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Are the Broncos better off in a Mountain West without Utah than they were in the WAC?

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The fallout from Texas's decision to stay in the Big XII is expected to cost the Mountain West one of its best teams. With the Utes destined for the Pac-10, does Boise State's new conference suddenly look far less appealing? Is it still a better option than staying in the WAC?

After the jump, I offer a couple of notes on how the latest conference realignment affects the Broncos, and then I'll leave it open for your thoughts and comments on BSU's brand new conference sans one of its best programs.

Boise State is the Mountain West's new Utah

It appears ever more likely that, when all the dust settles on The Great Conference Expansion that Wasn't, the Mountain West will have essentially swapped Utah for Boise State.

Are the Broncos better off in a Mountain West without Utah than they were in the WAC?

Some things to consider:

  • The competition is still better. Stick TCU and BYU in the WAC, and they would dominate it like Boise State has. Stick Wyoming and Air Force in there, and Nevada would have serious competition. Top to bottom, the Mountain West has been a much better conference over the past couple seasons. And that makes Karl Benson sad.
  • The money is still better. Boise State will make more money in the Mountain West with or without Utah. In fact, with Utah gone, the payout to conference teams goes from a ten-way split to a nine-way split. Let's get rid of New Mexico while we're at it. Am I right?
  • An automatic BCS berth looks unlikely now. See below.
  • With Utah in the conference, the Mountain West was legitimately on par with several BCS conferences. With Utah gone, the Mountain West is still very good, but no longer elite.

Bye-bye BCS?

Losing Utah would strike a serious blow to the Mountain West's chances of earning an automatic berth in the BCS once the new cycle kicks in 2012. Depending on when Utah leaves, the Utes may be taking their BCS resume with them. Per Chadd Cripe:

If the Utes don't leave until 2012, the league would be able to count both (Boise State and Utah's) football performances toward eligibility for an automatic Bowl Championship Series berth in 2012 and 2013, but it would have a weaker case to make in front of the presidential oversight committee, which most likely will determine the Mountain West's fate.

If the Utes leave in 2011, only the Broncos' results would count. That would put the Mountain West right back where it was before inviting Boise State - a solid but fairly distant seventh in average team ranking.

Nebraska wanting to leave the Big XII as soon as yesterday and no later than 2011 would presumably push up Colorado's timetable for departure, despite a Big XII bylaw that punishes schools for leaving with only a year's notice. Utah is expected to join the Pac-10 whenever Colorado does.

But hey, there's this now. The winner of the Mountain West is likely to get an automatic berth in the BCS anyway. Think about it: The MWC is easily the best non-BCS conference of them all. The top teams in that conference are going to be perennial Top 25 teams. Schools in other non-BCS conferences will fight the same stigma that Boise State fought in the WAC for the past five years. A one-loss TCU would get the non-BCS at-large bid way before an undefeated Houston would. It's favoritism at its finest, and Boise State is finally on the good end of it.

But still, that automatic BCS thing would be nice.

Boise State's 2011 schedule, featuring just as much Utah as before

Just because Utah is headed to the Pac-10 doesn't mean that the Broncos won't have them on the schedule for the next several years. The Broncos and Utes resume their four-game series starting next year with Utah's visit to Bronco Stadium (the first game of the series came in the 2006 season). In 2012 and 2013, the teams play a home-and-home. In 2014, college football as we know it probably won't even exist.

Of course, moving Utah from a conference game to a nonconference game adds to the unlikelihood that the Idaho Vandals will be on the schedule in 2011. If Utah leaves, the Broncos would have four non-conference games, which would max out their schedule if the MWC has an eight-game conference season. And there is no amount of pushy Brian Murphy op-ed columns that can make it any better.

Speaking of the Mountain West conference schedule ...

... it will likely remain as an eight-gamer. If the Utes had stayed, commissioner Craig Thompson would have had to decide between an eight-game schedule where not every team plays each other every year or a nine-game schedule that only allows for three non-conference games. Don't you love it when your decisions are made for you? Pat Hill sure does.

Is the Mountain West done expanding?

All signs point to yes. There are no other available teams that can help the Mountain West's BCS bottom line. There has never been a huge desire from current MWC presidents to be anything other than a nine- or ten-team conference. Nobody else wants to be saddled with the despair of The .Mtn network. Unless something major happens, expect the Mountain West to stand pat.

Apocalypse now expansion theory: Big XII goes to 12

Though it appears that the Big XII is content at remaining with 10 schools, there is always the possibility that further expansion back to 12 teams is out there. And if it's out there, it may very well include plucking BYU and TCU from the Mountain West. And if that's the case, then Fresno and Nevada might be in play for MWC expansion.


Your turn

What do you think of a Mountain West Conference without Utah? Is this conference still a better place for the Broncos than the WAC? Is losing out on a BCS bid worth the move? Will life not be worth living if BYU and TCU leave? Share your thoughts in the comments.