After finishing undefeated—yet outside of the National Championship Game for the second year in a row, the Mountain West champion should feel slighted.
But hope is around the corner.
The rules of the BCS allow for a seventh conference to join the ranks of those automatically qualifying as early as the 2012 season. After an unprecedented season of success last year, the conference has somehow managed to out do itself this year.
The Qualification Criteria
There are three criteria that are measured by the BCS to determine if a conference is deserving of sending their champion automatically to the BCS:
1) Number of BCS Top 25 teams.
2) The rank of the highest of these teams.
3) The average computer ranking of all teams in the conference.
Although the computer ranking has slid from a 0.09 value in 2008 to a 0.02 value this year (scale -1.00 to + 1.00), the escalation of the highest ranked team from No. 6 Utah in 2008 to No. 4 TCU this year has more than compensated.
In fact, the entire BCS value of the Mountain West has risen from 0.496 in 2008 to 0.500 this year, and now sits right at the edge of BCS inclusion.
The evaluation period stretches from 2008 through the 2011 season so the conference is only halfway there; and, if they continue their upward trend and/or add a fourth Top 25 BCS team (from within or without) they will be the newest member of the BCS elite.
Just The Facts Ma'am
The tune whistled last year was that the conference got lucky. The Pac-10 was having a down year and the Mountain West feasted. This year, however, the conference stayed on track, even with a resurgent Pac-10.
The conference probably benefited by scoring some victories on the Big 12 and ACC, the two BCS conferences which slipped in their ratings.
However, the job is far from done.
If the Mountain West duplicates their performance from these past two years over the next two then they will come up inches short, 0.498 . The appearance of BYU, Utah, and TCU in the BCS these past two years just does not outweigh the sluggish output of the other six teams in the conference.
By current projections there are two ways in which the conference could put its rating over 0.500 for good.
The first is by expanding their BCS presence from within. At the current rate, three teams are finishing the year in the BCS top 25. If, in either of the next two years, a fourth team places, say, Air Force, then the Mountain West will be in.
The second option, and perhaps the more secure option is to add Boise State to the conference. The variables are more complex, but if only two of BYU, Utah, TCU, and Boise State stay in the Top 25 and get at least one team in the Top 15, then the expanded Mountain West will be in.
A third option would be having two more stellar years like these. It seems a tall order, but that is what we said last year.
It may seem silly to some that an automatic qualification spot is such a big deal. Any time the Mountain West team has qualified for a BCS at large bid in the last five years they have been accepted.
But it is about money.
Right now, as TCU accepts the bid to the Fiesta Bowl, they will not enjoy the $17 million dollar pay-out that Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, Texas, or Oregon will be getting. They will share a measly $8 million with not only their conference but with all five conferences which do not have an automatic BCS bid.
Boise State's inclusion in the BCS marks the first time a BCS bowl has chosen a non-BCS team that had not been guaranteed a bid. Even if we treat all 55 non-BCS teams as one conference they will not be getting the $22 million which the SEC and Big Ten will be getting for sending two teams. No, these 55 teams will split $12 million dollars.
So, the Mountain West is playing for loads and loads of extra money in the future, money which can be used to upgrade sports facilities and bring a few more of the conference's teams up to BCS caliber.
What about Bob?
Here are the updated ratings of the other BCS conferences. Note, none of these conferences can have their AQ status removed until the cycle of seasons that runs from 2010 to 2013 concludes.
0.682 Big Twelve
0.571 Big Ten
0.559 Mountain West + Boise State
0.519 Big East
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