Upon his arrival two years ago, Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk laid out a series of stretch goals for the future of his department. Among them is “annual Bowl Championship Series inclusion.”
After a promising loss to TCU a week ago, the Rams found out just how far away that future may be Saturday, losing 49-16 to a dominating Utah team. But for the Mountain West’s elite, like Utah, that future is now.
The first BCS rankings of the year were released Sunday afternoon, and the conference’s Terrific Trio (BYU, Utah and TCU) all ranked in the top 25.
Take that Big East, ACC, and Pac-10 — none of which has more than two teams in the poll.
Utah tops all non-BCS conference schools at No. 11 after its win over CSU. TCU, which dismantled previously unbeaten BYU Thursday night, comes in at No. 14 after not even being ranked in the AP top 25 the previous week. BYU, which fell nine spots out of the top 10 in the coaches poll after its loss, is ranked No. 21.
While the initial rankings look promising for the Mountain West to “bust” into the BCS, there’s still a lot of football left to be played.
Utah would seem to have the best chance with the highest ranking and no losses. The Utes also have the advantage of playing TCU (Nov. 6) and BYU (Nov. 22) at home. But that’s just it, they have yet to play either of the conference’s other top two teams.
If TCU can beat Utah in two weeks, the one-loss Horned Frogs could stand a chance with their only defeat presumably being to No. 4 Oklahoma.
At No. 21, BYU would seem to have too much ground to make up to crack the top 12, where a non-BCS-conference team needs to be ranked in order to receive a bid.
And then there’s Boise State. The Broncos — no, not the ones who play tonight in New England, but the ones who play on the blue-colored field — are undefeated and ranked just behind Utah at No. 12. If the Broncos can run the table, they could steal the Utes’ spot, as there’s only room for one non-BCS team in the “Series.”
But even if the Smurf Turfs don’t swipe the coveted spot, the Mountain West could still lose out on the BCS, a scenario no one in the conference, including the Rams, wants.
If Utah beats TCU, then loses to BYU, it’s unlikely any team from the conference would qualify, as Utah and BYU would each have a loss and TCU would have two.
Again, there’s a lot of football left to be played.
As Utah quarterback Brian Johnson told the Collegian on Saturday, “we’ll see what happens.”
As for the Rams, they too have a lot of football left to play. Saturday’s loss was discouraging, no doubt, but it doesn’t mean CSU can’t go bowling.
The Rams still have five conference games left, and though just two are at home, only one is against the Trio.
With a win next week at San Diego State, which gave up 70 points Saturday, and a loss the next week to BYU, the Rams would then likely need three wins in the season’s final three weeks to finish fourth in the conference and in position for a bowl invitation.
And if a Mountain West team does crack the BCS, that would likely open up an additional spot for a MWC team, meaning the Rams could finish fifth and still go to a bowl.
So Ram fans, if you want to go bowling, pull for the Utes (or the Frogs), and cheer against the Broncos (except on Sundays … and Mondays, of course).
Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.