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The Countdown

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

P.S.R. Op-Ed

The Song Remains the Same

Meet the new WAC — same as the old WAC. Well, the name has changed: the WAC now goes by the Mountain West Conference, with a slight change in characters but the same predictable motif. The old WAC featured Boise State and a solid cast of understudies, with all due respect to Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada, particularly that final pair. The new WAC — though the name has changed — will run along those same lines. Well, perhaps not immediately; T.C.U. doesn’t depart for the Big East until 2012, after all.

So we’ll have one season of intriguing M.W.C. play, though it would have been far more interesting had Utah and B.Y.U. remained in the conference and not gone the Pac-10 and Independent route, respectively. That pair’s departure, as well as T.C.U.’s terrific move to the Big East, rips the would-be power conference of three premier members. What’s left?

Not much, though it could be worse. The Mountain West could be the real WAC, which by this time in 2012 will be the biggest embarrassment in the F.B.S. — yes, perhaps more so than the lowly Sun Belt. So things aren’t quite that bad.

The real danger is that the M.W.C. becomes as one-sided as the WAC, however. Yes, Nevada just beat Boise State; that’s far from a regular occurrence. More often that not, Boise runs through conference play unscathed. More often than not, the top quartet of the WAC — in no specific order — fell thusly: Boise, Nevada, Hawaii, Fresno State. Look for more of the same once T.C.U. departs for the Big East.

Well, perhaps not quite. The M.W.C. will be far stronger from top to bottom than the WAC, for starters. Gone are teams like San Jose State, New Mexico State and Utah State. Gone are the middle-tier teams like Louisiana Tech and Idaho, replaced by programs like San Diego State and Air Force. That’s where the M.W.C. stands as a significant improvement, from top to bottom, from the current WAC.

What won’t change is what happens at the top. Air Force is a very good program, one that will win consistently as long as Troy Calhoun remains in charge. San Diego State looks built for the long haul, though I doubt its long-term viability should Brady Hoke take the Minnesota job, for instance. Still, I don’t see either team standing as a threat to Boise’s dominance.

That’s on a yearly basis. Yes, Air Force or S.D.S.U. might rise up and bite Boise once, maybe twice — Nevada did in 2009, Hawaii did it back in 2007. That’s not going to happen every season. For that, Boise should break out the university stationary and write T.C.U. a short, meaningful note: “Thanks.”

Thank you, T.C.U., for opening up our road to yearly B.C.S. play, the note should continue. We’ll enjoy our shared conference for one season, but we won’t be sad to see you leave. We’ll be grateful for your departure, in fact. Our road just got a whole lot easier.

In that sense, so little has changed. The Mountain West will remain the Mountain West, in name at least, but in its heart, deep down inside, this is just a new, flashier, more well-respected WAC.

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  1. DMK says:

    … and Boise will always be undefeated and therefore one of the best teams in the nation. Yay!

  2. Burnt Orange says:

    … and Chris Petersen,currently at 56-5,remains a threat to surpass Knute Rockne’s all time career winning percentage for Division I coaches.

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