Is cupcakes good for the NCAA football conference?

Some college football coaches will tell you: a team with more superstars usually wins.

The Great Man Theory’s success has no doubt helped NCAA college football extend the length of its season, adding a week to the last two years. But now the theory is making its way to the more obscure schools in the Pac-12, where it has led to a much-debated scheduling of home-and-home series with Vanderbilt and Missouri.

With their football traditions, those teams’ lower-tier status often gives them a churlish scheduling nudge around the leaders in the conference. USC’s storied program has been on tour all over the country in recent years – from Hawaii to California to Colorado to Georgia – and its roster includes some of the best players in the nation.

But earlier this year the Trojans made it happen with an agreement to play Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2020 and 2021. Before USC’s agreement with Vanderbilt it had never scheduled the Commodores, according to In the conference’s first year with a 13-game schedule, USC hopes to open the season against Missouri in St Louis, a distant city more commonly associated with pop concerts and hockey games.

As it turns out, Maryland and Duke, too, have already signed to play at Vanderbilt and Missouri’s campuses.

The optics around this new trend are less-than-impeccable. UCLA has already played an opponent from outside of California – an FCS opponent from North Dakota – just this past season. Yet when Missouri and Vanderbilt aren’t in the mix, the conference has occasionally hosted teams that simply fit a more traditional profile.

After all, teams like California, which has played perhaps two non-conference foes from out of state in all of this decade, keep their fundraising going by drawing the fans of other schools. They’re also paying up, something the teams themselves may feel might benefit them. UCLA’s future opponents are Arizona State, Oregon State, Arizona, BYU, Stanford, Utah and Washington.

But when it comes to Vanderbilt and Missouri – much less Colorado, which has only played teams from Colorado – it raises a question: Who can college football be proud of when teams outside the conference are allowed to be a success?

“It’s hard to question Vanderbilt at the moment,” said UCLA’s coach, Jim Mora. “Vanderbilt really deserves this particular opportunity.

“They’re a major program, they have major programs, they have places that would be nice, but they don’t have the luxury to have that kind of situation. We see that every week with schools we play, it’s a good, quality opponent and so, (Vanderbilt) deserves this opportunity. But at the same time, it’s also a game we have to go play.”

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