After a nice summer break from college football teams shifting conferences, the fall has brought more changes to the landscape, as Fresno State and Nevada announced they will leave the Western Athletic Conference and join the Mountain West Conference.
According to Pete Fiutak at Foxsports.com “the two schools have solid football programs, have been bowl regulars over the past few years and add more meat to the Mountain West’s midsection that should raise the overall profile of the league.”
I’m not 100% on board with Fiutak’s statement. Both teams are OK, but a combined 56-46 record over the last four years isn’t exactly anything to write home about, especially in a conference as weak as the WAC. Nevada has had a lot of losses to major conference teams over the last four years including:
52-21 to Arizona State in 2006
52-10 to Nebraska in 2007
35-19 to Texas Tech and 69-17 to Missouri in 2008
35-20 to Colorado State last year (not to mention a 35-0 whipping by Notre Dame.)
There’s also been closer losses to Missouri, Northwestern, Miami (Fla.) and Maryland.
Fresno, which employs an “anyone, anytime, anywhere” mantra, has had recent struggles as well against the major conference teams, although they’ve had a little more success in the win column.
Earlier this summer, the Mountain West pulled of a major coup, adding Boise State, a team with legitimate national championship aspirations. This addition was somewhat tempered when they lost Utah to the Pac-10. BYU is also rumored to be leaving in order to become an independent (more on that as it’s confirmed).
If the Cougars take off, that’s going to strip the MWC of a team that’s gone 43-9 over that past four years. Coupled with the Utah loss, that’s two elite programs leaving and one elite team coming in.
Conference depth is nice, and Fiutak is right that Nevada and Fresno add that. But the true benefits of depth really only play out if you’ve also got great teams at the top. The MWC still has TCU and Boise, so they aren’t really hurting, but they are a little thinner at the top than they used to be, and I’m not sure the profile has been raised.
As for the WAC? Things just keep getting worse, as a weak football conference gets weaker.