Realignment Rampage: 45 Big Ten Players Reveal Which Team They'd Most Like to Join the Conference Next

By Garrick Hodge on July 28, 2022 at 11:03 am
Payton Thorne
Payton Thorne

Ever since UCLA and USC bolted the Pac-12 for the Big Ten last month, college football realignment has been a subject on the minds of fans, coaches and administrators alike.

That goes double for Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, who didn’t discount the possibility of further additions to the conference when addressing reporters Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days.

As the week played out, reports from The Action Network and CBS Sports indicated that Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Cal, Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State are all meriting consideration from the Big Ten at the moment. 

But forget all that. What if we left it up to the athletes themselves? While at Big Ten Media Days Tuesday and Wednesday, Eleven Warriors asked all 45 players attending the league’s annual event which team they’d like to add to the conference next if they were Big Ten commissioner for a day. 

No limitations were instituted, though considering how many said they would like to add SEC teams, some answers are less realistic than others.

Notre Dame was a popular answer among players. Ditto for Oregon and Alabama. Other players gave nods to hometown teams. Some were flat out just not interested in the question, which really shows how indifferent some players are to realignment in the first place.

Here’s the list of schools selected by Big Ten players as teams they’d like to see join the conference (some players answered with multiple schools while others did not name any schools, so the numbers don’t quite add up to 45):

School Total Votes
Notre Dame 10
Oregon 6
Alabama 6
Texas 3
Hawaii 3
Miami 2
Iowa State 2
Clemson 2
Washington 2
Arkansas 1
Virginia Tech 1
Memphis 1
Georgia 1
Kansas 1
Florida 1
Auburn  1
Louisville 1
Oklahoma  1
Texas A&M 1
Kentucky 1
Don’t care/no answer 11

The full answers from all 45 players are below.

Ohio State

C.J. Stroud, quarterback: Hm. Not my job, but, I don’t know man, who would you like? Nah I’m just playing. But shoot, maybe another Pac-12 team like Washington. I think Washington is a really good team. I think they would last in the Big Ten for sure. But I’m not sure, I really don’t care to be honest with you. 

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, wide receiver: Ooohh. I’m adding some SEC schools. Gotta add the best schools like Alabama, Oregon, Texas A&M, Texas, everybody, man. There could be an endless amount. 

Ronnie Hickman, safety: It doesn’t really matter to me, honestly. That’s up to Gene (Smith) and all those guys so I’ll leave that to them. 


Travis Vokolek, tight end: Notre Dame. I think that would be a great addition to the conference. They’re a traditional school and have a great winning tradition. I think they’d be a great addition. 

Quinton Newsome, cornerback: I would say Oregon. I want to play Oregon, for some reason, I’ve always wanted to play Oregon. They were one of my favorite teams growing up and playing against them would be a great opportunity.

Garrett Nelson, defensive end/linebacker: Keeping it in the Big Ten region, I think it would be really cool to have an Oklahoma or a Texas. You could go Kansas, but they’ve always been in that conference. But I think Oklahoma would be really nice. They’re Midwestern, well they’re a little South, but they’re still a little Midwest. Plus the history we have with them with the rivarly and they’re a historic blue blood of college football. Adding them to the roster would go really well. 


Taulia Tagovailoa, quarterback: Hawaii. Just for our exposure, kids from Hawaii. I know a lot of hometown kids go to Hawaii and stuff like that. If they came out to the Big Ten, that would be really cool. It would be like a dream come true to play a game there, my whole family is there and stuff. 

Rakim Jarrett, wide receiver: Florida. Shoutout to the 2002 Maryland-Florida Orange Bowl. I just want to see how the SEC is and if they are what they say they are. 

Jakorian Bennett, defensive back: Probably Auburn. Just because I’m from Alabama and I’d want to give my family an easier chance to come watch me play. That would be cool. 


Tyler Nubin, defensive back: Probably Notre Dame because I have a lot of friends over on Notre Dame. I’d want to play against a couple of those guys. 

John Michael Schmitz, offensive lineman: That’s a good question. There’s like no wrong answer. I want to play against the best, so why not bring Alabama in here and play against the best, that’s how I’d feel. 

Mariano Sori-Marin, linebacker: I’d go Notre Dame. Just growing up a Chicago kid, Notre Dame plays a similar style to the Big Ten. At the end of the day, whatever commissioner Warren wants, we respect that. It would be strange for Notre Dame to join since they have an ACC schedule and they’re an independent, but to see them join would be cool. I think college football is moving in such an incredible direction and I’m excited to see where it goes. 


Jack Campbell, linebacker: That’s a great question. I want Notre Dame, I think that would be cool. And well, so does the Big Ten. I think it would be pretty cool to play those guys. They’re talented and another historic program. They’re not in a conference of their own so it would be nice to see them join the Big Ten and have future Hawkeyes have an opportunity to play them. 

Sam LaPorta, tight end: Something geographically close is what I would say. Notre Dame would be a great addition. I can’t imagine flying from the East Coast to the West Coast with all the time differences and stuff. 

Kaevon Merriweather, defensive back: Oh man. If you wanted to do it from a financial standpoint, I’m bringing Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Miami, you feel me? You listening? We still have UCLA and USC, right? Then we’re going to bring Oregon, and then I think from there we’re good. But those are like the big money markets. If I was the Big Ten commissioner, I’d make a lot of money with those teams in there, you know what I’m saying? What I’d do first, though, probably Oregon, not going to lie. Just the influence of Nike and the number of people who love Oregon across the country, I’d definitely bring Oregon first. I ain’t gonna lie to you though, I’m kinda mad, I wish they would have done the realignment thing a bit earlier, a trip to USC would not be bad. Them coming to the Midwest as well in November? They ain’t gonna play out too well, I ain’t gonna lie. 


AJ Barner, tight end: Good question. I don’t know, maybe a school down south so we can enjoy a trip down there and enjoy nice weather. But really I feel like I enjoy all the teams we play against in the Big Ten already. Maybe Miami, they have a lot of history and it’s a cool place to play football. 

Cam Jones, linebacker: Well, I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. I don’t know how realistic this is, but I’d definitely choose Memphis because it’s my hometown school. 

Tiawan Mullen, cornerback: It’s so crazy. I don’t really pay attention to stuff like that or things out of my control. There’s great teams everywhere and I don’t want to single anybody out, there’s great teams everywhere. Whoever joins our conference, welcome. 


Adetomiwa Adebawore, defensive end: I’m not really sure. I don’t know. If I could pick another team, hm, I honestly don’t know. If anything, it would probably be schools that I know people at like Iowa State or Clemson so I could play them. Other than that, I just want to play against my friends, I guess. 

Cameron Mitchell, cornerback: I’d love to play against Big 12 teams or play against some SEC teams regularly. I don’t know about any one specific school though, I’m not sure. 

Peter Skoronski, offensive tackle: For me personally, I think Iowa State would be a really good fit. I think in previous years they’ve been a really strong and physical team. They’re a Midwestern team too that kind of fit that Big Ten vibe. That would be a really challenging and fun team to play.


Erick All, tight end: Geez, I don’t know. I’d say Oregon, maybe? One of my best friends is on the team at Oregon and I’ve heard a lot of trash talk about Oregon over the years so I want to play them.

Cade McNamara, quarterback: I don’t know. I only care about the teams on my schedule. That’s about it. 

Mazi Smith, defensive tackle: I wouldn’t add any other team to the Big Ten. The Big Ten is the Big Ten, I wouldn’t add anybody.

DJ Turner, defensive back: I personally wouldn’t add anyone to the Big Ten either. We’re already about to add two others. 


Payne Durham, tight end: That’s a good one. Selfishly, I would go Louisville. Because I want Purdue and coach (Jeff) Brohm to play against Louisville. I would do it right here again, just like a few years ago. I’d like to see that game. The realignment thing is cool and I think it’s going to be good for the Big Ten.

Jalen Graham, linebacker: I’d have to go with Texas just because it’s down south. I’d like to go play down south sometimes. 

Aidan O’Connell, quarterback: That’s a great question that I have not been asked yet today. I’m not the commissioner so I don’t know. There’s so many good teams you could take. Obviously, Notre Dame is the big talk. Who knows what’s going to happen, but Notre Dame would be cool, it would give a lot of publicity to the conference. I think it’s going to keep growing and keep getting crazier so we’ll see.

Cam Allen, safety: I’d probably say Virginia Tech because I’m from Virginia. It would be pretty cool to play against them. 


Sydney Brown, defensive back: That’s a big question. I honestly don’t know. I do think it’s cool they’re adding these two new teams in the conference to give you a chance to play in more stadiums. 

Chase Brown, running back: I’d add SEC teams. Throw LSU in there, maybe Arkansas, I don’t know. Some teams that would mix it up a little bit. We’ve gotten some teams from out West, so maybe get some Florida teams or something here.

Jartavius Martin, defensive back: I don’t know. That really is a tough question. 

Isaiah Williams, wide receiver: I’ll go with Alabama, why not go with the big dog? Roll Tide. 

Michigan State

Xavier Henderson, safety: That’s a good question right there, how long have you been thinking about that one? I’ll say somewhere down south, somewhere like LSU. Or Notre Dame, when I was younger I didn’t really understand what conferences meant and I just always assumed Notre Dame was in the Big Ten because they played Michigan all the time. So I’m like, why not have Notre Dame join the Big Ten?

Jayden Reed, wide receiver: Oregon, that would be pretty dope. That’s one of the top schools in the Pac-12. I really like Oregon and think they’d be a great addition to the Big Ten.

Payton Thorne, quarterback: I’ve heard a lot of people talk about Notre Dame. Obviously Notre Dame is in our prime area and a big brand. From my understanding it would bring in more TV revenue, which I don’t know too much about. But everything keeps talking about Notre Dame, Oregon too I’ve also heard and Washington maybe, so I think those are unique teams that I think would add to the conference. I heard the commissioner say he’s not looking to just add any team, he’ll look to add teams that will add to our conference. I think those are teams that could do that.


Adam Korsak, punter: That’s interesting. I haven’t necessarily thought about that. It’s exciting the two California teams are coming in but I’ll be long gone by then. I don’t really have an answer for you, I already think 16 is a lot. But I guess that might be the trend, having three massive conferences in the future. 

Johnny Langan, tight end: That’s a tough question. Probably Alabama, I’d just welcome the competition. 

Avery Young, defensive back: I think we’ve already added two teams so I think we’re perfect where we are. Those are two historical teams and it’ll make us that much better. Personally, I wouldn’t want to add anyone, there’s already a lot of competition in the East.  

Penn State

Ji’Ayir Brown, safety: Alabama. I want to play them. If not them, Kentucky. 

Sean Clifford, quarterback: That’s definitely above my pay grade. But I think it’s cool what they’re doing to UCLA and USC, it’s adding a lot of value to the Big Ten. I’ve been blessed to be a part of it at a school like Penn State. I don’t know what team I’d add, but I’m sure commissioner Warren has his ideas. I grew up a little bit of a Notre Dame fan because some of my family members went there. So that would be cool. But honestly I wasn’t really a college sports fan as much as I was an NFL fan growing up. I was a Bengals fan. And I’m damn proud to say that this year, because in the past it was rough.  

P.J. Mustipher, defensive tackle: I don’t want any teams in the Big Ten. I just think it’s different, we’ve got this Midwest and Northeast grittiness, I don’t want to add any teams, man. I understand they have to do what they have to do. But there’s something about traveling to Wisconsin, traveling to Purdue, traveling to Ohio State and Michigan and those teams traveling to us that I just love. I’m not saying I don’t like (realignment), I’m just used to the way it is now. People don’t like to change what they’re used to. My brother actually went to Notre Dame. He’d probably tell me if they joined they’d win it all or something like that. They’re a Midwest school and a great program, so I can’t argue with that. If they did add them, it would be very good. 


Keeanu Benton, nose tackle: I don’t know. 

Nick Herbig, outside linebacker: Definitely Hawaii. So I can go home and play in front of my people. That would be unreal. 

Graham Mertz, quarterback: Oh gosh. That’s a good question, I legit have never thought about that. I’d say Hawaii so we can take a trip to Hawaii. Just kidding, my boy Nick Herbig is here too and he’ll love that I just said that, so I’ll go with him on that. We’ll go on the trip together.

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