What if the Pac-12 opted not to create divisions in 2011? What if the conference simply stood as a 12-team league, still playing nine conference games, and at season's end picked the top two teams to play a championship game?
Seasons might have turned out differently, that's for sure. Better? That's debatable.
Fact is, while Adam Rittenberg and Andrea Adelson wrote about the problems caused by conferences breaking up into divisions Thursday here and here, that hasn't been a significant issue in the Pac-12. Or at least you don't hear too much griping about the North and South split on the West Coast.
Oh, there's the drag of teams missing each other two years in a row, as Oregon and USC have done, for example. And there's the inescapable reality of unequal schedules, such as when Utah missed Oregon and Stanford its first two years in the conference, then got both of them the past two seasons.
In 2011 and 2012, the loser of the Oregon-Stanford game probably would have preferred a rematch in the Pac-12 championship game instead of a second-place finish in the North. In both those years, the South champ posted inferior records to the No. 2 team from the North -- most notably in 2011 when, because USC was ineligible due to NCAA sanctions, UCLA represented the South with a 5-4 conference mark.
Further, you could argue eliminating divisions would create a "purer" system, where you made sure the top two teams played every year, though that could involve a complicated tiebreaking process as well as likely increase the number of rematches in the title game.
Still, the past two seasons, the teams with the best conference marks met in the title game. So, no grousing.
What separates the Pac-12, of course, is it's a 12-team league that plays nine conference games. The ACC and SEC, where divisional setups are more questionable, are 14-team leagues that play eight conference games. That means more teams miss each other more often and you end up with significant schedule inequities.
Of course, the notable issue here isn't divisions, at least in the big picture of college football.
It's the ACC's and SEC's intentional gaming of the system with their eight-game conference schedules. The only reason the ACC and SEC play eight conference games is they are trying to make their schedules weaker. They are trying to make it easier for their conference teams to post good records, whether that's about going 12-0, 9-3 or 7-5.
So while the ACC and SEC might review their divisional system, what they really should do before taking on that potential change is look in the mirror, feel ashamed and then cowboy up and play nine conference games.