The curiosity hits every year around this time. The conference championship games have been played, the dust in college football has settled and thoughts of what a real postseason would look like spring to mind.

This isn’t the little four-team mini-playoff the Bowl Championship Series is preparing to unveil in 2014. No, rather this is a 16-team bracket with every conference represented.

There are some folks out there who go absolutely berserk when this is suggested, but arguments against the idea tend to be based on two completely opposite premises.

The first premise is this: The champion of the (insert name of non-brand name conference here) doesn’t deserve a shot at a national title because of (insert reason from following list here: their schedule doesn’t warrant respect, their league doesn’t warrant respect, they’ll get crushed by a real opponent or the ever-popular “they suck”).

At the same time, the argument reverses on itself. The thinking appears to go from arrogance over how such a sub-standard team could even be considered for a national championship to fear that said sub-standard team could actually upset someone.

So which is it? If they don’t belong there and they will get crushed, they why the worry that (insert name of favorite team here) could actually lose to such a horrible foe?

Particularly since, at least under the plan proposed here, the first three rounds would be played at the home field of the higher-seeded team.

Think about it: If March Madness in college basketball is worth billions in television money and captures the imagination of the country for three or four weeks, why couldn’t a football playoff do the same?

Actually, it would do better. The television rights for a Division I-A playoff would be huge.

This is where the traditionalists argue about the demise of the bowl games.

Here’s a news flash: The bowl games have already been marginalized. There is the BCS title game … and there’s everything else.

Can anyone out there—without looking it up—recite the winner of last year’s Liberty Bowl? New Orleans Bowl? Rose Bowl? Military Bowl? People who follow the game religiously can’t do it, either, so don’t feel alone on that particular wagon.

The bowl games could continue just as they do now, as television filler during the holidays. But the weekends would belong to the playoffs. Teams that lose in the first round of the playoffs could be eligible to get a bowl game as a consolation prize. Why couldn’t that be the best of both worlds?

So looking at the just completed season, here’s what a 2012 bracket would look like, with games to be played beginning Dec. 8 at campus sites. The quarterfinals would be Dec. 15 at campus sites, semifinals could be played after Christmas on Dec. 29 at campus sites and the final could be Jan. 7 in  Miami, just like under the current system. Teams are listed by seed and with record and qualification.

No. 16 Tulsa (10-3, Conference USA champ) at No. 1 Alabama (12-1, Southeastern Conference champ)

No. 15 Arkansas State (9-3, Sun Belt Conference champ) at No. 2 Notre Dame (12-0, at-large)

No. 14 Louisville (10-2, Big East Conference champ) at No. 3 Oregon (11-1, at-large)

No. 13 Boise State (10-2, Mountain West Conference co-champ) at No. 4 Florida (11-1, at-large)

No. 12 Utah State (10-2, Western Athletic Conference champ) at No. 5 Kansas State (11-1, Big 12 Conference champ)

No. 11 Wisconsin (8-5, Big Ten Conference champ) at No. 6 Texas A&M (10-2, at-large)

No. 10 Northern Illinois (12-1, Mid-American Conference champ) at No. 7 Stanford (11-2, Pac-12 Conference champ)

No. 9 Florida State (11-2, Atlantic Coast Conference champ) at No. 8 Georgia (11-2, at-large)

It could be huge. Too bad it won’t happen.