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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Does the Mountain West Belong?

I'm not sure if anyone who reads this blog regularly is going to care about these stats in the least, but since I'd already done the research, and since it has been in the news a bit during the past year, I figured we could take a look at how the Moutain West stacks up against the Big Six BCS conferences when it comes to non-conference performance during the past half-decade.

MWC commissioner Craig Thompson has pushed for his league to be given an automatic bid to the BCS for the past two years, and now with rumors of expansion by the Big Ten and Pac-10, Thompson is being forced to defend his league against potential looters.

So... does Thompson have a case?

I'm not sure if these stats will put the argument to rest, but when we look at overall non-conference performance, the MWC isn't going to want to point to these numbers as its rationale for being considered for an upgrade.

NC L Win Pct.
SEC 214 56 .793
Big 12
195 72 .730
Big East
158 61 .721
Big Ten
172 73 .702
ACC 174 95 .647
Pac-10 118 65 .645
MWC 111 84 .569

The Moutain West not only comes in dead last, but it's by a wide margin. Nearly as much separates the MWC from the worst BCS league as separates the worst BCS league from the second best BCS league. That's considerable.

But the strange thing about these numbers is this: It's not all those tough games against the big boys that have been hurting the Mountain West. Against BCS foes, the MWC isn't dramatically out of step with the big boys.

Win Pct.
SEC 59 45 .567
Pac-10 45 37 .549
Big East
49 49 .500
Big 12
44 46 .489
ACC 61 70 .466
MWC 37 44 .457
Big Ten
46 56 .451

It's still not exactly a great mark, but it's similar to what the ACC has done, and it's better than the mark posted by the Big Ten.

And if we look at just bowl games, well then we've got ourselves a real argument for the Mountain West's inclusion into the BCS. The conference boasts a .667 winning percentage during bowl season since 2005 -- tied for the best mark, along with the SEC.

Of course, that comes with a caveat: While the SEC has played 86 percent of its bowl games against other BCS conference foes, the Mountain West has been feasting on lesser competition, playing BCS teams in just 46 percent of its bowl games. The Big East and Pac-10 have the next lowest marks there, and they still play BCS competition during bowl season 69 percent of the time.

But while that particular caveat may undercut the Mountain West's best case for moving onward and upward, there's another caveat that helps explain why their overall non-conference numbers may not be quite so impressive, and it has to do with where those games are being played.

Road NC Games
Pct of Total
MWC 81 41.5%
Big East
76 39.4%
Pac-10 53 34.4%
ACC 69 30.3%
Big 12
63 27.6%
Big Ten
52 24.9%
SEC 45 19.7

The Mountain West is playing twice as many non-conference games away from home as the SEC is, and that's no small feat. And while just eight teams from the Big Six conferences played at least 40 percent of their non-conference games away from home, all but two of the MWC's nine teams hit that mark, including TCU, which played half of its non-conference games on the road.

Of course, while Thompson may hope those stats help the MWC to become an automatic-bid league, the immediate challenge appears like it could be simply keeping his league intact -- and for good reason.

While the overall numbers show that the MWC has a case -- albeit a shaky one -- for inclusion in the BCS, those numbers are buoyed by the teams at the top.

In non-conference play overall, BYU, Utah and TCU have combined for a record of 54-18 (.750) and a record against BCS foes of 25-14 (.641). The rest of the league is 57-66 in non-conference games (.463) and a woeful 12-30 (.286) against the big-boy teams.

So what the numbers really show, more than anything, is that TCU, BYU and Utah are more than capable of handling themselves against elite competition. The rest of the Mountain West? They probably need to worry about simply handling themselves against the WAC.


Anonymous said...

Great argument Dave! What are your thoughts on LOST this week? Lots of answers and more questions too! Do you think that the little boy is Aaron?

jferg said...

Can you include one more graph....include the graph of how the MWC stacks up versus the other conferences when playing "TOP BCS" opponents...not just bcs opponents.

Anonymous said...

Can we leave the work "caveat" alone.