After two years of a four-year evaluation period, the Mountain West is playing well enough to earn an automatic bid to BCS bowl games in two of the three evaluated categories.
They are razor-close to passing the third hurdle on their own, but with the addition of Boise State to their conference starting in 2011, they have the numbers to even answer that challenge.
The basics of the BCS evaluation process have been published on the BCS website, but there specifics are not entirely clear.
They say: “The evaluation data includes the following for each conference: (1) The ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year, (2) The final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year and, (3) The number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings each year.”
In an email interview with the Mountain West Connection a few weeks ago, BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock gave some important clues about exactly how this information is broken down and evaluated.
It appears the three categories are evaluated separately and given equal weight, or as Hancock said, “a conference must finish in the top half of EACH category.” There was no mention made of any consequences for current AQ conferences finishing in bottom half of any category. Also, he confirmed that if Boise State were added to the Mountain West during the evaluation, their data would be added to that new conference.
Now that the final regular season rankings have been released, we can see how the Mountain West stacks up to earn their auto-bid. As they are evaluated separately, we will look at each category separately. Obviously, these numbers will change with the addition of the data from the other two years.
1. The ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year, 2008-2009 average
1. Big 12
5. Big East
7. Big Ten
11. Sun Belt
* MWC + Boise State = 5
For now, the MWC is doing well enough in this category to earn an auto-bid. Also, adding Boise State would not change this ranking as Utah was ranked higher than Boise in 2008 and TCU was ranked higher in 2009.
2. The number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS standings each year, 2008-2009 average
1. Big Ten
3. Big 12
5. Big East
11. Sun Belt
* MWC + Boise State = 0.40
According to the MWC Connection’s interview, this is really the percentage of the conference that is ranked. Mr. Hancock said that this data “is averaged so that the number of teams in the conference does not affect the rankings.” The average percentage is 21.5 percent, and the MWC is easily above that.
Adding Boise State would mean that over the last two years, the Mountain West has ended the regular season with 40 percent (four teams from the hypothetical 10-team league) ranked in the BCS top 25. That would be best performance out of any college conference in this category.
3. The 2008-2009 final regular-season rankings of ALL conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year
3. Big East
4. Big 12
6. Big Ten
11. Sun Belt
* MWC + Boise State = 55.03
Here is where it gets a little tricky. What does exactly does “finish in the top 50 percent in each of the three categories” mean? Is it relative, as in the Mountain West’s numbers need to be no worse than sixth-best when compared to the other 10 conferences? Or is it fixed percentage, as in the average ranking of all 120 schools in FBS is 60 and in order to qualify in this category the average computer ranking of all MWC schools needs to be above the average ranking of 60th? I think it is the second, or that the MWC needs to be above average when compared to all other FBS schools.
Currently, with an average ranking of 60.32, the computers say the MWC is almost exactly on the 50th percentile line. However, with the addition of Boise State, the 2008-2009 average ranking is lowered to 55.03, which is not good enough to pass the Big Ten for sixth place among conferences, but is good enough to be considered in the top half relative to all 120 teams in FBS, which I believe fits the requirement spelled out by Mr. Hancock.
It is not a given that the Mountain West will be able to continue its solid performances like it has in 2008 and 2009, but I expect them to take a calculated risk and invite Boise State after the 2009 season. This will allow them to give the WAC the required one-year’s notice to leave (2010) and begin MWC conference play in the final year of the BCS evaluation (2011).