USC and UCLA Heighten Hawkeye Football

The addition of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten will ultimately heighten Hawkeye football in both recruiting and national relevance.
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The landscape of college football is changing before our eyes, almost overnight. The sport was originally partitioned by region, and built on tradition and rivalries. Recently, however, the mega-deals of television partnerships with football conferences are beginning to reshape the geography of the game. The most recent rendition of conference realignment is the blockbuster news of USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten. The move transcends the once-midwestern-centric Big Ten Conference into a bicoastal super-conference that may very well continue to grow. 

The introduction of the Los Angeles market to the Big Ten now gives the conference a grip on the New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and Southern California markets. The addition of the two flagship pacific coast programs is a huge win for the conference, and for the teams within. For Iowa, Big Ten expansion will lead to unique matchups and a broadened range of recruiting. The addition of USC and UCLA will ultimately heighten the outlook of Hawkeye football. 

Recruiting Reach

The number one thing that the new members bring for Iowa is a new look at recruiting. The Hawkeyes typically stay local when it comes to recruiting the majority of their players. That will likely not change much. However, adding USC and UCLA to the conference will make for multiple trips out west on a yearly basis between the football, basketball, and Olympic sports programs. For football specifically, this will give the Hawkeye coaching staff an opportunity to get familiar with the west coast recruits and how they may fit into the Iowa program.

This is not to say that Iowa will begin to land the four and five-star caliber players from the California hotbed of recruits. It does, however, pave the way for three-star guys to have a chance to play football out of state for a Big Ten program. 

For example, there are currently 106 three-star players on the 247Sports 2023 composite list from the state of California. Of those, 64 players have verbally committed and 57 of them have committed to a current Pac-12 or Mountain West program. There are only seven three-stars currently committed to heading out of the region. 

There’s a great possibility that the introduction of regular visits out west will allow Iowa to find some of the hidden three-star talent on the coast. The Hawkeyes are a developmental program and have built a reputation for producing NFL talent from their backyard. If the coaching staff can bring in some of those three-star, west coast guys it can add a new dynamic to the culture of the program. Iowa could very realistically broaden its horizon of developmental recruiting. This change has a chance to dramatically strengthen the program’s culture and even their style of football. The last California native to sign with the Hawkeyes is current quarterback Spencer Petras who signed in 2018. 
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Marquee Matchups

The other, more obvious, change that the addition of USC and UCLA does for Iowa is introduce marquee matchup opportunities. The Rose Bowl was long known as the premier matchup between Big Ten and Pac-12 schools. There are a handful of other bowl games that often feature the two conferences. These include the Holiday Bowl and the newly named San Francisco Bowl (previously the RedBox Bowl). Iowa has played USC twice since 2003, and both came as ranked competitions. The Hawkeyes have not faced UCLA since the 1986 Rose Bowl but did trade home-and-home matchups in the 1970s. 

Playing host to the Trojans and the Bruins would draw massive attention to Kinnick Stadium. Envision a night game in November between the undefeated Trojans and unbeaten Hawkeyes. The same could be said for other teams in the Big Ten. Further, Iowa will have the opportunity to play inside two of the nation’s premier stadiums in the Rose Bowl and the Los Angeles Coliseum. 

USC and UCLA Heighten Hawkeye Football

As the realignment stands now, USC and UCLA are the first two to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. There has been speculation as to the interest of other schools in joining the Big Ten as well. These include Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, and even the Bay Area schools of California and Stanford. Each of these programs would further stretch the band of Big Ten recruiting and matchup opportunities. The other programs are all “what-ifs” for now, but Los Angeles is officially Big Ten country. For the Hawkeyes, this will add new heights to their recruiting bed and their national relevance. It may take time to become acquainted with the changing college football landscape. However, it is sure to strengthen the sport in more areas than not.

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