Sure, the Mountain West still has TCU and newcomer Boise State, but make no mistake, the conference is a lot weaker today with the news that BYU is almost-certainly going independent for football.
If you're a fan of Big East football...that's a very good thing.
The Big East is officially turning into college football's Dukes of Hazzard. They keep getting into crazy predicaments only to jump the General Lee at the last moment and live to see another day.
It looks like they're going to get raided by the Big Ten...somehow the mighty Big 12 crumbles instead.
Just when it seemed like a non-BCS conference was overtaking it in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere...that conference loses two of it's best programs.
The Big East doesn't do anything proactively to protect itself...but then again it looks like it doesn't have to.
Fact: The Mountain West has been considered a better football conference than the Big East for the past five years. You can probably give me stats and bowl games and attendance numbers that say otherwise but perception is reality.
Big East officials like to talk about how even and strong the conference is from top to bottom. But parity doesn't get people excited. You know what does? Being elite. Going undefeated. Being ranked among the best teams in the nation. And that's where the MWC (and new member Boise State) has been drop-kicking the Big East for the last few years.
Last year, Boise State (#2) and TCU (#6) finished higher than Big East champ Cincinnati (#8). BYU finished #12, ahead of #15 Pittsburgh.
In 2008, Utah (#2), TCU (#7) and Boise (#11) all finished higher in the polls than BE champ Cincy (#17).
When TCU caught up with Utah and BYU the last few years, you knew that something big was on the horizon. Either one of these teams was going to play for the national title very soon or the conference itself would gain membership into the BCS. Either of those things would only strengthen the case that MWC > Big East.
The MWC has had a pretty clear hierarchy. Utah, BYU and recently TCU made up the elite while everyone else fought for tablescraps. With Boise State coming in, a foursome like that could rival any other BCS foursome in terms of wins and conference titles over the past decade.
Whn Utah left, that was a blow. But they were replaced by Boise State, the football version of replacing Leonardo DiCaprio with Brad Pitt in your movie. Not much drop-off there. However, now that BYU has left, that's two of it's top tier programs on the outs. Here's what you're left with:
San Diego State
With TCU and Boise, you've still got some quality. But there's a lot less bark in that dog. And BYU also takes a lot of history and tradition with them, which still matter in college football. The MWC had the chance to change the college football landscape for the better. Instead, it looks like it'll remain exactly where it is, no matter how many undefeated Boise State seasons.
In fact, Mountain West Connection posits that their blog might not have a reason for existing much longer if TCU and Boise read the writing on the wall.
The first thing that happens is TCU calls the Big-12 and Conference-USA immediately. The Big-12 will say, "call us in two years." But the CUSA will welcome them with open arms. With Utah and BYU gone, there is no reason for TCU to stick around. CUSA's current teams are equal with the remnants of the MWC (except for BSU). So going CUSA is a given, their travel will be greatly reduced and they have more natural rivals.
They even mention that Boise State might actually still have the chance to back out and return to the WAC if they do so by September 1st. Given how much weaker the MWC is today than it was yesterday, I wouldn't put that out of the realm of possibility. The WAC would welcome them back with open arms, I'm sure.
And of course, if TCU and Boise start to explore other options, the floodgates re-open. If Conference USA begins to expand, maybe the Big East does them a favor and takes Memphis and East Carolina off their hands. This is all getting way ahead of ourselves, but lesser events have sparked conference realignments (as we just saw).
In the meantime, the Big East can rest a little easier knowing that the populous will return them to the No. 6 spot of Best Conferences In All The Land. Don't be surprised to find out John Marinatto has already sent a dozen blue and white roses to BYU AD Tom Holmoe.