OK everyone, I've figured it out. I can see the pieces falling into place for the inevitable endgame for all this realignment. Bear with me here.
First, the era of 4 superconferences will dawn. As generally expected, those conferences will be based around the existing Pac 12, Big 12, Big 10, and SEC. Each conference will align itself around 4 smaller divisions instead of the current larger 2.
This will not put a stop to the arms race, however, as the Pac 12 and Big 12 will soon begin working on a collaborative scheduling agreement that will give the Pac 12 access to the lucrative Texas college football market, and give the Big 12 access to the West coast. This will prove to be a moneymaking success, and the Big 10 and SEC will start feeling the heat.
In response, the Big 10 and SEC will enter talks to form their own partnership. These talks begin with a simple scheduling agreement modeled after the Pac 12 and Big 12, but fearing to be one-uped again they decide to take things to another level and go full steam ahead with a conference merger, becoming the Big SEC. The Pac 12 and Big 12 feel their hand forced, and merge to form the Big Pac.
Meanwhile, in the mid-majors, trouble is brewing as outcasts from the Big East and ACC as well as programs from C-USA and the Mountain West struggle to find footing. They start adopting the superconference mentality as well, with C-USA absorbing much of the MAC and ACC castoffs, and the Mountain West taking on the WAC teams as well as Big East leftovers.
Back in the world of major-conference college football, the Big Pac is looking for its next opportunity to gain an advantage over their rival Big SEC. After watching the mid-major realignment shake out, they decide to drop one of the biggest bombs in all of realignment as they merge with the new Mountain West, creating the super-est of superconferences. The Big SEC sees no choice but to latch on to C-USA (as it is the only remaining college football conference at this point) and make a merger of their own.
In the end, we're left with 2 superconferences, each with 6 divisions made up of 8-12 teams. These divisions will be roughly apportioned to reflect geography, talent level, and history. For example, it's likely we'll see a division made up of the directional Michigans, as well as smaller schools from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The major Texas schools will probably band together with the Oklahoma and Kansas schools to form a division. Major programs in the Southeast will band together to form a division, as will those along the Pacific coast.
Lucky for us, Michigan will likely wind up in a division with 10-12 major programs throughout the Midwest and Great Lakes areas. Historical relationships will play a part, as that division will pull in teams like Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and others.
Each division will be a semi-autonomous unit within its conference, deciding for itself how its schedules will be made and how its champion will be selected, with division championship games a real possibility. The season will end with something resembling a 12-team playoff, as each conference selects its champion from among its 6 divisions, and the winners of each conference go on to play one another in a national championship game.
this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines