In many ways, 2010 was set up to be the Mountain West’s coming-out year. Its champion had claimed the non-cartel autobid two years running, and its Big Three were bigger and better than ever (BYU’s rebuild notwithstanding). And then the other feet (yes, that’s plural) began to fall, and suddenly the Mountain West began acquiring a certain wacishness, a “haven’t we seen this somewhere else” look. Out went Utah, in came Boise. BYU tried to upstage its rival, first by trying to blow up the Mountain West, then fleeing it. Somehow Nevada and Fresno State were suddenly sitting at the MWC table, and the WAC was feverishly trying to douse the fuse.
So by the time kickoff finally came around, the Mountain West no longer looked at 2010 as its coming-out party. The cartel had, again, won. Peeling off Utah and BYU, the cartel outflanked the MWC’s challenge to widen access to lucrative BCS money and bowls by an entire conference. A couple top teams? Sure, there’s wiggle room for that change; but an entire conference? Not a chance. Boise State and TCU were left dangling in the breeze, their conference still safely outside the cartel. TCU won ascendence into the cartel later, but only after the threat of a seventh conference claiming a seat at the cartel’s table by right had fizzled. (more…)