Another blow may have been delivered to college football’s lower class in the constantly escalating battle between the haves and the have-nots.
This time though, the attack came from within.
The Mountain West Conference was blind-sided by a potentially fatal hay-maker with the news that one of its top members, BYU, is considering going independent. Although the MWC moved quickly to bolster its defenses by adding WAC schools Fresno State and Nevada, the Mountain West’s future BCS hopes still hinge on BYU’s final decision.
If the Cougars opt to take the independent road, then the MWC's hope for inclusion in a BCS scheme is dead.
This is a scenario where two is most certainly not better than one. BCS inclusion for the major conferences will be reevaluated again in 2013, and neither Fresno State nor Nevada adds much to the MWC’s resume.
The inner workings of the BCS are relatively esoteric, but three things that are known to enter into its formula for inclusion are:
1) A conference’s highest ranking member in the final BCS poll each year.
2) The rankings of every member in the final regular season computer rankings.
3) The number of teams in the final BCS poll each year.
The Mountain West should continue to look good in terms of its highest ranking members, but outside of TCU, Boise State, and BYU, seeing a MWC program in the top 25 is a rarity.
In order to garner an invite to the BCS party, the middle programs have to be more competitive as depth is what currently separates the MWC from the lower level BCS leagues.
Although many perceive the Big East as a weaker conference, the eight team Big East had three teams in the final AP Poll last year and five that received votes. The nine team MWC also had three teams ranked, but only one other team that received votes.
Substitute Utah for Boise State and remove BYU from the scenario and suddenly you only have two teams that cracked the top 25, and Air Force who received one more vote in the poll (three) than FCS Villanova.
The addition of Fresno State and Nevada shouldn’t inspire much hope of improving on that, if their recent history is any indication. Fresno State has finished ranked in the final AP Poll only once this decade (No. 22 in 2004) and Nevada hasn’t finished in the top 25 since 1991.
To show just how much of a drop off this is, BYU has finished in the final AP Poll five times this decade, including the last four seasons.
Not only that, but by swapping one team for two, it increases the size of the conference and thus dilutes the Boise State/TCU effect on the conference's average rankings.
If the rest of the conference can’t step it up, they’ll be even worse off because two ranked teams out of 10 looks even worse than two out of nine.
Clearly without BYU, the discussion of inviting the MWC to the BCS party will come to a quick end.
The powers that be likely have no interest in sharing the pie with anyone else. The Mountain West has always faced an uphill battle against this exclusionary system that wants nothing more than to maintain the status-quo.
The fight was tough enough for the MWC already, but if they’re going to have to deal with friendly fire as well, then it’s a battle that can't be won.
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