Friday, January 30, 2009

Stop the insanity

I'm a little late on this (damn ISP), but rumor has it that the Mountain West commissioner and school presidents are attempting to schedule a meeting with BCS commissioner John Swofford in hopes of landing the seventh autobid into the BCS.

It's widely agreed that this won't happen, at least not for a few years (until the current BCS television contract expires in 2011), but there seems to be a groundswell of support for the conference based on its impressive showing this year -- Utah finishing No. 2, TCU No. 7 and BYU No. 25.

The common argument is this: the Mountain West is just as good as the Big East, particularly with the Big East struggling to field a top-tier team this season, so the Mountain West should be granted the same benefits.

Response: The Mountain West was better at the top this season, obviously. Cincinnati was far from an elite team, and West Virginia was a disappointment under Bill Stewart (owner of the awesome-est sad face ever).

But dig a little deeper and you'll see precisely why the Mountain West doesn't deserve an automatic bid.

First of all, let me explain: The whole point of an autobid is to declare that a conference is strong enough that the winner has, by definition, demonstrated itself worthy of entrance into the BCS.

Does the Mountain West meet that criteria? No, not by a long shot. Past the top three of Utah, TCU and BYU, the conference was not good. Yeah, Air Force had a nice season at 8-5, and Colorado State got to 7-6 with a win over a solid Fresno State team in the New Mexico Bowl. But when that's your middle tier, your conference just isn't that strong.

The Big East wasn't exactly loaded with great teams, of course, but all except the bottom two (Louisville and Syracuse) finished 8-5 or better. To be honest, I'm not sure the Big East deserves an autobid either -- with only eight teams, and none a consistent winner, I'd have no problem with theirs getting yanked -- but I can't buy the argument that the Mountain West is more deserving.

And let's not forget that the Mountain West is basing its case almost entirely on one season. Prior to Utah finishing No. 2 this year, the conference hadn't landed a team in the final AP top 10 since ... 2004, when Utah (led by Urban Meyer) went undefeated and beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

So the Mountain West has landed its best team in the final top 10 only twice in the last five years, and that team was Utah on both occasions (although TCU joined the party this season). In no other season would the conference's winner have been eligible for even an at-large bid, so why in the world would it deserve an automatic bid?

Let's summarize: The conference rarely produces an elite team and has little depth, with a service academy (Air Force) battling Colorado State and New Mexico for the top spot in the middle tier. Does this jump out to anyone as a group worthy of a guaranteed spot among college football's elite?

The Mountain West just doesn't stack up to any current BCS conference, and attempting to argue its worthiness based on one season or by pointing out the Big East's flaws is ignoring the bigger picture: The Mountain West is a relatively weak conference that simply isn't deserving of an autobid.

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