[Note by Bud Elliott, 06/26/12 1:56 PM EDT: The following article is courtesy of my good friend Jon Willis.]
With all the talk of Florida State and Clemson joining the Big 12, as well as the Big 12 and SEC agreeing to play a bowl game between their conference champions starting in 2014, speculation has been rife that these moves are indicative of a move to having four sixteen team superconferences that will bring about a four team playoff. At this point, the presumptive superconferences are the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 12, but while expanding to sixteen teams can be relatively easy with the SEC, the Big 10, and Big 12 it is a much different story for the Pac 12. Unlike the other conferences, geography makes expansion to 16 teams extremely difficult for the Pac 12.
BYU is the most logical case for expansion because of the school's market, location, and relatively strong academic reputation (#71 in the nation per the latest US News and World Report rankings). However, the private institutions of the conference have major reservations about BYU because of its Mormon background and its refusal to play games on Sundays. It's rumored that Stanford, California, and USC would block admission to the conference so the Cougars are not a possibility to join the Pac 12 at this juncture.
Boise State would love an invite to the Pac 12, but this is another school that doesn't make sense for the Pac 12 to add at this time. Much like the Big 10, the Pac 12 sees itself as having strong academics (Arizona State notwithstanding) and Boise State's academics are woefully insufficient for acceptance to the Pac 12. Even if its academics were acceptable, there are concerns about whether the university has a large enough following to bring additional market share to the conference. Boise's television market is only the 112th biggest football market nationally and there are no large markets around it too help bring in eyeballs.
So what's the Pac 12 to do? In the conference's dream scenario, they would add Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State but those schools are locked into the Big 12 for at least six more years due to their current TV deal. That means that if superconferences are inevitable, either the Pac-16 will either be forced to cobble together castoffs from the Big East and ACC creating a possible travel nightmare, or lower their standards drastically in adding members that are a better geographic fit. If the Pac 12 does become the Pac 16 and adds four teams across the country, it could create a pod system to help ease travel costs for non-revenue sports. Constant west coast to east coast swings would be impractical so unbalanced scheduling would be discussed in helping create such a move. The only thing that's certain is that adding four more teams to the Pac 12 in the foreseeable future would create some real logistical problems.