Monday, January 04, 2010

Grading the Mountain West and WAC bowls

In its bowl games, the Mountain West made a strong case for the conference depth, with the fourth and fifth place teams etching out impressive victories over quality teams. BYU and Utah proved they could handle the Pac-10 just fine. The winning streak, alas, came to an end when TCU lost to Boise State. However, the 4-1 record is one of the best of any conferences.
The WAC, on the other hand, would be best off sticking to the state of Idaho. Both Idaho and Boise State had nice victories, almost compensating for the ugly losses by Nevada and Fresno State.

Wyoming: A+ (35-28 vs. Fresno State )
Fresno State: D-
An overtime thriller by a 5th place Mountain West team - a team that barely squeaked in to a bowl game. Fresno State is a quality team that almost always has a winning season in spite of one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. Wyoming? During the regular season, they were outscored 193-327. The only team with a winning record they beat was 7-5 Weber State (a I-AA team). This is the type of team you'd expect to be happy to get blown away at a bowl game. Instead, they manage to fight out a win. This is perhaps the best statement for depth that the Mountain West can make.

Air Force: A+ (47-20 vs. Houston) Houston has 10 wins, including victories over three BCS conference teams. Houston's victories were not over cupcakes: four of the teams they beat were playing in bowls. The three loses were all close. Air Force had only managed to beat one bowl team (Wyoming). Houston and Air Force had met two times last season (including the Armed Forces bowl last season.) Both teams were familiar with each other and familiar with the bowl. It seemed that Houston would have cake walk. Instead, Air Force blew them away. The Mountain West has four power teams.

BYU: A (44-20 vs. Oregon State) Perhaps BYU should sell Las Vegas bowl tickets as part of the season ticket package. It seems that no matter where they finish in the conference, they end up in Vegas. Oregon State was probably disappointed to miss out on the rose bowl and a little unfamiliar with Vegas in December. However, that is not an excuse for getting blown away. BYU showed that it is a power school.

Utah: A (37-27 vs Cal) Due to television-induced scheduling weirdness, Cal played Washington the week after the "Big Game" with Stanford. Thus they followed up a great rivalry victory with an ugly loss. Utah also ended the season with a rivalry loss. After last season's Sugar Bowl victory, Utah had high hopes, until the early season loss to Oregon smashed them. After starting out strong this season, Cal also had high hopes - until an early season loss to Oregon smashed them. In the end Utah was able to stay a little more focused and continue their nine game bowl victory streak (tying them with USC for most in a row)

Boise State: B+ (17-10)
Neither team looked great on the big stage. Boise State now matched Utah's two wins in BCS bowls. TCU goes home with yet another "might have been" season. It's unfortunate that they didn't get a chance to take on Florida and Cincinnati. I guess the powers that be figured Boise State would be the best way to stop the Mountain West bowl streak. These were two closely matched teams, with a close score,so it is hard to penalize either too much. However, TCU was the strong favorite. Perhaps this will be the impetus to add Boise to the Mountain West. The Fiesta bowl may also think twice about inviting two non-BCS schools.

Idaho (43-32 vs. Bowling Green): A. Coming from the dregs of the WAC to pull off their second bowl win ever. Perhaps the Pac-10 will invite Idaho back. Well, at least the on-off rivalry with Washington State will no longer look like a high school game. This looked like the feel-good season turn around bowl victory - until it was eclipsed by another game involving a WAC team.

Nevada (10-45 vs SMU): F. Nevada was supposed to be a good team. SMU managed a great turn-around, going from two victories in the last two seasons to a bowl game this season. However, they also managed to lose to Washington State. Nobody loses to Washington State. But, they managed to bask in the sun in Hawaii. Perhaps the Hawaii band-members that Nevada recruited were really June Jones turncoats. Or maybe we can just blame injuries. Regardless of the blame, Nevada simply embarrassed itself.

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