Here are my big questions for the MWC:
1) Can BYU succeed in its “quest for perfection”?
a. Who will win in Salt Lake during Thanksgiving weekend?
2) How many BCS teams will fall to MWC opponents this season?
3) What is the MWC’s BCS future?
1) 2006 was one of BYU’s more productive seasons and, unfortunately, more attractive draft classes. The defense, which was sufficient in 2006, was still in tact in 2007, but the offense was in rebuilding mode last year. The beginning of the season was rough, but the Cougars were able to take advantage of Ute injuries and Horn Frog off-the-field challenges to slide into another conference championship. BYU was rarely the conference’s best team at any particular point in the season—they were just the best team on the field at the time they were playing.(Performance and Reputation ratings are explained here and here)
This year’s team is still riding the laurels of that 2006 team which has now been completely stripped on both sides of the ball. The offense should be competent, but not explosive, and the defense is full of question marks. The Cougars should win, but might lose, non-conference games against Washington and UCLA and road games at TCU and Air Force. If they are still without blemish come Thanksgiving, though, another Holy War classic could be in the making.
Utah outperformed BYU most of last season (even when they were on the same field), but struggled with injuries and inconsistency. They will again field a very competitive team this year and will be wanting revenge after two heartbreaking Holy War losses in consecutive years (2006, 2007). Best case scenario for BYU, this game is a toss-up.
I give BYU a 12% chance of running the table in the regular season, which are better odds than any team not coached by Pete Carroll. That gives them a 12% chance of crashing the BCS party this season.
2) What do Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Iowa State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Stanford, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Washington all have in common? First, they are all in BCS conferences (or, in ND’s case, have special BCS arrangements). Second, they all run the risk of losing regular season games to MWC opponents.
The teams most at risk of losing are UCLA (@ BYU), Arizona (@ New Mexico), Stanford (@ TCU), Washington (vs. BYU), Iowa St. (@ UNLV), and Oregon St. (@ Utah). Other games on the list would be upsets, but few of them are out of reach. If MWC teams could knock off a few other big names on the list—Utah @ Michigan would be huge and TCU @ Oklahoma and San Diego State @ Notre Dame (which is mildly possible if Weiss decides to field another 4 win team) would also be big—the MWC could see its price rise quickly. If BYU heads the way and wins a BCS bowl game, this conference and the WAC might be raising their voices against the current system.
3) This brings me to the MWC and WAC BCS futures. The two conferences have produced BCS teams three of the last four years and could be sending a fourth in five. And they have a much better winning percentage in BCS bowl games than, for example, OU.
I propose that, if the two conferences have respectful seasons this year, the MWC and WAC bid to lock up a BCS spot for a bi-conference champion. The champions of the two conferences meet for a bi-conference championship game during the same weekend that the Big XII, SEC and ACC are having their conference championship games. There is no doubt in my mind that these two conferences could consistently produce a team as competitive as some of those sent to represent the Big East and ACC in years past—and even the Big XII just two year ago.