Bowled over: Mountain West leads the way
As the Mountain West Conference prepares to head into the great unknown, here is some encouraging news.
The league’s 29-17 record in bowl games since the BCS era began in 1998 is the best of any league still in existence. The only conference with a better postseason winning percentage during that span is the Big West, which went 3-0 in bowls from 1998-2000 before dropping its football affiliations.
The Mountain West also has the top winning percentage of any league in BCS games, though it benefits from a much smaller sample size than any of the major conferences. The MWC is 3-1 in BCS games, a .750 winning percentage. The SEC ranks second with a 15-6 mark, a .714 winning percentage.
But this honor is a bit bittersweet because the teams largely responsible for the Mountain West’s 29-17 record have something in common: Either they’re on their way out of the league or they’ve already left.
Nineteen of the Mountain West’s 29 bowl victories have come from Utah (nine), TCU (five), BYU (four) and San Diego State (one). Utah left the Mountain West for the Pac-12 this year, while BYU departed to become independent. TCU is leaving to join the Big 12, and San Diego State and Mountain West newcomer Boise State announced last week they intend to join the Big East in 2013.
The Mountain West plans to join forces with Conference USA, which is losing Houston, SMU and UCF to the Big East. The eventual makeup of the Mountain West will bear little resemblance to the league that has performed so well in postseason play during the BCS era.
When we did this same study last year, the Mountain West was just behind the Big East in overall bowl winning percentage and tied for third (with the WAC) in BCS winning percentage. The Mountain West jumped to the top by going 4-1 in bowl games last season; the Big East went 4-2. TCU’s Rose Bowl victory and the SEC and Pac-10/Pac-12’s split of their two BCS games allowed the Mountain West to move into first place in BCS winning percentage.
For the purposes of this report, we didn’t erase any bowl wins that have been vacated as a result of NCAA investigations. We also didn’t allow teams to transfer bowl wins to their new conferences after they switched leagues. For example, TCU played in the WAC through the 2000 season and was a C-USA member from 2001-04 before joining the Mountain West in 2005. The Horned Frogs’ bowl results are attributed to whatever league they belonged to at the time of the game.
Buzz: The MWC overtook the Big East last season by posting a 4-1 bowl record that included TCU’s Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. MWC teams are 20-7 in bowls since 2006.
Buzz: Skeptics could grumble that the Big East’s impressive bowl record is largely the product of favorable matchups against teams from outside the six major conferences, but the league’s 20-8 mark since 2006 is impressive regardless of competition.
Buzz: The SEC hasn’t posted a losing record in bowl games since 2002. Critics who grumble the SEC recently has become a top-heavy league without much depth can point to the following evidence: After going a combined 19-7 in bowl games from 2006-08, the SEC is just 11-9 the past two seasons.
Buzz: Washington’s Holiday Bowl upset of Nebraska and Stanford’s Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech helped this league bounce back a bit last season after a miserable 2009 preseason. The conference has been hurt by the two-year bowl ban of USC, which had an exceptional postseason record during the Pete Carroll era.
Buzz: While other conferences have endured plenty of peaks and valleys in their recent bowl history, the Big 12 has been steady. The Big 12’s 2-6 record in 2003, including losses in the Fiesta and Sugar, marked the only time in the BCS era the league has been more than two games above or below .500 in a given postseason.
Buzz: The ACC’s dismal 2-11 record in BCS games has overshadowed the league’s relatively solid 41-36 mark in non-BCS contests. The ACC actually was faring better in bowl games before Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College joined the league from the Big East.
Buzz: After going 19-12 in bowls through the first five seasons of the BCS era, the Big Ten has tailed off dramatically. The 2009 postseason marks the only time the league has posted a winning bowl record since 2002. The Big Ten went 0-5 on New Year’s Day last season.
Buzz: Considering Hawaii and Boise State played a combined nine bowls as WAC members that were home games, you’d think the league would have a better bowl record. It will be interesting to see how the WAC fares this postseason without Boise State.
Buzz: The Sun Belt routinely is rated as the nation’s weakest conference, yet its recent bowl record is somewhat encouraging. The league is 6-4 in bowls over the past five seasons and hasn’t had a losing postseason record since 2005.
Buzz: The MAC won as many bowls last season as it did in the previous four seasons combined. The MAC owes its impressive bowl record from early in the BCS era to former member Marshall, which went 5-1 in the postseason from 1998-2004 before leaving for Conference USA.
Buzz: Give credit to Conference USA for consistency, as the league has posted a 2-4 bowl record in three of the past four seasons. C-USA has posted a winning bowl record just three times in the BCS era.
Buzz: Believe it or not, last season marked the first time in the BCS era more than one independent won a bowl in a single postseason.
Buzz: The bad news attached to this impressive record is that both MWC teams to play in BCS games won’t be members next season. The MWC won’t get a chance to improve upon its record this season, as no league members earned a BCS bid.
Losses: 1999 Orange (Alabama to Michigan), 1999 Fiesta (Tennessee to Nebraska), 2000 Sugar (Florida to Miami), 2005 Sugar (Georgia to West Virginia), 2008 Sugar (Alabama to Utah), 2010 Sugar (Arkansas to Ohio State).
Buzz: The SEC has won the past five national titles and has gone a combined 8-2 in BCS games during that stretch.
Buzz: The only league member to win a BCS game no longer is in the league. And the only other league member to play in a BCS game also is on its way out the door.
Losses: 1998 Rose (UCLA to Wisconsin), 1999 Rose (Stanford to Wisconsin), 2002 Rose (Washington State to Oklahoma), 2005 Rose/BCS championship (USC to Texas), 2009 Rose (Oregon to Ohio State), 2010 BCS championship (Oregon to Auburn).
Buzz: This marks the second consecutive season the Pac-10/Pac-12 has earned multiple BCS bids. It’s noteworthy that the Pac-12 has earned multiple bids even while traditional league standard-bearer USC is on a bowl ban. USC is 6-1 in BCS games, while the rest of the league is 4-5.
Losses: 2000 Rose (Purdue to Washington), 2001 Sugar (Illinois to LSU), 2002 Orange (Iowa to USC), 2003 Rose (Michigan to USC), 2004 Rose (Michigan to Texas), 2006 BCS championship game (Ohio State to Florida), 2006 Rose (Michigan to USC), 2007 BCS championship game (Ohio State to LSU), 2007 Rose (Illinois to USC), 2008 Rose (Penn State to USC), 2008 Fiesta (Ohio State to Texas), 2010 Rose (Wisconsin to TCU).
Buzz: The Big Ten is 1-2 in BCS championship games and a combined 0-5 in BCS games against USC. But the league has an impressive 10-5 record in its other BCS contests.
Losses: 1998 Orange (Syracuse to Florida), 1999 Sugar/BCS championship (Virginia Tech to Florida State), 2002 Fiesta/BCS championship (Miami to Ohio State), 2004 Fiesta (Pittsburgh to Utah), 2008 Orange (Cincinnati to Virginia Tech), 2009 Sugar (Cincinnati to Florida), 2010 Fiesta (Connecticut to Oklahoma).
Buzz: The Big East never has earned multiple BCS bids in one season. Former Big East members Miami and Virginia Tech have accounted for six of the Big East’s 13 BCS appearances. Five of the Big East’s six BCS wins have from Miami or West Virginia, which is leaving for the Big 12.
Losses: 1998 Sugar (Texas A&M to Ohio State), 2001 Rose/BCS championship game (Nebraska to Miami), 2001 Fiesta (Colorado to Oregon), 2003 Sugar/BCS championship game (Oklahoma to LSU), 2003 Fiesta (Kansas State to Ohio State), 2004 Orange/BCS championship game (Oklahoma to USC), 2006 Fiesta (Oklahoma to Boise State), 2007 Fiesta (Oklahoma to West Virginia), 2008 BCS championship (Oklahoma to Florida), 2009 BCS championship game (Texas to Alabama).
Buzz: The Big 12 would have a winning record if you threw out Oklahoma’s 2-5 mark in BCS championship games. Of course, throwing Oklahoma out of the equation also would take away one of the Big 12’s two BCS championships.
Losses: 1998 Fiesta/BCS championship (Florida State to Tennessee), 2000 Orange/BCS championship (Florida State to Oklahoma), 2001 Orange (Maryland to Florida), 2002 Sugar (Florida State to Georgia), 2003 Orange (Florida State to Miami), 2004 Sugar (Virginia Tech to Auburn), 2005 Orange (Florida State to Penn State), 2006 Orange (Wake Forest to Louisville), 2007 Orange (Virginia Tech to Kansas), 2009 Orange (Georgia Tech to Iowa), 2010 Orange (Virginia Tech to Stanford).
Buzz: The ACC’s 2-10 BCS record is dreadful enough even when you don’t consider the irony that one of the victories came over Virginia Tech, a former Big East member that since has joined the ACC. This season marks the first time the ACC has received multiple BCS bids.
Losses: 2000 Fiesta (Notre Dame to Oregon State), 2005 Fiesta (Notre Dame to Ohio State), 2006 Sugar (Notre Dame to LSU).
Buzz: No team has struggled on the BCS stage as much as Notre Dame. The Irish have been outscored 116-43 in their three BCS games, and each of the three contests was decided by at least 14 points.
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