I also happen to think 10 team conferences are the optimum.
9 isn't bad for football, but an even number works better from a scheduling standpoint in most other sports.
However, with 12 games as the new standard, 10-team conferences should require that all members play all other 9 teams in their conference.
Having two 8-0 teams at the end of a season, who didn't play each other seems rather stupid. Unless you just don't care about the concept of determining a champion.
I think most posters here agree that the 11 in the Big 10 is a goofy number. My guess is that they jumped at the chance to grab Penn State, and thought that Notre Dame would be a slam dunk for #12. I also assume that Notre Dame has a standing offer, and the conference would love to go to 12, but they won't say so publicly, since there is no strong interest in anyone other than Notre Dame.
12, 14, 16 really amounts to 2 conferences (for football, anyway, with 6-, 7- or 8-team divisions). That is not bad, necessarily, since the ACC, B12, SEC format does require that you play everyone within your division (conference). But some conference officials reflecting now, realize that the expansion to 12 may put a strong candidate for the National Championship at risk, when they face a tough opponent in the conference championship game (someone that they perhaps beat during the regular season).
I think the ACC would have been better with adding just Miami, and not screwing with geography with the ridiculous addition of BC. But Swofford probably thought 12 was the future, since the SEC and Big 12 had gone that route.
It seems unfair to create a playoff bracket that treats the champions of 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12-team conferences equally. Clearly the champ of the 12-team conference has to jump through more hoops.
If you like the numbers 8, 9, or 10, then maybe the 12-team conferences can get there by growing to 16, 18, or 20, and then treating each 8, 9 or 10 team division as a conference. Then each division is on equal footing with the BE(8), MWC (9), or PAC (10).
But nobody in college football seems to have any kind of vision or take a leadership position, so with every conference moving in different directions, it will continue to stay as a ridiculous mess.
I'd love to see a final solution of X conferences, each having Y teams (no independents), feed into a tournament bracket. I'd also like to see some adjustments made, so that BC (ACC), Penn State (B11), South Florida (BE), Marshall, ECU & UTEP (CUSA), TCU (MWC), Louisiana Tech (WAC), and Denver (SBC) didn't defy geography.
Dave - excellent post - I have been generally thinking the same for a long time - why in the world someone with some authority and respect cannot get all the conferences together to make numbers and geographic sense is beyond me - a little leadership would go a long way - I totally agree with your geography problem - a Florida school in the Big East and a Massachusetts school in the ACC - Louisiana Tech in the WAC - it's a jumbled mess and we could do better - thanks for sharing your thoughts - Arkansan