamel: Two more Pac-12 teams want to go to the Big Ten

Could the Big Ten expand again?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Nebraska at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

USC and UCLA will be joining the Big Ten in 2024, and reports are a few other Pac-12 teams would like to join them.

Appearing on The Pat McAfee Show, ESPN College Football reporter Pete Thamel said Oregon and Washington have “already pretty much staked their claim that they want to go to the Big Ten.”

Thamel spoke about the possibilities of Colorado potentially returning to the Big 12, and Arizona, Utah and Arizona State being in “an interesting spot” depending on the conference's new TV deal. The Pac-12’s current deal is set to expire at the end of the 2023 season.

The question remains if the Big Ten wants to continue to expand. As of now, it certainly is not a priority as the conference has a mess to deal with in its own TV deal that has schools giving money back to the networks, putting the deal with NBC, CBS and FOX in jeopardy for THIS FALL (thanks, Kevin Warren).

New commissioner Tony Petitti’s full attention is on saving that deal and keeping all the schools happy with their payout, but it would seem odd to just bring in USC and UCLA without any other West Coast expansion in the foreseeable future.

The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy spoke on just that while appearing on “The Solid Verbal” podcast:

From the people I talk to, they tell me that expansion is not dead. Now does that mean the Big Ten is going to add somebody next week or next month? No. But I think within the next two or three years or sooner, that they will. The future of the Pac-12 is largely dependent on how aggressive the Big Ten gets. I think they’re going to be very aggressive because I still think their plan never was just add UCLA and USC and leave them on an island. They want to bring in more Pac-12 schools.

What does this look like? I bet it will be a punch, counter-punch situation with the SEC. That’s why the Big Ten felt the need to add the California powerhouses after the SEC added Texas and Oklahoma just months earlier.

Thamel also noted in the interview there are flares going up in the ACC with National Championship-caliber teams like Clemson and Florida State making less money than Vanderbilt and Mississippi State with the current state of the ACC’s TV deal. This could all spark quite a bit of action.

“The future of how the sport is comprised — hinges on whether or not the Pac-12 can get a reasonable TV deal,” said Thamel.

Amazon and Apple were two out-of-the-box options he mentioned as potential landing spots for the Pac-12’s next network deal. But it would be a deal that is unprecedented in major sports, and the first of its kind at the Power 5 level.

Either way, the formation of a Power 2 has already begun with the Big Ten and SEC stealing powerhouses from the Pac-12 and Big 12, respectively. If the other three major conferences can’t get the money some of the blue-blood schools suspect they deserve, we could see more teams like Oregon and Washington asking for a spot at the table with the Big Ten and SEC sooner rather than later.