Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
Now that the season is officially over, it's time to look back at the non-BCS conferences and see how they ranked against each other this season. The ranking includes both regular-season and postseason performances.
Back in August I wrote that the Mountain West had the best chance for BCS success and that it would likely come down to BYU and Utah. Utah came through and finished the season 13-0 with a Sugar Bowl win and a No. 2 national ranking. The Mountain West finished with three teams ranked in the Top 25 and two in the Top 10. Utah, BYU and TCU all finished with 10 or more wins and five teams finished with seven or more wins. The Mountain West finished 3-2 during bowl season, but still notched more bowl revenue than any other non-BCS conference.
Conference USA was underrated most of the year, but showed that it's an up-and-coming conference with a terrific race to the conference championship, a thrilling conference championship game and a decent bowl season. C-USA had two teams finish with 10 or more wins -- Tulsa and Rice -- and five teams finish with seven or more wins. Both Tulsa and Rice had record seasons and teams such as Houston and Southern Mississippi excelled under first-year head coaches. East Carolina set the bar for the conference by beating two BCS teams to start the season.
Like most seasons since joining the WAC, Boise State carried the conference with yet another undefeated regular season. And though it lost its bowl game to TCU, the Broncos still finished ranked No. 11 in the final AP poll. But that's where the bragging on the WAC ends. Five teams finished with seven or more wins, but just Boise State finished with more than eight wins. The WAC was 1-4 during the bowl season, with Louisiana Tech notching the only bowl victory, and the WAC matched the Mid-American Conference with three teams with three or fewer losses. It was the first time since 2000 that the WAC finished with just one team having nine or more wins.
The MAC has come under some heavy fire since the bowl season ended for being the great pretenders of the FBS. Darling Ball State carried the conference with a 12-0 regular season, but lost its final two, including a blowout to Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl, to call the Cardinals' undefeated season into question. The MAC had four teams finish with eight or more wins, but all of the conference's five bowl teams lost. Three of those losses were by 18, 24 and 32 points. Teams such as Buffalo, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois did make huge strides from last season, but the strength of the conference overall is a question mark.
5. SUN BELT
It seems like the Sun Belt is always at the bottom of these lists, but the Belt did have a decent season. It had four teams reach bowl eligibility and for the first time in conference history a 6-6 team (Florida Atlantic) earned a bowl berth. The Owls went on to defeat Central Michigan 24-21 in the Motor City Bowl. Troy carried the conference as the only team with eight wins. It won its first outright conference championship, but had to fight off Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State. Florida International made the most strides of any Sun Belt team by winning five games after winning only one in the previous two seasons.