- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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It is a marriage that took seven years to commence, but college football's most feared underdog and its most improving conference might have secured themselves a spot at the sport's front table -- however it might look -- by merging on Friday.
Four days after the Mountain West announced it would delay expansion, Boise State accepted an invitation to become its 10th member. The Broncos are leaving behind the Western Athletic Conference, a league they dominated for most of the past decade.
The Broncos will officially join the MWC on July 1, 2011, when the MWC will roll out the likes of Boise State, Brigham Young, TCU and Utah (and maybe Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri?). By adding the Broncos now, the league can include Boise State's impressive credentials from 2008, '09 and '10 when it applies for an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series.
The Broncos finished the '08 season with a perfect 12-0 record, before losing to TCU 17-16 in the Poinsettia Bowl. Boise State went 14-0 last season, defeating the Horned Frogs 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl, and were ranked No. 4 in the country at season's end.
With all but one of 22 starters on offense and defense expected back this coming season, the Broncos might start the '10 season ranked in the top 5.
One of the unintended (or intended?) consequences of possible conference realignment is that the gap between the sport's power conferences and its lesser conferences will be even wider. If the Big Ten, Pac-10, ACC and SEC expand, they might try to position themselves for more than one automatic bid to the BCS. The rule that limits only two schools from each conference in the BCS also might be re-examined.
In effect, teams from conferences like Conference USA and the WAC might be squeezed out of the BCS even more.
Boise State faced myriad problems trying to get into BCS bowl games and the BCS National Championship Game as a member of the WAC.
By joining the MWC, the Broncos took a big step in making sure they're not excluded in the future.
And by adding a team as formidable as the Broncos, the MWC -- which might expand even more -- moved a step closer to becoming a BCS conference.
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