Blog Entry

Picking the Mountain West

Posted on: June 4, 2009 1:05 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2009 1:36 pm
The Mountain West needs to focus, look closer. Capitol Hill's favorite conference spent the offseason pitching its case to Congress and challenging the BCS.  

But let's be clear. It was the coaches poll -- the prove-it-on-the-field guys -- that hit Utah with a lead pipe with its final regular-season poll.

The Utes finished No. 7. Seventh, for what turned out to be the nation's only undefeated major-college team. Utah's chances were dead before it got that Sugar Bowl bid. Great result and all that in New Orleans but let's analyze why the Utes couldn't play for it all.

There's a bias, all right. It comes from the coaches. The Harris poll also voted Utah seventh before the bowls but it almost gets a pass. The Harris voters aren't in the business, lining their pockets with bowl money, at the same time denying two major-college teams (Boise was undefeated in the regular season too) a better bowl fate.

The coaches, dear Mountain West, are the ones who have drawn the line -- and it clearly doesn't include teams from below the BCS level. Is that about to change? We'll see with the Mountain West sporting three possible BCS busters again this season (Utah, BYU, TCU). 

Only the top two teams in the BCS play in the national championship. The winner gets the coaches poll automatic No. 1 vote (or is supposed to). 

Heck, Utah was only able to make it up to No. 4 in the coaches after beating Alabama by two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.

The BCS might be unfair to the great unwashed non-BCS school but it is unfair mostly because the voting coaches -- by and large -- don't take those schools seriously. (Remember, Utah finished second in the Associated Press media poll. It was fifth among the computers.)

Guess who had the majority of the coaches votes last season? Thirty-seven of the 61 voting coaches came from BCS conferences (61 percent). The power conference schools make up only 55 percent of Division I-A. 

The Mountain West voters were New Mexico's Rocky Long (Utah, No. 7 before the bowls); TCU's Gary Patterson (No. 7) and Utah's Kyle Whittingham (No. 5). Whittingham voted his Utes No. 1 after the Sugar Bowl.

The Mountain West has done its best to make all of this clear.  Unfortunately, it will be another five seasons, at least, before any kind of playoff can be staged.

Until then, there is a hope. Short of a playoff, we learned in January that the Mountain West could gain automatic BCS access by 2012
The noble fight goes on in 2009 with Utah expected to repeat as conference champions. Don't tell TCU and BYU, though.

Picking the Mountain West ... 

1. Utah -- Give Whittingham credit. He didn't mope around after getting shafted. He didn't skip town for a bright, shiny new job. He stuck to the task. Losing quarterback Brian Johnson, kicker/punter Louie Sakoda and defensive end Paul Kruger won't be hard with 24 redshirt freshmen returning, not including three players back from missions. Remember the name Corbin Louks at quarterback. 

2. BYU -- Along the Wasatch Range they're talking about the Cougars the way the rest of the nation is talking about Utah. Coach Bronco Mendenhall has won 32 games the past three seasons while winning two Mountain West titles. This year's team is loaded and gets the Utes at home to finish the regular season. Best sign? The last four times BYU has had a senior quarterback, it has won the league. Senior Max Hall is the Mountain West's best at his position. Defensive end Jan Jorgensen is the league's career sack leader.

3. TCU -- Coach Gary Patterson specializes in taking high school running backs and turning them into defensive terrors. Get ready, then, for All-American defensive end Jerry Hughes to cause more damage. Hughes was handed a defensive number when he got to Fort Worth and went to work. Last year he led the nation with 15 sacks. TCU's unit as a whole led the nation giving up only 47 rushing yards. If the Frogs are going to jump over Utah, they can't get bogged down offensively. Last year's 13-10 loss in Salt Lake City was a killer.

4. Air Force -- It has been a seamless transition from Fisher DeBerry to Troy Calhoun who has won 17 games in his first two seasons in Colorado Springs. The option offense continues to be the great equalizer. The Falcons should win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Beyond that, we're wondering if Air Force is the team that started 8-2 in '08 or the one that lost its last three.

5. UNLV -- Mike Sanford likely saved his job by winning five games last season. Bowl eligibility is a definite possibility this season. That's saying a lot for a program that has had one winning season in the last 14. Ryan Wolfe is the leading returning receiver in the league (88 catches, six touchdowns).

6. New Mexico -- First-time, first-year coach Mike Locksley has made his share of waves since arriving in the high desert. He injected some energy in what had become a lazy program. He used his recruiting prowess to snatch a few players from the Washington, D.C. area. Above all else, Locksley, the former Illinois OC, needs a Juice Williams-like presence at quarterback. Recruit Emmanuel Yeager left school recently to go back to D.C. That might have set the position back considering incumbent Donovan Porterie was recruited by Rocky Long to run the option. 

7. Colorado State -- Steve Fairchild took the Rams from 3-9 to 7-6 (and a bowl win) in his first season. That tied for the most wins since 2002. The defense must get better after giving up 30 points per game. A veteran offensive line could spring junior tailback John Mosure for a big year.

8. Wyoming -- Dave Christensen, his Hog and his spread offense blew into Laramie from Missouri promising  more appealing football. Christensen was the OC at Missouri for Chase Daniel and the Tigers' record-setting offense. Last season Wyoming's offense averaged less than 13 points per game. There's no one on the roster close to resembling Daniel. Let's hope that Christensen's motorcycle isn't the program's most entertaining feature.

9. San Diego State -- Still trying to figure out why Brady Hoke made this lateral move from Ball State to take this job. Sure, Ball State wouldn't bump up salaries for Hoke's assistants. Is that a reason to go to the worst program in the Mountain West? Brady, your career is at risk here. 

Since: Mar 3, 2008
Posted on: June 10, 2009 1:15 pm

Picking the Mountain West

As much as I hate to say it, I think having Air Force in the MWC will hurt their chances of gaining a BCS bid.  I am from the Academy so I know how people outside the conference view our program.  Just look at Minnesota blogs and predictions.  They, a bottom 3 Big 10 team, thinks they will roll over us just because we are Air Force.  Hopefully their team has the same cocky attitude so they will overlook us.  This is just a representation of how the media projects all service academies and I'm just hoping that by 2012 this stereotype goes away.

On another note, I think we will go 10-2, 6-2 in conference play and beat one of the big 3.  My guess is Utah.

Since: Dec 28, 2007
Posted on: June 10, 2009 3:18 am

Picking the Mountain West

SDSU's team tradition is so woeful, even most alumnus don't realize many Aztecs play on Sundays, many of them starting.  I believe we had 28 former Aztecs in training camps this year.  More than most BCS schools.  We always have individual talent.  Hell, in the 2008, SDSU had 4 players picked.  But, the coaching has always been god awful thus the individual talent going to waste.  Hopefully Hoke will turn that around. 

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: June 9, 2009 5:06 pm

Picking the Mountain West

If Utah wants recognition, they should not have dodged a date with Texas this September.  Texas had a last-minute opening in its 2009 schedule, created when Arkansas decided lastyear's beat down by the Horns was enough, so mack Brown called Utah head ocach Whiitingham.  Whittingham dodged the date because Texas could not reciprocate with a Utah home date any time in the near future.  So, if you don't want to play with the big boys, then shut up and take your Mountain West trophy.  TCU played Texas recently, BYU is playing OU this September, but Utah dodged a date against Colt McCoy and the Longhorns!

I could be wrong, but I thought Utah opted out of that Texas game so they could play a home and home with Michigan? Considering they didn't know Michigan was going to be so bad now (who would have called that?), it seemed like a logical decision to me and a lot of people. As far as team prestige goes, Michigan used to be right up there with Texas.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: June 9, 2009 5:03 pm

Picking the Mountain West

The real battle will be between BYU and TCU. Utah has to play both on the road. 

BYU has both at home and a senior QB who is also one of the best in the nation. BYU has also only lost 2 conf. games in the last 3 years. BYU is the odds on prohibitive favorite.

Unfortunately for BYU, home-field doesn't mean anything for the Utah game. 

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: June 9, 2009 4:58 pm

Picking the Mountain West

But, Utah is the only team in MWC history to run thru conf play unbeaten. 
Didn't BYU do that two years in a row in 2006 and 2007?

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: June 9, 2009 4:56 pm

Picking the Mountain West

1-2. Average price of a singe family home in San Diego, 440,000. Muncie, 59,300. Those statistics really make that salary increase worth while. ( Also Muncie is the most affordable FBS college town in the U.S., that's the difference of being in the midwest compared to the west coast. I understand San Diego is great, but as a Ball State student, Muncie is not bad at all.Cost of living isn't a huge issue when you're making $750K/year.
4. True, San Diego State has nowhere to go but up. However, they aren't surpassing BYU, TCU, Utah or even Air Force anytime soon. There is alot more parody in the MAC than the other non-BCS conferences, and there isn't a group of front-runners year in and year out. 

BYU, TCU, and Utah are clearly the upper tier of the MWC, but not by a lot. There's a lot more parity in the MWC than most people realize - e.g., UNLV beat ASU, Wyoming beat TN, etc.
5. Yes, it is a lateral move. They both have the same access by the rulebook into the BCS. The MAC has 3 automatic berths to bowls each year, and the MWC has 4. Doesn't seem like a huge jump to me, and thanks to media bias tilting towards the east coast and mid-west, the MAC has more cable televised games than the MWC.

No disrespect to the MAC, but based on the last couple years, a move from the MAC to the MWC is probably not a lateral move - its an improvement. Now moving from Ball State to SDSU in my opinion is not a lateral move either from a team strength/prestige perspective - its more of a move in the wrong direction. But I can understand why he would make such a move.

Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: June 9, 2009 3:35 pm

Yes that is true

But the new 4 year eval period began last season, and BYU is well ahead of the Big LEast in Out of Conf winning percentage at this point.

Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: June 9, 2009 3:33 pm

Why is it?

That the BCS schools think it is perfectly okay that the non BCS schools should have to go on the road and play at the big boys with no reciprocation whatsoever, and when they say no thanks you call them chickens? Why is it that when Utah, or BYU, or TCU wants the big boys to come and play at their place, they are generally turned down? If the big boys are really that great they should have no problem reciprocating and playing at BYU or Utah. Who is really dodging who?

USC is the only school I know that has said flat out anyone, any time, any where!

BYU recently tried to schedule a home and home with Alabama as well as Auburn. Both were more than happy to have BYU come to their place. But when the subject came up of a return visit to Provo, both decided against it. Nebraska did the same thing.

Since: Dec 28, 2007
Posted on: June 9, 2009 2:42 pm

Picking the Mountain West

 I thought 2012 was the year where all conferences are re-evaluated. The MWC isn't guaranteed a BCS bid now. During the last review of the BCS and the conferences, as sad as it is, the Big East was rated higher than the MWC. That's correct.  But, the last time they took a look was in 2007.  So last year, the first in this review was great for the MWC.  If they keep this up and SDSU finally pulls its head out of its rear end, the MWC might be primed for that spot.

Since: Dec 28, 2007
Posted on: June 9, 2009 2:32 pm

Picking the Mountain West

Ironically enough, Texas cancelled out on scheduled dates with Utah when Urban was there.

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