Is the Mountain West Conference Being Anointed Too Soon?

Del ShmouffyContributor ISeptember 25, 2008

Seriously. Their fans don't seem to think so, as a brief visit to the MWCBoard will attest. And why not? The MWC and its fans should be excited after the great start to the season.

By the end of Week Four of the 2008 college football season, the conference had three teams ranked in the AP Top 25, with BYU knocking on the door of the Top 10 at No. 11, and they had given the Pac-10 a black eye by going 5-0 against their more prestigious BCS neighbor.

It would also seem that one of the MWC's members is regarded as a veritable lock to bust the BCS and land in one of the big money bowls, with a good shot of winning it considering the quality of play the conference's teams have displayed thus far.

Heck, Dennis Dodd with is even touting BYU as a BCS title game participant. Why, it must seem as if the world is the MWC's oyster—all they have to do is pry it open and slurp it down.

But consider this: Who have any of the teams really played and beaten yet? A Michigan team in full coaching transition that got walloped by a subpar Notre Dame team. Washington, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, and then-No. 15 Arizona State?

Of those wins, the New Mexico win over Arizona may be the best, as this is likely Mike Stoops' best team in his five-year tenure in Tucson. Of course, the Lobos then paid a visit to Conference USA's Tulsa the very next week and got lit up for 56 points.

Where's the poll love for the undefeated Golden Hurricane, by the way? Not to mention Ball State, for that matter.

Stanford may actually produce a winning season, but that's not saying much in a down Pac-10 conference. UCLA beat a seriously overrated Tennessee team that is likely to start the season 2-4, with the only probable win in their next three games coming against Northern Illinois. Washington may very well cost Tyrone Willingham his job.

Then we have Arizona State. The Sun Devils failed to show not only against UNLV, but also against Georgia. Sure, the Bulldogs are ranked No. 3 in the AP, but a team aspiring for national recognition does not allow itself to get worked so easily at home.

I'll not go into whether or not they overlooked the Runnin' Rebels—it would be redundant at this juncture.

Some stiffer tests lie ahead on Saturday, Sept. 27, with No. 24 TCU at No. 2 Oklahoma and Colorado State visiting California. Contests such as these may give us a better idea of just how strong the MWC really is.

Success will surely carry the conference to greater heights, but what of the downside? If the conference's teams begin losing, the MWC will be tossed aside like yesterday's newspaper, dashing the hopes of fans throughout Mountain West country. Thanks for stopping by, be careful of the door—it's a fast one.

The point of this run-through is that after only the third week of the college football season, certain pundits were declaring the MWC a BCS conference. Some even intimated that a current BCS conference or two should lose their automatic BCS bids to be replaced by the MWC, whose teams had had a couple of wins over questionable competition.

How about everyone lose their auto-bid and we start over from scratch? Any takers? Amongst much of the viewing public, that would be met with a resounding YES! Alas, it's unlikely to meet with the approval of the powers that be.

A more realistic standard by which to judge a conference would be to evaluate it after two or three seasons, wouldn't it?

In no way is this writer trying to knock the MWC. I've been impressed with their overall performance so far, even considering some of the competition. A win is a win, after all.

But come on—the BCS has set out the criteria for conferences to meet in order to be considered for inclusion as an auto-bid conference...and we've only now entered the first year of a new four-year evaluation period.

In other, more obvious, words, it's way too early to judge overall conference strength for long-term purposes. Now, if over this current review period the MWC continues to show its prowess, then the conference should definitely be allowed inclusion—but not until then.