On December 4th, 2011, the BCS will evaluate each mid-major conference to determine if one shall become the seventh conference to automatically send a team to the BCS and claim a large portion of the bowl money.
As it stands now, the Mountain West is on track for BCS consideration beginning the 2012 season.
There are three criteria the BCS will analyze to determine a conference's worthiness. For our purposes we will ignore the third criterion (number of teams in the BCS Top 25) because the six BCS conferences and Mountain West all have adequate numbers in this category.
The first criterion is the ranking of the top team in the BCS. The seasons 2008-2011 will be averaged. Below are the averages from the first two seasons.
No. 1 SEC (1.5)
No. 2 Big 12 (1.5)
No. 3 MWC (5.0)
No. 4 Pac-10 (6.0)
No. 5 Big East (7.5)
No. 5 WAC (7.5)
No. 7 Big Ten (8.0)
No. 8 ACC (11.5)
The second criterion is the average computer ranking of every team in the conference, calculated by the six BCS computers.
No. 1 SEC (38.7)
No. 2 ACC (40.6)
No. 3 Big East (43.1)
No. 4 Big 12 (46.6)
No. 5 Pac-10 (48.7)
No. 6 Big Ten (50.7)
No. 7 MWC (59.2)
No. 8 WAC (72.8)
In order to qualify, a mid-major conference must finish in the Top 6 of both categories. If a conference finishes in the top five in one category and the top seven in the other, then a "Presidential Oversight Committee" will be the final judge on inclusion.
So even if the Mountain West does not hurdle the Big Ten into sixth place in the computer criterion, the political pressure will all but guarantee the Mountain West's inclusion for the 2012 and 2013 football seasons.
But, there are a few ways in which the Mountain West could miss out on this golden opportunity.
The last two years have been the best two for the conference since its 1999 inception. Three teams have finished each year in the BCS Top 25, both years the conference has produced the BCS Buster, and the bulk of the conference has picked up major out-of-conference victories.
While skeptics were muffled this year when many said 2008 was a flash in the pan for the conference, a few bad bounces and a more difficult schedule for key teams could very well see the Mountain West fade this year to its pre-2008 glory.
Stringing together two epic years is a miracle in and of itself, and if the football gods deem the Mountain West to join the elite, then there could be little left to stop them.
But just the same, the fairy dust may wear off in 2010 and 2011, and the conference could fall straight through the floor, dashing their BCS ambitions.
Right now, presidents from AQ conferences outnumber presidents from mid-major conferences on the Presidential Oversight Committee (POC) 7-5. Money is an issue and adding another AQ conference will diminish the size of the portions that the others receive. There is no word on whether a simple or super majority are needed to approve a conference.
Unless the Mountain West finds its way to the Top 6 in both the first two criteria (read: passes an AQ confrence in the computers), it will be at the mercy of the POC.
Of course, the counter-argument is that denying the Mountain West a place at the table furthers the image that the BCS is a cartel or monopoly. Regulation by the US Congress is not a serious threat at the present time. But by 2012, when campaign season returns and the recession is in the rear-view mirror, there may be legitimate political pressure.
The last two years, the champion of the Mountain West has stood undefeated at season's end, placing in the Top 10.
The ranking of conferences by top ranked teams is so dense that if the Mountain West Champion places outside the Top 10 in both of the next two years, they will slip to No. 7 and outside of AQ consideration.
It is therefore also true to say that if in either of the next two years the Mountain West fails to put a team in the Top 20, they will have (b)eaten themselves out of AQ consideration.
For a simple rubrick and one critics of a certain AQ conference will enjoy:
The Mountain West needs to finish within 4 places behind the Big East champ over the next two years to keep their head above water.
Conference Expansion is on the horizon and, with the Mountain West in prime plucking distance for both the Big 12 and Pac-10, the attrition of the sports current economic model could claim the death of the Mountain West's AQ hopes.
BYU and Utah have at least been mentioned as candidates for Pac-10 expansion while TCU has additionally been mentioned as a replacement should the Big 12 lose Colorado or Missouri.
This would be the calmest death of the Mountain West's hopes as one or more of the conference's true preformers does graduate to the next plain of college football-dom.
Boise State has often been linked to joining the Mountain West to ensure BCS inclusion. However, within the most critical category, computer rankings, (where the Mountain West sits at seventh) adding the Broncos would only make up half of the distance to the goal of sixth place.
Additionally, the Mountain West would prefer to keep their current constituancy if at all possible, so adding Boise State will only happen if it pushes the conferences over the edge.
That is unless Boise State could call upon a few midmajor teams outside the Mountain West to challenge for that seventh spot or, at the least, knock the Mountain West just outside the required ranking.
The best 8 teams from the WAC and the West division of Conference USA have a nearly identical average ranking (59.9 to 59.2) as the current MWC. Replacing the worst of these teams with other mid-major teams outside the East (Troy, Southern Miss) has this amalgam firmly outpacing the MWC.
Additionally, this new conference could be forged with hopes of taking the AQ spot for themselves, and with a carrot that size they can afford to wait for one more year's worth of data to be generated. Perhaps TCU would join this amalgam, or more likely the Mountain West will send an invite Boise State's way.