Two years into evaluation, MWC in good spot

For all of you conspiracy theorists out there, BCS executive director Bill Hancock has put to rest any fear that the Mountain West might not be on track to receive automatic qualifying status in the 2012 and ’13 seasons.

In an interview with media in Scottsdale, Ariz., Wednesday, Hancock said that the Mountain West Conference has performed so well in the past two seasons that its on pace to be the BCS’ seventh and final conference with an automatic bid.

"If they [the Mountain West] meet the threshold, they'll be the seventh automatic bid," Hancock said.

But that threshold still hasn’t fully been explained. We know that the BCS measures the strength of the best teams as well as the conference as a whole. It also looks at BCS bowl berths and Top 25 rankings. But the rest of the measuring stick -- if more even exists -- is broken off and kept in a vault somewhere.

There’s no doubt that the Mountain West has more than proved its worth during the first two years of a four-year evaluation period. Both Utah and TCU had undefeated regular seasons and went on to BCS bowl games. Utah defeated Alabama in 2008 and finished the year ranked No. 2 behind national champion Florida. Last season, TCU finished the season ranked sixth. And in both seasons, the Mountain West has had three teams ranked in the final AP Top 25.

But there are still two years remaining in the evaluation and potential expansion among the current six automatic qualifying schools threatens the Mountain West. Utah, TCU and BYU all have been linked to possible expansion in both the Pac-10 and the Big 12. If the Mountain West were to lose its top teams, it also likely would lose its chance at an automatic bid. Since 2003, only Utah, BYU and TCU have won the conference. Colorado State won the conference in 2002.

So this year will be key in the Mountain West’s evaluation to make the middle and bottom teams more competitive. Other than that, according to Hancock, the conference just has to keep doing what it’s been doing.