If you haven’t been following the college football expansion rumors and possibilities, you could be in store for a mind-boggling 2011 season.
After the near Big 12, Pac-10 Super Merger fell through, we were only left with Nebraska departing to the Big Ten. But, as expected, college football expansion wasn’t going to die with the end of those talks.
The Mountain West conference has long been considered the best non-BCS conference, as teams like TCU, BYU, Utah, and Air Force have been perennial Top 40 teams in the country.
So, with the expansion fad going around, the Mountain West took part. And while they didn’t come out perfect on the other end, they may still be in-line to garner interest in BCS talks.
Utah Skip Out On Conference Future, Head To Pac-10
This was a huge blow to the Mountain West. While TCU and BYU have been recent success stories, Utah has been the poster child for the conference.
Since the Urban Meyer years they have been contending with the entire country for national attention, and when they defeated Alabama two seasons ago, they were contending for National Title attention.
The Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-12) conference scooped them up after the Big 12 merger fell through. The four powerhouses in the Mountain West lost maybe their most important member.
The conference secretly had been hoping and fighting for a BCS bid for the past few years now, but losing Utah took a huge chunk out of their case for the automatic bid.
BCS Power Boise State Joins Conference
If Utah has been the Mountain West poster-child for the BCS, Boise State has been the WAC’s for sure. They’ve probably been the single biggest factor in the movement to get non-BCS teams a chance in a BCS title game.
The WAC has always been way too easy for Boise State to boost their strength of schedule, and now since June Jones left Hawaii, they are hugely disappointed if they lose any conference games.
In their last year, they’ll prove in their opening week game against Virginia Tech that they can handle not only the national spotlight, but hold their own with any team in the country.
As they switch over to the Mountain West, they make up for the loss of Utah and maybe then some. If I had to pick between Utah and Boise State, I’ll take the Broncos.
BYU To Independence?
The recent reports of BYU leaving the Mountain West in favor of being Independents in football and in the WAC for everything else seem to be coming to fruition.
The loss of Utah likely prompted the idea that has been brewing since early July, and the addition of Boise State maybe wasn’t enough to keep the team in the conference.
However, with the likely-hood of being a Notre Dame type team (if they finish in the Top 15 in the coaches poll, they get an automatic bid in the BCS) very slim, and the fact that the Mountain West has added even more respectable teams, BYU may end up reconsidering their idea and be enticed to stick around in the Mountain West.
Nevada and Fresno State Bail On The WAC
Whether it was triggered in an effort to replace BYU or as a way to entice the Cougars to stick around in the Mountain West, is unknown, but adding the two other WAC respectable teams was a great move for the conference.
Outside of the Pac-10, the Mountain West conference now has every respectable team west of Texas in terms of college football with these two additions.
Fresno State is a program that has been solid over the past 10 years, having a few Top 25 caliber teams and still pump out their fair share of non-BCS NFL talent players.
Nevada is an up-and-coming program that has the potential to succeed drastically in the future with their offense being exciting and wide-open. They will be Boise State’s biggest test outside of Virginia Tech this year in the WAC.
In what seems like a huge curve-ball in the Mountain West expansion, this tidbit that has come out over the past few days.
The Mountain West offered three teams to join the conference from the WAC. Nevada and Fresno State said yes, while the first team they offered said no.
I don’t know what’s more surprising: the fact that they offered Utah State the bid first, or that the Aggies said no.
Either way, they may have played the loyalty card too heavy, and they could be stuck in a conference they soon could be defunct.
The most recent expansion story rumored to be being considered, the Houston Cougars are thought to be the final team in the conference’s plan to build a 10 team conference.
I couldn’t think of a better team, and when the Pac-10 expansion was going on, I said that if Utah left, outside of Boise State, Houston would be the team to snatch.
They have been consistent and exciting for over five years now, and they have a young coach who has BCS conference coach written all over him.
If Houston joins the Mountain West, that might be enough to keep this programs growth up and keep head coach Kevin Sumlin in for a few more years at the very least.
To catch you up on everything that has happened with the conference, here is the new conference breakdown, in order of team talent.
Houston (not final)
San Diego State
The first four teams on that list have Top 25 talent for the next few years. Nevada and Fresno State also can be Top 40 teams as well year in and year out.
Also, the possibility of BYU staying in conference could make them even more impressive. If BYU stays, they will likely search for that 12th member to form a conference championship game. My guess for that team? Tulsa or Utah State.
One final note: There have been some very quiet rumblings that in an effort to get a BCS berth, the Mountain West may work with the C-USA to have a championship game between both conference top teams and the winner goes to the BCS. A very intriguing idea, one that makes alot of sense for both conferences, and drastically reduces the BCS’s worries about non-BCS schools grumbling about “their fair shot”.