For those still tracking the Mountain West's efforts to become a BCS bowl conference (anyone? anyone?), don't hold your breath.
As they say in Cliche Town, USA, this is a marathon, not a sprint. It's just that the MWC appears to have made a bathroom stop at the six-mile mark of a very long race.
The conference took a hit last weekend when Utah lost at Oregon and BYU fell to Florida State. Those games dropped the MWC's record to 3-8 this year against teams from Automatic Qualifying (AQ) conferences.
Is that egg on their faces, or just banana cream pie?
A national playoff may be the best solution for all non-AQ conferences, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. The BCS contract runs through 2013. The likeliest shot Utah and BYU will ever get at getting a national title isn't to beat everyone they play (though that's a nice start), get into a BCS conference (no telling when that could happen), or hope for a national playoff (in their dreams). It is to fashion the Mountain West into a BCS conference.
Bring the mountain to Mohammad.
As they say in marriage therapy, don't try to change them, change you.
That begins by overtaking the weakest dog in the pack, the Big East. Fortuitously, Louisville is in town to play Utah on Saturday at Rice-Eccles. It's a nice chance to score some talking points. Besides, there's not much else the Mountain West can do. It has tried being politely persuasive. It has asked pretty please and appeared before Congress.
No word on whether it sent chocolate-covered strawberries.
Either way, a full and fair playoff isn't imminent. Congress is filled with people who live in AQ conference territory.
So Plan B for the MWC is to confiscate the spot currently held by the Big East, thus becoming one of six automatic qualifying conferences.
AQ conferences are selected on three criteria: BCS computer ratings, position of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings each year, and total number of teams in the BCS's final Top 25. Last season was the first of a four-year evaluation cycle. The MWC had the No. 6-rated team (Utah) in the final BCS ranking, the Big East No. 12 (Cincinnati). The MWC had three teams rated among the top 25, the Big East two. And the MWC had the Nos. 5, 10 and 16 computer-rated teams, the Big East had Nos. 12 and 18.
Clearly, the MWC was the better conference last year.
But, like most jobs, no matter how good you are on a particular day, you have to turn around and do it again the next day, too.
In the previous cycle, the Mountain West was bested by the Big East in three of the four years. Now the two conferences are being compared again. The MWC has two ranked teams this year, the Big East one. (BCS power ratings don't come out until October.) But so far in 2009, the Big East is only 3-5 vs. teams from other AQ conferences, the MWC the aforementioned 3-8.
So the Mountain West is far from making an overwhelming case.
Meanwhile, Boise State of the WAC is trying to make the same case as Utah did in 2004 and 2008. It is 3-0, and it's clamoring for inclusion. Too bad the rest of its conference isn't much help. The WAC is 2-6 against teams from AQ conferences this year, and its strength of schedule is low.
Which brings us back to MWC commissioner Craig Thompson's mantra: Don't just play big teams, beat big teams. Then the conference will rise in all the ratings that count. If it rises beyond the Big East for the next three years, it will be in the country club.
Then the MWC won't have to worry about Congress intervening on its behalf, or even the largess of other conferences.
If you can't change a club's rules, meet the criteria to get in.
Leave the complaining to those that don't.
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