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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

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Picture the M.W.C. in 2013 and Beyond

Upon further review of today’s post on Colorado State, one line that I first viewed as a throwaway quote seemed worthy of future examination: “The Mountain West will have a power vacuum after this season,” I wrote, “and there’s no reason why the Rams, after one or two seasons of development, can’t be one of two or three teams capable of filling the void.” While this idea — that the Mountain West will be up for grabs beginning in 2013 — has no impact on Colorado State’s coming season, the idea that the Rams stand as one of a few teams in line to take control of this Boise State-free league come next fall is an important factor for the program to consider as it struggles through an inevitable first-year learning curve under former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain.

There’s little doubt that C.S.U., like a Nevada or Hawaii, among others, is looking at the soon-to-be vacuum atop the league and envisioning the sort of conference domination that has belonged to one of four teams over the last half-decade.

And all four of those teams are gone, or will soon be gone once this season comes to a close. Utah and B.Y.U. are already gone, to the Pac-12 and Independent status, respectively. T.C.U. capped its Mountain West run with 24 straight conference wins before heading to the Big 12, via the Big East.

The last power standing is Boise State, though the Broncos’ stay in the M.W.C. will be short-lived: after two seasons in the league, Boise will jump to the Big East in 2013 — and not quickly pass go, trading in the Big East for another B.C.S. conference, you’d think. Boise is the Mountain West favorite heading into this fall, even if the Broncos return only five starters, one of the lowest totals in the country.

Boise is the favorite because, well, they’re Boise. But the Broncos are also viewed as the prohibitive M.W.C. leader because of the dearth of conference rivals capable of leapfrogging past the Broncos and into first place.

That idea continues into 2013: Of those teams scheduled to make up the M.W.C. in 2013, is there a program that looks built to take Boise’s mantle — via B.Y.U., via Utah, via T.C.U. — and place a stranglehold on league’s top spot?

Keep in mind the fact that Boise and San Diego State, both Big East-bound, will be replaced by former WAC members Utah State and San Jose State. The league as a whole will take a significant step back in national prestige,  even if the Mountain West remains a powerful non-B.C.S. conference; however, the drop in top-tier talent carries with it the bonus of making the M.W.C., from top to bottom, a far more competitive league.

Colorado State is one team capable of stepping into Boise State’s shoes, though that comes with a caveat: I sincerely doubt any M.W.C. program’s ability to replicate all that the Broncos were able to achieve. In essence, the Mountain West’s next Boise State — or next T.C.U. — won’t be exactly like the Broncos or Horned Frogs. They’ll inhabit their spot in the Mountain West standings, but not on the national totem pole.

But part of the beauty of the future Mountain West is in its unpredictability. Colorado State is absolutely a program that can take advantage of the hole atop the league. Not this fall, and most likely not in 2013, but two years from now, the Rams should have a strong familiarity with McElwain’s system. In turn, McElwain should have the players he needs to field a consistent bowl team. C.S.U. is a Mountain West program to watch.

So is Nevada, on the other hand. And Fresno State, if the Bulldogs can find a comfort zone under new coach Tim DeRuyter and his staff. Air Force has been an eight-win team under Troy Calhoun even with T.C.U., Boise, Utah and B.Y.U. in the fold. What can the Falcons achieve without a national power standing atop the conference? Hawaii, even Utah State and San Jose State: you can see any one of the three taking the M.W.C. and running with it.

Colorado State isn’t the only program salivating at the idea of a Mountain West free of an elite program, in other words. Others, like Nevada, are patiently — and with great anticipation — awaiting the arrival of a new-look Mountain West that is far more open from spots 1-10; this will mark a great change from the recent past, when most of the league was battling for scraps.

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  1. Ezra says:

    an interesting point to compare– what was the WAC like in the season or two immediately after the MWC teams left? Was there an obvious power waiting in the wings to fill the void?

  2. Steve says:

    If AQ status is a thing of the past, wouldn’t it be wise for the teams that left for the Big East to come back? Just a thought but a Mountain West with Boise, San Diego, and possibly BYU would be stronger then the Big East led by the likes of UofL and UC.

  3. Adam Nettina says:


    Great point, and something I was thinking of while reading Paul’s story. I remember the talk at WAC Media Day in 2010 was all about which team will be the “next Boise.” The irony that we should be repreating this talk with so many of the teams who Karl Benson put forth as replacements back then.

  4. George says:

    No mention whatsoever of Wyoming by Myerberg. This is the school that will rise to top of this new MWC following the departure of the Power Four. While Nevada, Air Force, and Hawaii will be competitive and challenge, Wyoming will be the new standard for excellence. Head Coach Christensen can both recruit and coach beyond a regional level, and has a superb staff of coordinators, assistants, and others around him to help further ensure success. Most importantly Wyoming has the greatest level of institutional, state governmental, regional fan, and other support that converts to continuing success. All other schools in the new MWC have to fight and struggle just to match that, with the possible exception of Hawaii. In the next ten years, expect at least six Wyoming conference titles if this current MWC alignment holds form, even if schools like NMSU, Idaho, and potentially Montana, Montana St, or the Dakota schools join the conference down the road. The only potential roadblock: a prolonged period of head coaching instability following when and if Christensen leaves. This was the case in the 70s and 80s until Paul Roach took the helm and led the program to consecutive unbeaten conference seasons and titles in the late 80s with a continuance under Joe Tiller until he departed for Purdue.

  5. Steve says:

    George, I’ve always thought that if Wyoming could tap into a pipeline like say Texas the way WVU tapped into Florida they could be a force. Both states have small populations but love their football. WVU fans cheer for the Mountaineers because it represents their state regardless of where the players are from and it’s the only show in town.

  6. Dr. Nick says:

    There is no way BYU is going back to the MWC. Independence pays better, provides better TV exposure, the WCC is a better fit for BYU’s other sports, and BYU would never hear the end of it from Utah fans. My take is that the only things that would push BYU into a conference is if (a) scheduling become sufficiently hard with more conferences going to 9-game schedules and more agreements like the Pac-12/B1G series, or (b) if Notre Dame joins a conference, signaling the formation of super-conferences and/or a split in the FBS.

  7. southwvboy says:

    I’m sure BYU would have a home in the Big 12 if things were to get out of hand expantion wise. You would think but the ACC did take Pitt so who knows. I didn’t look at the one left behind angle BYU fans must deal with in regards to Utah. I known I was very angry over ACC taking Pitt and not WVU.

    By the way when will we see BYU football games on the BYU network?

  8. Dr. Nick says:

    As much as we Cougar fans hate to admit it, Utah getting called up to the Big Leagues was a part of BYU deciding to ditch the MWC.

    BYUtv showed one game (vs. Idaho State) last fall and will show at least one (likely vs. Weber State) this fall, although they have the rights to show anything the ABC/ESPN conglomerate decides not to show. Thus it’s possible BYUtv will get the home game against Idaho this year as well. BYUtv has been around for quite a while, although prior to last season they didn’t show any MWC sports (but they did have BYU’s national powerhouse men’s volleyball team since the MWC didn’t sponsor men volleyball).

  9. Steve says:

    I have watched a volleyball game or two on there and overall like the programming, im not a Mormon but good values are good values.

    Do they coaches shows or football insider stuff?

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