Dallas Colleges: Mountain West Conference

Are Frogs on charmed road back to BCS?

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
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Improbable, but now not impossible, the BCS flame is rekindled for the streaking TCU Horned Frogs.

They'll need No. 11 Houston and No. 20 Southern Miss to each fumble a golden opportunity, while the No. 19 Frogs -- 8-2 and winners of five in a row -- can ill-afford a stumble of their own in their final two games against below-.500 squads Colorado State and UNLV.

Still, these Frogs, boosted by Saturday's huge road win at No. 5 Boise State -- the non-AQ BCS frontrunner before the loss -- that put a hammerlock on the Mountain West Conference championship and subsequently made TCU the leading dark horse to earn a third consecutive BCS bowl berth.

How is this possible? Let's review:

When Baylor kicked the game-winning field goal with 1:04 to play in the season-opener, TCU swallowed the hard truth that just one game in and the BCS was all but dead to them. A month later, SMU's overtime victory in Fort Worth questioned if the 3-2 Frogs were even capable of capturing a third consecutive league title.

Fast forward five weeks and Gary Patterson's boys provided that answer with Saturday's come-from-behind 36-35 victory on the Broncos' near-invincible blue turf. The heart-and-guts effort, spearheaded by the tremendous play of first-year starting quarterback Casey Pachall, put TCU in the driver's seat for the conference title and, somewhat unsuspectingly, rekindled the BCS flame.

Here's how:

The BCS selection process offers two paths of entrance for non-automatic qualifiers like TCU. The first is for a non-AQ conference champion to finish with a top-12 ranking in the BCS standings. At No. 19, that's highly unlikely considering the Frogs' final two opponents and the number of teams ahead of them. The second route grants a berth for the non-AQ league champ by finishing in the top 16 and with a ranking higher than that of a champion of one of the six AQ conferences.

Say hello to the Frogs' once-future home, the Big East.

That league currently boasts no teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS standings. Cincinnati (7-2) dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll, falling to 29th, and West Virginia is 27th. Neither team boasts a remaining schedule that would catapult it ahead of a 10-2 Frogs team, one that very well could claim a top-16 ranking.

Standing in the way is Houston (10-0) and Southern Miss (9-1). These two are on a collision course to meet in the Conference USA title game. If the Coogs win out, they'll be assured of the BCS berth. If the Golden Eagles win out, they'll likely hop the Frogs and earn the spot.

Pass-happy Houston, led by sixth-year quarterback Case Keenum, welcomes the disappointing Ponies (6-4) on Saturday (ESPN GameDay will be there) before traveling to Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) the day after Thanksgiving. Southern Miss has games against a pair of 2-8 teams in Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis.

The script favorable to the Frogs would see SMU or Tulsa knock off Houston, and then the Coogs beat Southern Miss in the title game, assuring each another loss. Of course, if Tulsa does the job, it would likely then face Southern Miss and that could hurt the Eagles' chances of jumping the Frogs.

If it plays out, the two-loss Frogs could very well become the first non-undefeated, non-AQ team to play in a BCS game.

If that happens, consider these Frogs charmed.

TCU defense ready for BYU QB

October, 26, 2011
10/26/11
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FORT WORTH -- BYU quarterback Riley Nelson sure has TCU's attention going into Friday night at Cowboys Stadium.

"Their quarterback is capable of pulling the ball down and running on us," TCU defensive end Jon Koontz said. "If he feels pressure, he's a good runner."

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Trey Fallon and Landry Locker of ESPN Dallas discuss TCU's dominant win over New Mexico, preview the back half of the schedule and discuss this weekend's game against BYU.

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The dual-threat junior has helped turn the Cougars' season around. He's thrown for at least two touchdowns and run for at least 62 yards in the last four games, all BYU wins.

Nelson led BYU (6-2) to its best offensive game of the season last week, accounting for four touchdowns in the 59-3 rout of Idaho State. The Cougars rolled up a season-high 572 yards.

Nelson gives the improving Horned Frogs defense another stiff challenge going into their last nonconference game. Keeping him in the pocket is the key.

"We have to stay gap-assigned, even when we're pass rushing," Koontz said. "If you're containing, you have to keep contain. You can't let him out of the pocket."

While the Cougars are rolling on offense, TCU (5-2) is coming off its best defensive showing in the 69-0 dismantling of New Mexico. The Frogs responded to their bye week by holding the Lobos to just 85 yards -- the lowest for an opponent since 2008.

It was also the third time in the last four games that TCU allowed less than 300 yards. The Frogs' out-of-character struggles earlier this season were a manner of growing pains, Koontz said. TCU coach Gary Patterson has used 10 freshman and 12 new starters on defense so far.

"We knew we had an entirely different group of guys than we had last year," Koontz said. "We lost a lot of guys in the secondary. We're a younger defense. We lost [linebacker Tanner Brock] the first week. It's an evolving defense all year."

Patterson said the Cougars aren't doing anything new schematically on offensive, pointing out the Frogs have played BYU annually since moving to the Mountain West in 2005. But there is one distinction to these independant Cougars.

"The difference is the quarterback can run around and make plays," Patterson said.

Gary Patterson plans to enjoy title game

January, 10, 2011
1/10/11
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TCU Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson, fresh off a Rose Bowl victory on New Year's Day and subsequent contract extension and pay raise, spent Monday on campus for various meetings on the school's first day back from winter break.

Then he headed to Dallas to join the in-progress American Football Coaches Association Convention. From there, well, he's not sure if he'll watch tonight's BCS championship game that pits the nation's only other two undefeated teams besides his own with his coaching brethren or haul it back to Fort Worth to watch with his wife Kelsey.

"It depends on how tired I am," Patterson said.

Either way, Patterson said he'll watch this one strictly as fan. He won't study every formation that Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and the No. 1 Auburn Tigers line up in or put a stopwatch to the No. 2 Oregon Ducks and their hyperactive offense as though he has to get a call into his defense. Nope, the coach of the No. 3 Frogs said he's just going to kick back and enjoy it.

"I'm going to let someone else sweat," he said. "I am interested to see who got their team ready to play after 40 days."

It's been a full nine days since TCU defeated Wisconsin, 21-19, on a beautiful day in Pasadena, Calif. After the monumental victory that sealed a 13-0 season and the program's first unblemished mark since 1938, Patterson has remained diplomatic regarding the BCS system that allows for only two undefeateds to play for the national title -- and to be clear, two from the so-called power BCS conferences.

The Frogs aren't the first team without a loss or tie to be left out of the mix. Tulane got this argument started back in 1998. Utah's been thr0ugh the drill and Boise State didn't even get in a BCS game after going undefeated in 2008. Auburn remains the lone team from an automatic-qualifying conference to be left out of the championship game despite going 13-0 in 2004.

Because the furor over the system is reaching a fever pitch among college football fans and because TCU defeated Wisconsin, a Big Ten power, it seems there is more sentiment than ever to change the system. Talk has continued since the Rose Bowl and will likely be debated shortly on the ESPN pre-game show whether the Frogs, champions of the non-AQ Mountain West Confernece, deserved to be in this game.

"I still feel the same way about that," Patterson said, meaning the system in place is the one he plays by. "But, they're still talking about us and that's a good thing."

As for tonight's game, Patterson said he's not picking a favorite.

"But," he said, "I am interested to see how it turns out."

TCU beat 'em, now set to join 'em

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
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PASADENA, Calif. -- After the third-ranked TCU Horned Frogs had defeated the fifth-ranked Wisconsin Badgersfair- and-square on the emerald field of the Rose Bowl, even Gordon Gee, the Ohio State athletics director who belittled programs like TCU and Boise State for padding their records against opponents like the “Little Sisters of the Poor,” seemed to have a change of heart.

Wisconsin, after all, was the only team to beat Gee's Buckeyes this season. Reached by the New York Times' Pete Thamel on Saturday night, Gee said: “I’m going to New Orleans tomorrow [where Ohio State will play in the Sugar Bowl], and Antoine’s is a great restaurant. I think they serve crow, and I’ll be eating my portion of that. TCU played a great game, and they deserved to be recognized for that. Obviously, TCU is a great ball team.”

Frogs coach Gary Patterson was asked after the 21-19 New Year's Day victory that boosted TCU its first undefeated and untied season since 1938 if he had a message from Gee. Patterson remained diplomatic.

"I don't have any messages for him," Patterson said. "I make mistakes every day. So what I'm going to do is know that TCU is 13-0. We've won 44 ballgames, this senior class has in the last four years. And know that at any point in time anybody can beat anybody."

TCU's time as the little guy in college football's hierarchy is coming to an end. The Horned Frogs will play one final season in the non-automatic qualifying Mountain West Conference and then join the establishment as a member of the Big East Conference, one of the six power conferences granted automatic access to the BCS.

"I think what we’ve been able to do for the past however many of years and the success that we’ve had, we’ve earned the respect," said senior Andy Dalton, who exits TCU as the school's all-time winningest quarterback. "I think people are really starting to realize how good TCU is and I guess the Big East obviously realized that and wanted us to be a part of their conference, and so I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for TCU."

The Frogs will leave the fight for equality to the Boise State's of the world. Yet, on some level, it would seem the Frogs and Patterson will miss the underdog role, always having to strive for perfection, to take the hard road, to constantly have to prove that they belong. After all, TCU, along with Boise State, have been the ones constantly harrassing the BCS and leading the surge of public animosity toward college football's postseason power structure.

"We’ll always be that," Patterson said of retaining underdog status despite the move up. "Yeah, because we’re in the state of Texas. We’re never going to be compared to the Big East. Just like in the Mountain West, we’re compared to Texas and [Texas] A&M and Texas Tech. That’s how we recruit. We recruit to try to beat the Big 12."

This season the Big East was weakest of the power six. Connecticut, at 8-4 after the regular season, represented the conference in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday night and was handled by Big 12 champion Oklahoma, 48-20. Only West Virginia, with four losses, finished the season with fewer than five losses. The Big East sought the Frogs to lift their football profile.

Unless there's a sudden surge by one of the current eight Big East programs, the Frogs could walk into the league in 2012 as favorites to win it and claim the BCS slot.

The lure of the Big East is its automatic berth. Win the conference and you're in. No longer will perfection, which the Frogs have accomplished in consecutive regular seasons, a prerequisite. No longer will an early non-conference loss a season death sentence.

Yet, even there, Patterson found room to quibble.

"As far as a national championship it is, but not playing for a BCS game," Patterson said. "If you’re ultimate goal is playing for a national championship then you’re still tyring to get done what you’re trying to get done. It still means you need to go undefeated and do the things you need to do."

Armed Forces Bowl at SMU is a sellout

November, 22, 2010
11/22/10
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The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl announced Monday that it has sold more than 32,000 tickets for its Dec. 30 game and will pack SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium to capacity.

The game was moved this year from TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium (44,000 capacity) because a $105 million renovation will have already knocked down the entire west-side seating, which included an upper deck and press box.

The bowl is scheduled to pit a Conference USA team against a Mountain West Conference team. Army signed an agreement to play in the game if it became eligible, which it did on Nov. 13, and so the Black Knights are expected in Dallas to take on a MWC foe.

Bowl officials will announce the two participating teams on Dec. 5. Standing-room only tickets are available for $10 and can be purchased at ArmedForcesBowl.com. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Radio.

Is MWC preparing for a TCU departure?

November, 19, 2010
11/19/10
10:32
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Hawaii in and TCU out?

More signs indicating conference change continue to appear since the Big East Conference was first rumored to be interested in grabbing TCU to save its suffering football league. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting that Hawaii officials are close to sealing a deal that would add the school's football conference to the Mountain West Conference.

Next season, BYU and Utah will leave the conference with Nevada and Fresno State already signed up to step in. As currently constructed, it would give the MWC an uneven 11 football teams, which would seem to suggest that one program might be on the way out.

The third-ranked Horned Frogs have been the jewel of the Big East's eye for some time now. The move makes sense for both the conference and TCU.

Big East football is a national embarrassment. With its status as a BCS conference, the league is threatening to send a representative to either the Sugar Bowl or Orange Bowl without being ranked in the BCS Top 25 rankings. At the moment, only Syracuse has at least seven wins and no one as fewer than three losses.

Meanwhile, the Frogs (11-0), living in non-automatic-qualifier limbo in the Mountain West, are currently ranked third in the BCS. Yet, depending on how the final few weeks play out, TCU could be vying for a national championship or left out of the BCS games all together.

With options like that, hello Big East.

Nervous 24 hours await No. 3 Frogs

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
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video TCU coach Gary Patterson preaches winning by one. In theory, that's great. But this is the unapologetic BCS, and now the third-ranked Frogs must wait anxiously to see if a five-point win over the unranked San Diego State Aztecs -- 40-35 after leading 34-14 at halftime -- will be enough to stay ahead of No. 4 Boise State when the BCS rankings are released Sunday.

The stakes are incredibly high as TCU (11-0, 7-0 Mountain West Conference) heads into a bye week with one regular-season game remaining at woeful New Mexico after Thanksgiving. Boise State on Friday throttled Idaho, 52-14, and if the Broncos only close the gap on TCU, they still have three games remaining (vs. Fresno State, at No. 21 Nevada, vs. Utah State) to thrust their high-powered offense and stingy defense upon the voters.

Jeremy Kerley
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJeremy Kerley and TCU head into a bye week filled with BCS uncertainty.
The question now is if the polls will punish the Frogs -- who fell behind the juiced Aztecs (7-3, 4-2) 14-0 in the opening six minutes only to score 34 unanswered points -- for winning at home by a slim margin when the line was set at four touchdowns. TCU mostly dominated the stats and had possession twice as long. But, if the polls follow similar logic, TCU could be in trouble.

Remember back when TCU beat SMU by 17, but didn't show great and fell a spot in the AP Top 25 poll (which is not part of the BCS formula). Two weeks ago, riding a wave of impressive conference blowouts, the Frogs jumped Boise despite the Broncos routing their WAC opponents.

TCU widened the gap on Boise and were widely hailed as title-game worthy after their 47-7 road demolition of then-No. 5 Utah.

But, the Utes did the Frogs no favors Saturday, getting blasted at hapless Notre Dame and perhaps cementing the belief that Utah was overrated, as well as denting the MWC's credibility as a menacing conference.

What does it mean if TCU drops behind Boise? Everything. The highest-ranked non-automatic qualifier is first in line for an automatic BCS berth -- this year into the Rose Bowl -- and remains on the doorstep of a possible national championship game appearance if, seemingly, No. 1 Oregon, slim winners over California Saturday night, or controvery-ridden No. 2 Auburn, big winners earlier in the day over Georgia, lose in their final games.

If TCU were to fall behind Boise, there is little time now to make another move.

The second-highest ranked non-AQ might find itself out of the BCS mix entirely, needing an at-large bid to get in, but knowing that the major conference's non-champions could fill the three precious spots remaining.

Yes, it will be a nervous 24 hours for the Frogs, who will find out if they were truly victorious on Saturday.

Letdown not in Gary Patterson's vocabulary

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
4:41
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Gary Patterson spent a good portion of his Tuesday media conference answering questions about the fairness of the BCS and whether his third-ranked TCU Horned Frogs would really be permitted by the powers-that-be into the sacred national championship game.

Patterson continaully said he'll do his talking in another two weeks when and if the Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) end the season at 12-0 for a second consecutive year. He talked up Saturday's opponent in the home finale, the San Diego State Aztecs (7-2, 4-1), as though the Knute Rockne-era Fighting Irish were invading Amon G. Carter Stadium.

But, Patterson made his point. Coming off last week's pasting of then-No. 5 Utah, this is no time for a letdown.

"You better get ready to play," he said. "You’re judged only on Saturdays. In about three hours you’re judged and you’ve got to score one more point. If you don’t do that then none of you [the media] will be sitting here. If I get beat Saturday, you won’t be asking me any of these questions [about playing for a national championship[ and you won’t care that I’m playing New Mexico [on Nov. 27]."

Patterson is speaking from a position of wisdom.

"I've been here before. TCU in the last 10 years, I was here at 9-0 [actually 10-0] playing Southern Miss at Southern Miss," said Patterson of that 40-28 loss in 2003. "I was here in 2005 and we got beat by SMU. Gary Patterson has been here, so I’m not going to put my team at risk of going out there on the limb [talking about playing for a national championship] so that I can make myself sound good at the risk of my team losing a football game."

The Frogs' victory at Utah crossed their last major hurdle, not that Patterson will think that. The Utah game bit them in 2008 when, ranked No. 11 with only a September setback at Oklahoma blemishing their record, TCU lost to the Utes, 13-10, to end hopes of a first BCS berth.

"They [TCU players] understand that I think they can play," Patterson said. "But, they also understand that -- what, we were at Colorado State when we didn’t play very well, we were ahead 6-0 at halftime? So, we better come to play with our ‘A’ game this Saturday."

Frogs eye title game as Big East maneuvers

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
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As the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs prepare for their biggest game of the season at the No. 5 Utah Uteson Saturday afternoon, a game that could ultimately vault the winner into the BCS national championship game, TCU's future in the Mountain West Conference became a bit more sketchy Tuesday as the Big East formerly approved plans to explore adding two football programs.

TCU is reportedly high on the Big East's expansion wish list. The Frogs, who played in their first BCS game last season, would have interest in joining the Big East because the conference currently holds the golden key to BCS inclusion as an automatic qualifier.

The MWC is a non-automatic qualifer, meaning the conference's champion does not automatically receive a bid to the far more lucrative BCS bowl games. Non-AQ conference teams must meet guidelines just to make them eligible for inclusion and do not reap the same financial windfall as AQs.

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte on Tuesday acknowledged that Big East school presidents were meeting and setting the parameters for expansion, although he had little to say to advance the subject. There appears to be some trepidation at TCU that the Big East can keep its current eight football-playing schools -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, South Florida, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati and Connecticut-- together, and that subsequent replacement expansion would further water-down the league, eventually causing it to lose its AQ status.

One such school is Rutgers. Some believe the New Jersey school remains a high-priority target of the Big Ten, which will consist of 12 teams beginning in 2011-12. There are also fears that the ACC could again invade the Big East as it did earlier in the decade when Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami switched allegiances.

TCU coach Gary Patterson is solely focused on Saturday's showdown in Salt Lake City. The Frogs (9-0, 5-0 MWC) moved up to No. 3 in the lastest BCS poll with the Utes at No. 5 (8-0, 5-0 MWC). No. 4 Boise State (7-0) in the WAC gives the non-AQs three teams in the top five of the BCS rankings.

For all three, the dream of playing for a national championship is alive heading into the final month of the regular season.

If TCU beats Utah and then closes out its remaining two games unblemised, and either No. 1 Oregon (8-0) or No. 2 Auburn (9-0) lose one of their remaining games, the Frogs could move into the top two. A top-two ranking in the final BCS poll in early December would land TCU in the national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

"[Two years ago], basically Utah was playing TCU for a BCS spot, not playing for a national championship," Patterson said. "Then last year, both Boise and us end up getting to that place [BCS game], but we didn't get a chance to [play for the national championship]. Now we're talking about, because we all started higher [in the poll], now we're all sitting in a situation where that's [the national championship game] a conversation."

Gary Patterson 'surprised' by report

September, 28, 2010
9/28/10
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video
If Tuesday's report in the New York Post suggesting TCU is on the Big East's radar caught Horned Frogs football coach Gary Patterson by surprise, perhaps he's had his nose buried in playbooks.

"Surprised," Patterson said via text message. "I have been working on CSU."

OK then. During football season, Patterson is a here-and-now guy and that means full-time preparations for Saturday's Mountain West opener at Colorado State. But, what if in a few years the conference opener was at Syracuse or UConn or Pittsburgh or West Virginia or Louisville? And what if the end game was an automatic bid to a BCS game? Should TCU be intrigued?

"Don't know!" Patterson typed. "Too busy to think about it right now!"

The man TCU pays to know, athletic director Chris Del Conte, did not return a phone message.

Right now, Patterson knows he can't afford to lose. One loss and the No. 5 Frogs won't be going to any BCS game. That's not the case for teams in the six major conferences that have automatic access to BCS games and millions of dollars in revenue annually.

But, does the Big East make sense for TCU? At first it would seem the Big East makes no sense logistically for sports other than football. But, that argument loses steam when you consider the new Mountain West once Utah and BYU leave and Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada come in.

"Travel is about the same," Patterson noted, and it is.

The bottom line is it might not be safe for TCU to hold out for an invite to the new Big 12 with 10 teams. And, who knows when the next major conference shakeup occurs and where it will shuffle schools. As TCU knows well, there are no guarantees.

The real winner in a move to the Big East might just be the men's basketball program, the one underachieving sport at TCU. The Big East is a college powerhouse and it could open all kinds of recruiting avenues, not to mention bringing in nationally ranked programs to Daniel-Meyer Coliseum every week, including Pitt and its coach, TCU's own Jamie Dixon.

For those concerned about TCU's baseball program, the Big East boasts a 12-team league. What's so special about MWC baseball again?

According to the report, everything is preliminary. Even so, it is intriguing.

Hey, Gary Patterson: Boise St. or Oregon St.?

September, 24, 2010
9/24/10
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It's another big weekend for the the nation's top dogs among the non-automatic qualifiers. No. 4 TCU (3-0) takes on upstart SMU (2-1) at their place Friday night on ESPN.

No. 3 Boise State (2-0) faces its toughest test on the schedule as No. 24 Oregon State (1-1), 30-21 losers to TCU in the season opener, visits the Broncos' blue turf Saturday night on ABC.

So, Gary Patterson, who are you pulling for?

After a long pause, Patterson said, "Oh, I think I'll just wait and see who wins."

It's a tough question. If TCU wins and Boise loses, obviously the Frogs will leap the Broncos in the polls, moving up to No. 3 (or possibly higher if, say, No. 10 Arkansas can topple No. 1 Alabama).

But, Patterson always reminds that Boise's performance this season in the WAC will carry over into the calculation the BCS uses to determine if the Mountain West Conference will ultimately qualify in two years for automatic-qualifier status. So, a big Boise win could be useful in the long run.

Of course, there's always the possibility as well that No. 5 Oregon, No. 6 Nebraska, No. 7 Texas and/or No. 8 Oklahoma eventually jump both TCU and Boise because of strength of schedule as long as those teams remain unbeaten.

So who do you take: Boise State or Oregon State?

No. 4 TCU tries to keep non-AQs rolling

September, 18, 2010
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The pride of the AQs, or "automatic-qualifiers" in BCS language, falls on the Baylor Bears this afternoon when they ride into Fort Worth to meet the No. 4 TCU Horned Frogs.

We've seen TCU dump then-No. 24 Oregon State; Boise State beat then-No. 10 Virginia Tech, BYU bounce Washington and Utah take down Pittsburgh. On Friday night, the embarrassments continued for the big AQs as the WAC's Nevada Wolf Pack whipped the Pac-10's Cal Bears and Southern Miss routed Kansas, a Big 12 team that's already lost to a FCS foe.

The oddsmakers don't believe Baylor of the Big 12 has a chance to act like one of the big boys against the Mountain West's non-AQ Frogs. The Bears are more than three-touchdown underdogs.

What could play a major factor in the 3:30 p.m. kickoff at sold-out Amon G. Carter Stadium is the insufferable heat descending on the city. The temperature is forecast to soar to 96 degrees and well over 100 degrees on the field when taking in the heat index.

Both teams are equally adjusted to broiler-like conditions, but whichever team is in the best physical condition as the game wears on will likely have the advantage if the game is close in crunch time.

Pros, cons of a MWC-CUSA super game

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
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UPDATE: The Mountain West Conference issued this brief statement on its blog at 1:06 p.m., regarding the Thursday meeting between officials from the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA:

"Followed up on various media reports regarding a potential Mountain West Conference-Conference USA merger, and confirmed that representatives of both leagues did indeed meet yesterday in Colorado Springs. Included were Commissioner Craig Thompson, Commissioner Britton Banowsky (who have a long-standing personal and professional relationship), and a couple MWC Athletics Directors. The informal gathering, which was previously scheduled, covered a wide range of topics, including concepts regarding television, scheduling and the BCS. Yet another example of the Mountain West's ongoing strategic thinking on a number of fronts, as the league continues to position itself in the national landscape."

***

So the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA have apparently put their two brains together and are talking a one-game showdown -- champion vs. champion -- with the winner being granted an automatic BCS berth.

First question: On the surface, it seems ludicrous, so why would the BCS agree to give an automatic bid to a non-automatic-qualifying conference team every year?

Answer: They won't (in my opinion, but let's continue...). Conference USA hasn't sniffed a BCS berth since long-departed Louisville in 2004 and Tulane a dozen years ago. Last season, unranked East Carolina knocked off No. 18 Houston in the C-USA championship game. East Carolina went to the Liberty Bowl and lost to unranked Arkansas, 20-17, and finished with a 9-5 record. Houston came to Fort Worth and got shellacked by unranked Air Force, 47-20, in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish 10-4. Since the 2006 season, no C-USA team has finished with fewer than three losses. In three of those four seasons, the league's best team had four losses. Can you imagine the national outrage had 9-4 East Carolina actually played its way into the BCS by upsetting TCU in a one-game bonanza?

That's reason enough to end this conversation right here, right now ... but, having said that, the one reason the BCS might bend and agree to such a scenario would be to avoid the embarrassment of last season when it had to deal with two BCS-busters and threw TCU and Boise State into the Fiesta Bowl to eat their own. A MWC vs. C-USA playoff would lump 23 teams (assuming today's count for the 2011 season of 11 teams in the MWC and 12 in C-USA -- things can change quickly, like, say Houston switching sides, but the numbers would stay the same) together and immediately lop off 22. No longer would the BCS have to worry about two teams messing things up.

Second question: This is a no-brainer for C-USA, which has never sent a team to a BCS game, but why would the superior MWC want any part of this?

Answer: Last year, TCU and Boise State both crashed the BCS, but two years ago, undefeated Boise State was left to play one-loss TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Would Boise have taken a one-game playoff against the C-USA champ for a shot to play on the big-money stage? Of course. What if TCU and Boise both go undefeated this season? One scenario: Boise gets the BCS bid and unbeaten TCU is invited to the Las Vegas Bowl. Gary Patterson has worked too hard to elevate TCU to a national platform to just give unproven C-USA a ticket to the BCS gates, but in the current system, Patterson might figure he has a better shot each year to win his conference and then win one more against the C-USA champ to ensure getting into the BCS rather than depend on BCS calculations to determine his team's fate.

Also, this would eliminate the undefeated-or-forget-it situation that now exists in the non-automatic-qualifer conferences, easing pressure on TCU and Boise State and the others to sweep their non-conference schedules, typically highlighted by two to three tough matchups against major-conference schools (TCU plays Oregon State and Baylor this season; Boise plays Virginia Tech and Oregon State). A loss in September wouldn't end all BCS hope as it does now.

The MWC and C-USA are also looking toward the future. Although the superconference model didn't come to fruition this summer, nobody is shortsighted enough to believe the Big 12 is stable and the Big Ten and SEC won't seek to expand. When and if superconferences emerge, schools in the MWC and C-USA won't hold their breath for an invite, and that includes TCU. Arranging this championship game would possibly ensure a spot in the BCS when the landscape again changes.

Third question: Would such a championship game generate more money for the two conferences?

Answer: How much is debatable. Surely, ESPN would pay for an elimination game, but it certainly wouldn't rank up there with, say, the attractiveness and popularity of the SEC championship game. And, revenue generated from a championship game would seemingly have to be split among the 23 teams, further watering down the profit margin.

Alternate solution: Merge. Let's say the Mountain West bids farewell to New Mexico, Wyoming and San Diego State (WAC, anyone?) and moves forward with eight -- TCU, BYU, Boise, Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada and UNLV -- and invites four from C-USA -- Houston, Memphis, Tulsa and maybe Southern Miss for a 12-team conference with a championship game. That's not bad football to take to ESPN and other networks to hammer out a more lucrative TV deal than either conference has now. It's also a stonger product than either can currently take to the BCS for eventual automatic inclusion.

Mtn. West adds two schools, could lose one

August, 19, 2010
8/19/10
12:50
AM CT
Just when you though college realignment was over with ...

It all started Wednesday when reports surfaced that BYU was close to leaving the Mountain West Conference to become independent in football and join the Western Athletic Conference in all others sports.

TCU football coach Gary Patterson had a few choice words for BYU, including a warning to "be careful what you wish for." You see video of Patterson's discussion with the media here.

The Mountain West, in danger of becoming an eight-team conference, moved swiftly to snatch Fresno State and Nevada from from the WAC.

Things should settle down now, right? Maybe not, according to Patterson.

"All I can tell you is this: Just wait and see in the next two weeks before you make any judgments and see what happens in the national landscape," Patterson said. "Things that I know that maybe you don't know. That's all I'm going to tell you."

MWC makes offers to Nevada, Fresno St.

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
5:35
PM CT
BYU apparently is on the verge of pulling its football program out of the Mountain West, but the conference isn't taking the possibility lying down.

The MWC confirmed previous reports that it has offered invitations to Western Athletic Conference schools Fresno State and Nevada.

After Boise State bolted the WAC for the Mountain West, the remaining WAC schools signed an agreement that it would take a $5 million buyout to leave the conference within the next five years. That could have an impact on Nevada and Fresno State's decision.

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