The game clock struck zero late Saturday night in Provo, the Boise State Broncos at the wrong end of a 35-24 score, capping a day in which teams from Mountain West conference posted a record of 0-10 against non-conference teams.
Zero wins. Ten losses. Not exactly the numbers desired for a conference that often is considered the best Group of Five conference. A conference that looks to Boise State to carry that banner.
The Broncos have embraced and shouldered the heavy workload over the years, even bouncing back from two early losses in 2014 to win the Mountain West, nail down a berth in the Fiesta Bowl, and defeat the Arizona Wildcats in said bowl.
Boise State, with their last minute loss to BYU, saw their very slim chances of sneaking into the 4-team playoff vanish. It would have taken an undefeated season by the Broncos to accomplish that. Even then, it would have taken a little luck and a strong Mountain West conference showing by other teams to make that happen.
For the sake of argument, let’s drift off into dreamland and imagine that Boise State defeated BYU and went on to finish undefeated this season. A playoff committee that was deciding between a two-loss Michigan State (currently 2-0, with a win over Oregon. Once again, we’re in dreamland) and an undefeated Boise State team may look at the strength of a conference. A Mountain West conference that collectively couldn’t defeat a FBS non-conference opponent in week 2 of the season, including a record of 0-8 against schools from a Power Five conference.
Until Mountain West teams can consistently win games against teams from the Power Five conferences, the playoff committee won’t have to ever seriously consider an undefeated Mountain West team for the playoffs.
2014 seemed to mark a turning point for the Mountain West conference. Colorado State finished 10-3, with non-conference wins over Colorado (PAC-12) and Boston College (ACC). The Rams were even ranked #21 in the AP poll before a final weekend loss to Air Force, who also had 10 wins.
Week #2? Colorado State lost in the final minutes, falling to Minnesota (B1G) 23-20 at home.
Utah State posted a 10-4 record in 2014, with non-conference wins over Wake Forest (ACC) and BYU (Independent). The Aggies accomplished this without star quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who missed most of 2014 with a knee injury.
Week 2? Even with Keeton back, Utah St. lost a close game to in-state rival Utah (Pac-12).
Seven other teams failed to win their non-conference game last weekend, five of which were to teams from a Power Five conference. Fresno State lost 73-2 to Ole Miss (SEC), running their losing streak to 20 games against ranked teams.
Nevada hung tough at Arizona but ultimately lost 44-20. Nevada hasn’t beaten a ranked team since defeating #3 Boise State in 2010. San Diego State, UNLV, and Hawaii all couldn’t get it done, losing to California (Pac-12), UCLA (Pac-12), and Ohio State (B1G), respectively.
Results like this are in no way going to garner much respect for the Mountain West Conference. This is not to say a 10-0 weekend was expected but a 5-5 weekend was very possible. Weekends like that are needed if a team from the Mountain West is to ever be considered for a national playoff game.
Teams will have a chance for redemption over the coming weeks. Boise State goes against Virginia on 9/25. Colorado State travels to play Colorado on Saturday. Utah State plays Saturday as well, facing Washington. The Aggies finish the season with BYU (11/28). Fresno State hosts
UCLA Utah this weekend. San Jose State travels to Auburn in October All told, Mountain West teams have at least 14 chances against Power Five teams (and BYU). Plenty of chances to give the Mountain West a good name once again.
Preferably, Boise State will be the team that one day cracks the national playoffs. As a fan, I’d like nothing more than for the Broncos to go undefeated and bring the fight to the big dogs.
Unfortunately, until Boise State and the other Mountain West teams begin to beat teams from the Power Five conferences, that won’t happen. An undefeated team from the Mountain West Conference will simply be looked at as a team that won all of its games by playing a cupcake schedule.
As for now, the one-loss Boise State Broncos can concentrate on the season ahead. Goals are still intact for winning a Mountain West title and perhaps once again receiving an invitation to a New Year’s day bowl game for being the highest ranked team among in the Group of Five conferences. Boise State can take solace in the fact they own one of the two wins the Mountain West has over a Power Five conference this year.
The other team? None other than the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, week 1 winners over bottom feeders of the Pac-12, the Colorado Buffaloes. It’s not much but hey, at least it’s a start.