With the departure of the Mountain West Conference flagships of Utah, BYU, and soon-to-be-gone TCU, the question on everyone's mind this year is who holds the keys that could unlock the BCS doors for the MWC?
Well, it looks like Boise State holds the keys if you listen to MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. Yesterday, he told "Mr. College Football" Tony Barnhart on Barnhart's radio show that a Bronco win against an SEC heavy, in its own backyard, and would be "huge" for the conference's effort to gain an automatic BCS bid to the big leagues. I mean, he didn't just come out and say that Boise State has the keys, but there is no doubt as to his meaning: its up to Boise State to carry the MWC banner this year.
Backing him up is Matt Hinton at Rivals.com. Sort of. He says the entire future of the Mountain West Conference is riding on Boise State's shoulders and that future could be in trouble unless the Bronco's beat Georgia on September 3rd at the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. Hinton points out that like last year's Boise State win over Virginia Tech, a recognizable, big-time opponent, would instantly put the Broncos on the short list for another BCS bid---providing they once again run the table and finish undefeated. He notes it would mark the fourth straight season the Mountain West got its champion into a BCS game with three different schools. That alone could probably double the MWC's chances of getting an automatic BCS bid.
But Hinton is also quick to point out that the MWC needs more than just shocking upsets from the teams at the top of the conference, but, as he put it, "better production from the New Mexico's, Wyoming's and UNLV's creating dead weight at the bottom." His words, not mine. But I do have to agree with him. It's the three or four schools at the bottom of the conference that are keeping the MWC from reaching the number it needs to force the BCS under its own bylaws to open its door to membership.
The keys to those BCS doors rest with the other conference members. We all need to man up---especially this year when the BCS will be eye-balling the conference for a possible membership waiver. It will be the last time the MWC gets to list TCU's record on the Mountain West Conference resumé. Hinton mentioned the MWC needs a "miracle upset" by Wyoming over Nebraska on Sept. 24 at Laramie. That's possible. Sure, the Cornhuskers are big and mean and tough. But they gave up 3 games last year and it took overtime to beat Iowa State (5-7) by a score of 31-30. Even Idaho went down to Lincoln and layed 17 points on them last season and in turn held them to 37 points, so it could be done.
There is no question that the bottom half of the league needs to improve and that they hold the BCS keys. But right now, only Wyoming has the field, the altitude, the schedule, and the possible upset capablilty over a storybook opponent that can shake up the BCS and strengthen the MWC case for inclusion.
Its the beginning of a new era for the MWC. It's time to step up to the next level.