Don't look now, but the Mountain West Conference is just one big weekend away from becoming the most compelling conference race in the country.
The MWC currently has three teams in the top 16. All of whom have one significant non-conference hurdle left before entering conference play.
All winnable games against reputable BCS teams.
However, the intrigue lies behind what just might happen should all three MWC teams prevail and take care of business (as they each did last year) against the rest of the conference.
It would mean the MWC could reasonably boast three top ten teams at the same time. How many conferences have accomplished that?
That's exclusive company.
That's unheard of for a "non-BCS" conference. In fact, having three ranked teams at the same time at all, is unheard of for a "non-BCS".
But hey, it would be well-deserved.
All three heads of the MWC's triumvirate have beaten non-conference top ten opponents—Boise St., Alabama, and Oklahoma—within their last three games dating back to last year's bowl season.
No other conference can say that. In fact, most BCS conferences have to go back years to find three more impressive non-conference wins.
In addition, Utah has the longest win streak in the country (16). BYU has one of the longest home winning streaks (18) and TCU boasted the top defense in the nation last year.
That's elite territory.
But the message is clear. Each of the MWC troika is one win away from sending a huge message to the dwindling throng of BCS naysayers who say the MWC doesn't belong.
They will be a combined 6-0 versus renowned BCS teams. They will have virtually clinched a BCS Bowl berth all while bringing unprecedented attention and visibility to conference play.
Not to get too far ahead here, there's still of plenty of football to be played. But the possibilities are exhilarating.
It means the ultimate MWC champion will have very likely ended two undefeated seasons, in late October or late November, and have beaten (at least) two top 10 teams.
That's a nice resume. And they are just three wins away from making that a strong possibility.
That said, could you imagine a Utah-BYU Holy War where both teams come in undefeated?
Both would definitely be top 10.
BYU would probably be playing for a National Title berth while defending a 23 game home winning streak. Their last home loss was to—Utah.
Utah would be looking for its third BCS bowl while defending a 25 game winning streak. Their last loss to—BYU.
It would have more BCS implications than the Red River shootout, more hate than Ohio State-Michigan, and more in-state division than the Iron Bowl.
Families would be torn. Households divided. (And in Utah that's like 15 people.)
And it's very possible this year. Although TCU might have something to say about that.
Which is why I am cautious not to get too far ahead. But it does help illustrate just how important the upcoming games against Florida State, Oregon and Clemson might just be.
Three big wins and brace yourself for an epic conference battle.
TCU at BYU in 10/24
Utah at TCU on 11/14
Utah at BYU on 11/28
So who would win the MWC slug-fest is half the intrigue. It's up in the air.
BYU is the current favorite. They returned the most talent. They're ranked the highest. Are playing at the highest level.
More importantly, they host both TCU and Utah. They even host overlooked No. 4 Air Force. And Provo is not kind to visitors.
However, as good as this team might be, they still had it handed to them last year by both the Utes and the Frogs. It's hard to imagine that much has changed since then.
So do the Cougars fight back with vengeance or lay down again when going gets tough.
TCU may have the best case. With one of the best defenses in the country and a ton of offensive talent returning from last year's seventh ranked team, they'll be a tough out.
Last year they embarrassed BYU and b-a-r-e-l-y lost to Utah last year, in Salt Lake.
No doubt the Frogs will be bringing it.
Utah looks the most vulnerable thus far. Lost the most talent. And has to play both TCU and BYU on the road.
It's seemingly uphill for Utah.
But they're also the reigning champ and the only MWC team to have cracked the BCS. They know what it takes to run the table—and then blowout a BCS team in the national spotlight.
Yet Utah may be right where it wants be. They are right where it was last year. Hiding under the radar while the Frogs and Cougars got all the pub.
While the Utes were winning ugly, they were winning and getting better and better each week. By the end of the season they were unbeatable.
Even for a national powerhouse from the SEC.
The MWC has intrigue and fame right at its fingertips. Three more wins and nothing would be off the table for the overlooked conference.
A National Title game, two BCS berths, a permanent place at the BCS table, maybe even College GameDay.
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