Picture the M.W.C. in 2013 and Beyond
By Paul Myerberg // May 8, 2012
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.
Tags: B.Y.U., Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Jim McElwain, Mountain West, Nevada, T.C.U., Tim DeRuyter, Troy Calhoun, Utah
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