The recent news of USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024 has sparked scores of discussion about college football and its future, as well as who are the most desirable teams in the sport.

With the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference both adding big-name schools to their ranks in the near future — Texas and Oklahoma are joining the SEC in 2025 — what does that mean for the rest of the Power Five conferences and their programs?

Conference realignment has been a major topic again this summer, and with it, the talk about what other schools could be attractive to the SEC and Big Ten if they choose to expand further.

On the flip side, the future of the other three Power Five conferences has also been up for debate — what happens to the ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12? Could they combine forces, or have teams defect and potentially have one of these power conferences fold?

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Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde provided some context to these arguments by developing what he called the Power Five Desirability Ratings.

“So this latest existential crisis in college sports seemed like a good inflection point for examining who really brings what to the table among the 69 schools currently in the Power 5, or ticketed to arrive in 2023,” Forde wrote. 

He asked, “If you were to blow up every league and hold a draft to redistribute the balance of power, what does your draft board look like?”

Out of 69 schools, Pac-12 member Utah is in a tie for No. 35, while BYU, which will join the Big 12 in 2023, rated No. 41 — putting both Utah schools squarely in the middle of the Power Five desirability picture.

Forde used five metrics to determine the overall Power Five Desirability Ratings:

  • Football ranking: Based on a five-year average of the team’s Sagarin ratings from 2017 through 2021.
  • Academic ranking: Based on where each school ranks in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s national universities rankings.
  • All-sports ranking: Based off the final Learfield Directors’ Cup Division I standings for this past academic year. The Directors Cup weighs each school’s postseason performance in 19 different NCAA sports.
  • Football attendance: Based on average home-game attendance for each school over the past five seasons, per NCAA data, with the results from 2020 thrown out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Broadcast viewership: Based on the total number of football games each school had one million or more TV viewers over the past five seasons, again throwing out the 2020 season.
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What schools lead Sports Illustrated’s desirability ratings?

The top five in the desirability ratings reads like a who’s who list of college football royalty: Ohio State is No. 1, followed by Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and Georgia.

Alabama, which has won six national championships since 2009, is No. 10. The biggest knock against the Crimson Tide in this exercise is ranking in a tie for 55th in academics.

As for the two Utah schools, here’s how they stack up.

How does Utah rank in each category of Sports Illustrated’s desirability ratings?

  • Football rank: No. 17.
  • Academics: Tied No. 41.
  • All sports: No. 42.
  • Attendance: No. 42.
  • Viewership: No. 34.

The Utes benefit greatly from their on-field success in recent seasons. Over the past five years, Utah has won the Pac-12 championship once, played in the Pac-12 title game three times, finished the season ranked twice and played in the Rose Bowl to cap the 2021 season.

Utah’s other top mark came in TV viewership, where the school ranked just inside the top half of the 69 Power Five schools.

How does BYU rank in each category of Sports Illustrated’s desirability ratings?

  • Football rank: No. 50.
  • Academics: Tied No. 36.
  • All sports: No. 28.
  • Attendance: Tied No. 26.
  • Viewership: Tied No. 41.

The Cougars’ best strengths come from having solid home-game attendance and a good balance of success across all sports, as the numbers show. BYU also rated right around the middle of Power Five schools in academics.

One big factor that hurt BYU here was the Cougars’ dismal 2017 season, when they went 4-9 and were ranked No. 112 in the Sagarin ratings at year’s end.

To see where BYU and Utah rank in comparison to their peers in their current or future conferences, check out the full story