Realignment chatter: How the Pac-12 holds the key to it all

The TV deal secured by commissioner George Kliavkoff could hold the key to the next round of college sports realignment. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The looming changes to the structure of college football simultaneously highlight the strength of the SEC and Big Ten while exposing the fluidity of the rest of the major-conference landscape.

With the Big Ten and SEC preparing to start 16-program versions in 2024 and the 12-team playoff looming the same year, the rest of the college football landscape is left to sort itself out. The only certainty is that more change is coming.

What's most apparent after interviews with industry and campus sources over the past week is how that financial gap between the SEC and Big Ten and everyone else is going to cause further unrest. It's safe to say the schools in the Power 2 are going to be making more than $30 million more than teams in the other leagues now and going forward. (The Big 12 is at least safely established in the upper-middle class after agreeing to a recent deal with ESPN and Fox.)

The only variable is time, and the next significant trigger could emerge in the coming weeks when the Pac-12 schools find out what their television deal could look like.

And this all plays out against a backdrop of industrywide uncertainty -- evolving television markets, financial stress in the tech industry, new NCAA leadership and lawsuits and potential government action that loom as change agents.

What's next for an industry perpetually in flux? Here are four big questions to answer on the Pac-12's potential problems and how it will affect the Big 12, Big Ten and even the ACC.

What happens now for the Pac-12?