June was a crazy month for NCAA football. It seemed that no matter where you looked, there were rumors, speculation, and general unrest regarding college football.
Rumors of conference expansion had been looming and gaining credibility since last year. The second the ’09/’10 season ended in January, the word was spreading that the Big 10 was looking to add at least 1 more team in order to have the minimum 12 team conference required by the NCAA to host a conference championship game.
The Big 10’s brother conference to the west, the PAC-10, joined the conversation shortly thereafter.
A conference championship game would not only add another revenue opportunity for the conferences, although it was most likely the central motivation behind the additions, but would also give the conference another shot at giving their champion a boost in the BCS rankings prior to the bowl selections.
The University of Utah and Colorado University were included in almost all PAC-10 expansion scenarios due to the type of institutions the PAC-10 would most likely look for.
On the surface, Utah fit the PAC-10 prototype for their work as a research institution, the Salt Lake City TV market they dominate, and their overall success the last 20 years in basketball, football, and other athletic programs.
Utah currently owns the nations longest bowl win streak (9) and boasts a perfect 2-0 BCS record, outscoring their opponents 66-24 in the 2 games.
Although basketball at the U this past season was anything but impressive, they have always been able to compete year in and year out with the best in and out of the conference.
But will that soon change?
Supporters of the Mountain West Conference will try to argue that the conference schedule in the MWC is more challenging than that of the PAC-10. To which I say, “nice try.”
Right now, sure, I would say that TCU is better than any other team from the PAC-10 conference and Washington State is worse (probably) than any in the MWC. That being said, the Mountain West Conference is TCU, Utah, BYU and company. The same cannot be said of the PAC-10 recently.
In the past, USC dominated the PAC-10 landscape and the race was for 2nd place in the conference. But over the last few years, teams such as Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford, and Washington have been on the rise to the point where now, you have 5-6 very competitive teams, each with very talented players.
Not only does the PAC-10 have a higher number of capable teams, but the fan bases and stadiums are more intense. Only 2 Universities in the PAC-10 have stadiums with capacities under 50K, whereas, the Mountain West has only 3 teams with stadiums over 50K.
The bottom line in this scenario is that the MWC had 4 teams finish in the bottom 40 (CBSSports.com full rankings) compared to the PAC-10’s lone bottom 40 team, Washington State.
Maybe the Utes won’t face 2 teams in the PAC-10 in one year as good as TCU and BYU were last year, but I can also assure you they won’t have the luxury of facing teams the likes of CSU, UNLV, Wyoming, New Mexico, and San Diego State week in and week out either.