With Pac-12 rumors leaning toward the league moving closer to adding the Texas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Oklahoma St. Cowboys and Oklahoma Sooners, scheduling is going to be an issue since all the schools covet playing in the southern California area each year.
To address that issue the Pac-12 is looking into a four-pod system and one that allows any two schools to play in the conference title game:
As of right now, the conference is discussing an alignment where teams would play nine conference games. Teams would play every other team in their pod along with two teams from each of the other three pods.
If the Longhorns were in Pod A, they would play the other Pod A teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech) every year. They would also play two teams from Pod B, Pod C and Pod D, bringing the total to nine conference games every year.
It is believed the championship game would be decided by overall conference record, meaning any two teams could play in the championship game on a given year.
This is an interesting concept and somewhat follows the old 16-team WAC model which used a quadrant system, but still used a two-divisional format to decide who played in the conference title game. The pod setup would look like this:
There will be come objection since all the schools want to be in southern California each year for recruiting and with 16 teams that can not happen. However, the pod system allows for teams to at least play USC or UCLA every year for those schools in the opposite pods. The scenario would be to match up a northern California school with a southern California school to ensure they would play a team from the Los Angeles area and be in California each year.
The pod system is unique in that the Pac-12 wants to have the best possible title game and the league wants competitive balance. For example if they were to go to a North-South split or even East-West it would be hard to split up Texas, Oklahoma and USC. Having Oklahoma, Texas and USC in one division would create a massive competitive imbalance, so by having no divisional format to determine who plays for the title game that would solve the competitive balance issue.
Scheduling and divisional formatting is still a ways off since the Pac-12 is still currently the Pac-12; however It seems that things are heading toward a Pac-16, but not quite yet.
For more on the Pac-12 head over to Pacific Takes.