The Big Ten is threatening to deliver a seismic blow to the collegiate conference landscape as it considers expanding sometime in the next year.
There are so many parameters in play that predicting the future is a little crazy. The realignment permutations are limitless depending on whether the Big Ten makes a small-scale change or a move towards a mega-conference.
Here is just one outline of what college conferences might look like in the future. It reflects my own personal tastes and surely overlooks all sorts of pluses and minuses that these conferences will be looking into in more depth. But it's a fun debate to start.
Plan A - The sensible expansion plan
SEC - stays the same
ACC - stays the same
Big XII - ditto
Big Ten - adds Notre Dame to create a 12-team conference with divisions and a championship game
Pac-10 - adds Utah and Boise State (or BYU if the mood strikes them) to make its own 12-team conference
Big East - adds East Carolina, UCF, Marshall and Memphis to join the 12-team conference movement
Western/Mountain - the two non-BCS conferences form a merger of remaining teams to build a 16-team super-conference
Conference USA/Sun Belt - Louisiana Tech moves from WAC to a more regional-minded merger that creates another 16-team conference
Mid-American - stays the same unless Army prefers to join them to make a 14-team conference, leaving Navy as the last remaining Division I-A independent
Plan B - The Atomic Realignment
Should the Big Ten go REALLY big and become a 16-team super-conference, the race will be on to catch them. Here's one way it might look.
MIDWEST 16 CONFERENCE
New Mexico State
WESTERN MOUNTAIN CONFERENCE
San Jose State
San Diego State
Montana (moving up from Division I-AA)
SUN BELT USA
Navy (the only team that can really survive unscathed as a independent free to make its own schedule)