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7/21 Roundtable - 5 Thoughts On The M-West
BYU RB Harvey Unga
BYU RB Harvey Unga
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 21, 2009


7/21 Roundtable - Five thoughts on the upcoming Mountain West season. It's the Tuesday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

July 21

5 Thoughts on the Mountain West.

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
7/20 5 Thoughts on the SEC

7/16 5 Thoughts on the ACC

7/15 5 Thoughts on the WAC
7/14 5 Thoughts on the Sun Belt

7/13 5 Thoughts on the Big 12
7/10 M-West & the BCS
7/9 Guilty Pleasures
7/8 OU or OSU - Biggest BCS Bust
7/7 5th BCS Game
7/4 Should the SEC get a BCS break?
7/3 There should be a playoff
7/2 There shouldn't be a playoff
7/1 The unbreakable record
6/30 BCS on ESPN
6/29 Best non-BCS program
6/26 Rule changes
6/25 Why does the Big 10 stink?
6/24 Top 3 non-conference games
6/23 Coach on the hot seat
6/22 The No. 5 team is ...
6/19 Most underrated teams
6/18 Most overrated teams
6/17 BCS title sleeper
6/16 Do 40 times matter?
6/15 Is a Rooney Rule needed?
6/12 Should Bama vacate wins?
6/11 Should players be paid?
6/10 Recruiting hype
6/9 Your No. 1 draft pick
6/8 Where would you coach?
6/5 Who does the least with the most?
6/4 Who does the most with the least?
6/3 Sept. star players
6/2 Who'll generate early buzz?
6/1 The one coach you'd want
5/29 Tebow, McCoy, or Bradford?
5/28 Should the Big Ten expand?
5/27 Should the Pac 10 expand?
5/26 Chizik, Kiffin, or Mullen?
5/24 Heisman sleepers
5/22 Most interesting teams
5/21 Is Tebow the best ever?
5/20 When should polls come out?
5/19 The M-West & the BCS, Part 1
5/18 BCS or bust for Weis

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Mountain West.

A:
Great leagues aren't great because of what's on the top; it's what happens in the middle and on the bottom. The SEC doesn't get the love it does because of Florida or LSU; it gets the credit because there are so many dangerous, solid teams across the board that can rise up and provide challenges. The same goes for the Big 12 over the last few years, especially in the South, and soon, the ACC is going to start getting more credit for being loaded with good teams.

Now it's time for the Mountain West to start getting better on the bottom. Just because one great Utah team came up with a whale of a season and a great bowl performance over a mopey Alabama squad, that doesn't automatically mean the league deserves more consideration than it's already being given. After all, while Mountain West fans and powers-that-be might point to the Sugar Bowl as a reason why the league should be a part of the BCS, others will throw in a tape of BYU against Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl and Air Force's second half against Cal and argue the other way.

There's no question that Utah, BYU, and TCU are good enough to hang around with the big boys, but if the Mountain West is going to make another big step forward, Colorado State needs to keep improving (which it appears to be doing) under Steve Fairchild, the lights have to finally go on at San Diego State and UNLV, and New Mexico and Wyoming have to go back to being pesky and full of potential, like they appeared to be a few years ago.

Of course, every conference has a Duke or a Mississippi State or a Washington State (at least from last year) who brings everyone down, but the Mountain West needs to have more challengers to the Big Three, and it needs to keep coming up with nice wins like it got throughout last year against the Pac 10. Of course, the problem then becomes trying to get a star team into the BCS if there are more landmines to sidestep, Utah wouldn't have been going to the Sugar last year if it had slipped anywhere along the way, but the hope is that everyone will be able to properly analyze the improved conference and give the credit where it's due.

The litmus test will be Air Force. No offense to a good program that obviously has a nice formula that works, but with its recruiting limitations and its lack of overall talent because of those barriers, the team can't be a major factor in conference play. If Air Force is the No. 4 team, like it was last year, then the bottom five has issues. A great season from the Falcons will show how mediocre the talent level is in the rest of the Mountain West, but that doesn't mean they won't still be competitive and a tough out each and every week. Now it's up to UNLVs and San Diego States of the league to be as competitive. And it's up to the BCS voters to keep giving the Mountain West champion a shot at the big boys.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Mountain West.

A:
Could Brady Hoke be the single most important man in the Mountain West?

Utah, BYU, and TCU are here to stay. In the league’s battle for more national respect and a possible automatic BCS bowl bid, however, it would help to have another program making headlines and occasionally stiff-arming a name-brand opponent. Say, one located in a major market, such as Southern California?

San Diego State has long been an untapped commodity in college football. I never could quite figure out why this program has been so bad for so long. Heck, in a system that now hands out invitations for a 6-6 record, the Aztecs have bowled just three times in the last four decades and not once since 1998. Why? It’s one of the more ideal locations in the country for recruiting and overall quality of life, and academics are not going to put up hurdles in the courting of marginal student-athletes or junior-college transfers. There are a bunch of schools, such as Cincinnati, TCU, and South Florida, doing just fine on leftovers. And there’s no reason why San Diego State can’t follow that same model.

There are tons of talented kids from California that get ignored by USC and UCLA, and wind up populating rosters of teams in the WAC, Mountain West, and the Pacific Northwest. More of those kids need to consider the Mesa a viable option, which is where Hoke enters the equation. He knows something about doing more with less, having guided Ball State out of the depths of irrelevance to last year’s 12-win season and first-ever appearance in the Top 25.

To be sure, it’s going to take time, but if Hoke can turn Ball State into a winner, there’s no reason why he can’t get the job done at San Diego State. And if the Aztecs ever become the type of program that Pac-10 teams are leery of scheduling, it’ll be an important win for the rest of the Mountain West. 

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Mountain West.

A:
When TCU—powerful but mistake-prone; souped-up yet frail—eventually outlasted Boise State in a terrific Poinsettia Bowl last December, the weight of the world (or at least Fort Worth) had to fall off the shoulders of the Purple pack from Texas. In one cathartic 17-16 triumph, a program that has often excelled but rarely grabbed the big prizes finally ended a season in style. The bucking of Boise—another high-profile school from a non-power conference—allowed coach Gary Patterson to bask in the glow of a big-league win that considerably enhanced the Horned Frogs’ portfolio. A stunning, late loss to Utah—in a game with far more implications than anyone could have known at the time—was the only stumble separating TCU from an 11-win regular season and a certain bid in a BCS bowl, perhaps the very same Sugar Bowl used by Utah in its emphatic upset of Alabama. TCU is still waiting for that man-making motivational moment, but when the Frogs found a finishing kick against the WAC champions on a pre-Christmas night in San Diego, they just might have allowed the program to acquire that small but crucial measure of added confidence which makes all the difference between a league champion and a strong runner-up.

BYU gets to host both TCU and Utah this season, but with their 2008 education lodged firmly between their receptive ears, the Horned Frogs stand to be the team most likely to stand atop the Mountain (West) this season. It’s not a question of talent or ability; a team of TCU toughs must exhibit the mental strength that has—for alternating periods of time—proven to be elusive in recent seasons. Patterson’s pupils should be able to apply painful lessons from the past. If they do, they should find themselves in a BCS battle come January of 2010.
 
Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Mountain West.

A: I am not one of those folks that thinks the Mountain West deserves an automatic bid into the BCS.  They don't produce what I deem to be a BCS bowl worthy team each year the way the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 have done in recent years.  Wait a second, am I talking about the Mountain West, or the Big East?  The Mountain West was a better league than the Big East was last year, and you know what, it might be again this year.  Last year, BYU, Utah and TCU were better than any three teams the Big East could muster.  So Mr. Hatch, I can feel ya a little bit here...maybe your argument should be that 'If we can't get in, then a Big East team shouldn't get in.'  Take up the jealous sibling argument and you might have something here.  I think the Big Three in the Mountain West have a shot of winning 10 games again this year.  Colorado State returns a ton on the offensive line, too and they might beat Colorado in a very underrated season opening rivalry game.  Most college football fans are fine watching Utah, TCU and BYU play each other on a Thursday night, but we really don't want you crashing the BCS party...sort of like the way Pitt crashed the party several years go as a nine-win team from the Big East.  Then again that was a half step below the nine-win Illini going to the Rose Bowl.  OK, I had better stop before I talk myself into believing the Mountain West deserves a bid.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Mountain West.

A: They’re almost there.  Okay, they’re pretty much there already.  The Mountain West is playing football at a BCS conference level, and above that level when you compare them to the ACC and the Big East.

Utah is fresh off of their second BCS bowl win after dismantling Alabama in New Orleans.  You can talk all you want about the Tide’s absent All-America Andre Smith, but the fact remains that the Utes beat an SEC team that had national title aspirations until they lost to the eventual national champs.  Utah already broke the barrier with a previous Fiesta Bowl win over Pitt. 

Now it’s up to the other guys to crash in and disrupt the imperfect order that is the Bowl Championship Series.  This could be the year.

TCU gets back the best pass rusher in the country in Jerry Hughes, and even though he’s one of only four starters returning, this defense is always one of the top stop units in the country.  Just ask the high-flying Boise State offense which was held to 16 points in their loss to the Horned Frogs.  And BYU still has the Max Hall window open even after losing national receiving leader Austin Collie.  One of these two teams will have to step up this season to really add some oomph to the conference’s argument that they belong.

It’s not that Utah couldn’t be back in the BCS in 2010 though.  The Utes have another strong defense and might ride that to another MWC title, which is coming closer and closer to being an automatic bid.  But for the sake of the Mountain West, someone else needs to prove on the field that they’re as good as the Alabamas and Pittsburghs of the college football world.  Right now, it’s easy for anti-playoff dollar-hoarding BCS apologists to excuse the MWC from the big boys’ table by claiming that “it’s just one team that’s any good.”  Having BYU or TCU stomp out a signature win would go along way towards cementing this league’s status as elite.

Even if they don’t make it to the BCS, each team should have a chance to make a statement in the regular season.  The Horned Frogs play two of their first three games on the road at ACC “decents” Clemson and Virginia, while BYU starts things off in Norman against Oklahoma before hosting Florida State in week three.  Winning two of those four won’t be easy on its own, but if they can somehow go a combined 3-1, it will do more than most people think for the MWC’s national reputation.  The time is right for this conference to make a major move.