Friday, June 11, 2010

The Mountain West gets in on the action

This has been expected for a while now, but Boise State is finally making the leap to a legitimate conference:
Boise State is leaving the Western Athletic Conference, a league the Broncos have dominated for a decade in football, the Mountain West Conference confirmed with a statement Friday.
This is a huge win for both Boise State and the Mountain West, and I'll explain why. For Boise, this represents competition. No more eight-week stretches with irrelevant games against San Jose State, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech, games Boise can win by four touchdowns with nobody outside the state of Idaho giving the slightest crap. There will suddenly be meaningful matchups with Utah, BYU and TCU (assuming those schools are still there when the dust settles), which will give Boise the legitimacy it can't get in a conference full of third-tier schools. An undefeated season by a preseason top-10 team in the new-and-improved Mountain West might actually be enough to garner BCS title game consideration.

As for the Mountain West, there's a very simple, very obvious reason to bring in Boise State: an automatic BCS bid. The BCS determines its autobids using a rolling three-year formula, and when Boise's three-year record is added to the already-close-to-enough performances of Utah, BYU and TCU, there's a good chance the MWC will qualify for an autobid and all the money that comes with it. The whole BCS system could change once all this expansion mania is complete, but as things stand now, the Mountain West will be as good as the Big East.

And this probably won't be the last move by the Mountain West. Boise was actually expected to be invited last week -- the conference just held off because everybody wanted to wait and see what would happen with the Big 12. Unless Texas pulls a shocker and decides to stay put (which a few teams have to be desperately hoping for at this point), there will be some quality leftovers in the refrigerator. Kansas? Kansas State? Baylor? Iowa State? The Mountain West will have its pick of some/all of those teams. None of them really move the needle nationally in football, but the Kansas schools are good from time to time and basketball would get a MASSIVE boost. The conference would suddenly be relevant in both major sports.

Like everyone else, the MWC now just has to wait for the Big 12 fallout to see where it goes next. It could end up staying at 10 teams or it could end up with as many as 16. But even if the Big 12 stays intact, the Mountain West will be a lot stronger coming out of expansion than it was going in.

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