Playoffs ‘almost impossible’ for Mountain West teams

By By Chadd Cripe

The Idaho Statesman (MCT)

Published: Friday, July 25 2014 11:05 a.m. MDT

"It’s almost impossible for one of us to be one of the four teams — almost impossible," San Diego State coach Rocky Long says.

David Becker, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

LAS VEGAS — The College Football Playoff used a video spoof of the movie “Rudy” to introduce the new format to determine the national champion at conference media days around the country.

At the end, Rudy — speaking to his teammates in the locker room in 1974, getting them pumped about his playoff plan — says it will start in 40 years.

His deflated teammates walk out.

The feeling could be similar across the Mountain West.

The CFP touts “universal access” because it will include the top four teams in the country regardless of conference affiliation.

In reality, the consensus is that no team from the five non-power conferences will crack the national semifinals anytime soon.

“It’s almost impossible for one of us to be one of the four teams — almost impossible,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long said. “… The people in power will prevent that from happening.” But, like Rudy in that video, he sees change on the horizon.

“A four-team playoff in a very short period of time is going to be an eight-team playoff,” Long said. “… With eight teams, there’s going to be political pressure that our team gets in there. We’ll be the 8 seed and play the No. 1 seed, but all you want is a chance to play them.

“… People are going to love the four-team playoff. They’re going to love it so much that TV is going to want an eight-team playoff. And TV is going to pay for it. I think 16 is way down the road, but I don’t think eight is.”

The four-team playoff already has produced a massive windfall for college football, one that will trickle down to the Mountain West.

The five non-power conferences — the Mountain West, Sun Belt, Mid-American, American Athletic and Conference USA — will share an estimated $75 million per year. The money will be split among the five in part based on performance, but the average will be $15 million per conference (the five power conferences receive $50 million each).

Last year, the five non-power conferences shared $13.168 million from the Bowl Championship Series. The playoff money is 5.7 times that much.

Plus, the highest-ranked champion from the five non-power conferences will be placed in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.

The Rose, Sugar and Orange are off-limits because of conference contracts unless the Mountain West crashes the semifinals. That leaves the Fiesta (Glendale, Ariz.), Cotton (Arlington, Texas) and Peach (Atlanta) as options.

If you use the BCS standings as a guide, the automatic qualifiers in recent years would have been Fresno State (2013), Northern Illinois (2012), TCU (2011), TCU (2010), TCU (2009), Utah (2008), Hawaii (2007) and Boise State (2006). Boise State also could have received at-large bids with top 10 rankings in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Eleven of those 12 teams either played in the Mountain West at the time or do now.

“If the Mountain West champion isn’t solidly in the conversation, we did something wrong or maybe we just had bad luck and lost all 12 starting quarterbacks,” Commissioner Craig Thompson said. “We should definitely be in the mix.” The Mountain West will receive an additional $6 million if one of its teams qualifies for a semifinal, which will be played this season in the Rose and Sugar bowls.

It will receive $4 million if it earns the spot available to non-power conference teams.

Plus, the CFP provides $2 million for expenses.

In the Mountain West, the qualifying team receives 54 percent of the revenue.

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