Amid the rumors that suddenly jumped to fever pitch Thursday lurks an issue that is yet fully aired: under which circumstances will a super-conference be given two autobids to the BCS? Will a 14-team conference with two divisions get them? Or will only the truly mammoth sixteen-team conference get them?
The Wimple believes this has become the critical issue driving expansion, now that it is settled that humongous TV contracts will follow BCS conferences that are at least 12 teams large. For example, there is no way Texas and OU will join USC in a conference that gets only one measley autobid to the big January bowls. That's just too many big fish in the pond-- who cares how big the pond.
And if the PAC16 gets two bids, guaranteed, you can mark it down: the Big10-11-12-14-whatever will get two, too. And the SEC. Whatever they have to do to match (or, preferrably, one-up) the new behemoth of the west, they'll do.
So the real issue now is: what do they have to do to secure two autobids to the BCS? If 16 teams is the threshold, then something is going to have to give. Once the Big10 and SEC lure a combined nine teams into their vortexes, there simply won't be enough previously-BCS teams left to keep five member conferences in the cartel, let alone six. Some combination of the Big 12, Big East, and ACC will form one straggling two-bid super conference, and maybe there will be a seat at the table for a one-bid Mountain West--hopefully.
If 14 teams is the threshold, however, perhaps the resulting carnage won't be utterly revolutionary, but will be more like hyper-evolutionary. The ACC or Big East would likely be able to absorb either the remnants of the other, or perhaps the Big12 north. Maybe the Mountain West could combine with the Big12 north and form a 14-team super conference with two autobids. This is a vastly preferrably result, not just for the current bubble conference (MWC), but for the resulting bubble conference (Big 12 remains, plus ACC and Big East remains). This also would mean the cartel would really have grown: which probably would keep Congress out of the mess-- another preferrable result.