With the Big 12 and SEC forming an alliance of sorts by announcing that their champions will meet in a New Year's Day bowl game starting in 2015, one more step towards super conferences has been taken.
While some are rejoicing as they consider the fact that super conferences will almost certainly lead to a playoff, they should consider all the ramifications of such realignment.
In reality, super conferences would be terrible for college football. Here are five reasons why.
With the current 12-team leagues, teams in opposite divisions already play each other fairly infrequently. For example, since joining the ACC in 2004, the Virginia Tech Hokies have only faced the Florida State Seminoles twice in the regular season.
With 16-team conferences, teams will only face slightly more than half of their conference foes. Will it really feel like Oklahoma and Alabama are in the same conference if they only play three times in 10 years?
One of the many things that makes college football different is the fierce conference loyalty. With the exception of rivals, fans root for the teams in their conference to do well outside of it. This is certainly not the case in the NFL.
With super conferences, it's hard to imagine that conference loyalty will be as big of a deal. BCS rankings and at-large bids will be much less affected by conference affiliation (if they even still exist).
Regional conferencing in college football already took a hit when Boston College joined the ACC, Colorado joined the Pac-12, and Boise State joined the Big East. But these teams were outliers in otherwise geographically close-knit conferences.
With super conferences, things will get ridiculous, especially if the Big 12 and SEC merge. The ACC and Big East are a natural fit, but that leaves the Pac-12 with who, the Big Ten? How much sense will it make to have Penn State travelling to California at least twice a year?
For small sports that can't afford planes for their games, these road trips will be nearly impossible, especially numerous times over the course of a single season.
One of my favorite preseason rituals is pulling up the non-conference schedule and seeing which big games will excite me in the coming year. When the Texas Longhorns play a home-and-home with the Ohio State Buckeyes, it's a big deal.
With super conferences, this will not be the case. 16-team conferences likely means more conference games. Moreover, it means winning your conference will be much more important and strength of schedule won't be very important at all (since super conferences lend themselves to a four-team playoff). Teams will be much less inclined to schedule hard non-conference opponents, and if even if they do so the games won't be exciting because conference games will be much more important.
There's no doubt that a four major conference system lends itself to a four-team playoff with conference winners advancing to the postseason.
Where with this leave the teams that aren't in the major conferences? Perhaps the playoff field will be bigger, but then we can expect the major conferences to try and lock up at-large spots for themselves.
A tighter-knit super conference system makes one wonder whether the teams outside of the major conferences might be even further from national championship contention.