Mountain West fans always hear “you don’t measure up against the BCS conferences.”
Lately, in recognition of the accomplishments of TCU, Utah, and BYU, we’ve heard, “we’ll, the top three are OK, but the league lacks depth.”
The Mountain West has managed a 4-0 record this year in the bowls, with TCU still scheduled. So, fans have one argument that league depth is better than anticipated. Still doubts linger. So let’s take a look at the performance of the Mountain West versus BCS conference foes since 2004, when TCU joined and the league took its current form. I have included Notre Dame as a BCS foe for this analysis.
The Mountain West has an overall record of 46-57, or a 44.7 percent winning percentage over the BCS conferences since 2004. One team, San Diego State, has accounted for 10 of the losses and no wins.
The most popular BCS conference foes have been, not surprisingly, the PAC-10 , where they have gone 18-22 (.450), followed by the Big 12 at 12-15 (.444). The Mountain West has winning records against the Big East (3-2), SEC (4-3), and has gone .500 against both the ACC (5-5) and Notre Dame (2-2). They have had the worst performance against the Big 10 , going 2-8 (.200) over that period.
Year by Year
Since 2004 , the Mountain West has only one season in which they had a winning record against BCS teams: 2008 , when they went 10-6 (.625). They were also competitive in 09 (7-9) and 07 (9-10). Worst seasons against the BCS were 04 (9-14, .391) and 06 (4-9, .308).
The Big Three, TCU , Utah, and BYU have, not surprisingly, had the most success versus the BCS teams. Since 2004, TCU is a stellar 10-3, for a league best .769 winning percentage. Utah is right behind, going 13-4 for a .765 win rate.
Interestingly, BYU is only 8-10 for a .444 winning percentage, as they were hurt by a 0-4 year versus the BCS back in 2005.
Wyoming , going 5-6 with a .455 winning percentage, has notched wins over Tennessee , UCLA, and Mississippi (twice), which may surprise a few skeptics. New Mexico has, despite their recent woes, gone 4-6 and has notched wins over Texas Tech , Missouri, and Arizona back to back in 07 and 08. And Air Force has gone 2-4 (.333) including a big upset over Notre Dame .
This is where the Mountain West has had its troubles against the BCS. I would argue, however, that by definition the bottom third of any league would show similar results. Because, let’s face it, it is not like the Washington State’s , Vanderbilt’s, and Baylor’s of the BCS leagues are setting the world on fire with their out of conference results against BCS competition.
In the Mountain West, the bottom three are UNLV , going 2-5 (.286), Colorado State going 2-9 (.182), and San Diego State , a miserable 0-10.
Overall, the top tier of the Mountain West is 31-17, for a very good .646 winning percentage
The Middle Tier has gone 11-16, for a decent .407. The top six teams are a combined 42-33, or .560, which is certainly competitive.
It is the bottom three that are the true under performers. Those programs are 4-24, or a dismal .143 winning percentage.
Is the Mountain West a weak league after the top tier? This analysis would suggest that the league has actually been competitive through the top six teams versus BCS competition, and that only the bottom three, especially San Diego State and Colorado State, have truly been non-competitive versus BCS competition.
Comparing the bottom teams in BCS leagues also yields similar results. Bottom tier BCS teams out of conference win percentage versus BCS opponent’s hovers below the .300 mark. This indicates that the arguments that the Mountain West is not competitive as a league are at best overblown, and at worst are not indicative of the actual on field results.