The Mountain West knew 2011 would be a critical season. The league needed some pretty standout performances in this, the final year during the four-year qualification cycle for an automatic bid into the BCS.
But so far, Boise State is the only school that has done its part. The Broncos are undefeated and ranked No. 5. TCU, which started the season in the Top 25, is now unranked at 4-2. San Diego State and Air Force, two teams some thought could make some national noise this season, are 3-2. Mountain West teams are 2-8 against teams from AQ conferences so far this season.
New Mexico and UNLV have lost to FCS teams. The Lobos remain one of the worst teams in the nation, and fired coach Mike Locksley after an 0-4 start. They are one of three winless teams remaining.
If you are looking for good defense, you are going to have to look elsewhere. Six of the eight teams in the league rank No. 69 or worse in total defense. That includes four teams -- Air Force, Wyoming, UNLV and New Mexico -- ranked No. 106 or worse.
It appears more likely than ever that the Mountain West will fall short of meeting the three criteria to get an AQ bid for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. That means it would have to appeal to the presidential oversight committee for a waiver to become an AQ conference. Of course, conference realignment has made much of college football uncertain.
Commissioner Craig Thompson has talked to Conference USA about partnering up with football in an attempt to see whether this would help get an AQ bid. Though TCU is leaving the conference, its performance this season does count for the Mountain West. But if it is up to the presidential oversight committee to decide, it could weigh this huge factor: Utah, TCU and BYU are no longer in the league. Those three schools put the Mountain West on the map.
In any case, the Mountain West needs Boise State to keep doing its part as the second half of the season gets underway.
Offensive MVP: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. Moore remains in the Heisman discussion one year after getting an invite to New York. Moore has thrown for 1,391 yards with 17 touchdown passes and four interceptions.
Defensive MVP: Nordly Capi, DE, Colorado State. Capi is No. 2 in the nation with eight sacks, and has had a breakout season for the Rams. He also leads the nation with five forced fumbles. He set an NCAA record with four against New Mexico in the season opener.
Biggest surprise: Wyoming. OK, the Cowboys beat two FCS teams, but they already have surpassed their win total from last season at 3-2. True freshman Brett Smith has handled the starting quarterback duties well. The Cowboys are coming off a big loss to Utah State, so we’ll see how they finish up in the second half of the season.
Biggest disappointment: TCU defense. The Horned Frogs are not supposed to rebuild, they are supposed to reload, right? Well, quarterback Casey Pachall has been good in place of Andy Dalton. It’s the defense that has let the team down in two losses this season. That’s not expected of a team that has come to be known for its defense. But the Horned Frogs made huge strides in a win against San Diego State last week, a good sign moving forward.
Best game: Boise State 35, Georgia 21. The Broncos picked up their first win against an SEC team. It was a much needed one, not only to keep BCS hopes alive, but to continue to stay in the national conversation. Moore went 28-of-34 for 261 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, and the defense piled up six sacks.
Best coach: Chris Petersen, Boise State. The Broncos came into the season with high expectations once again, and they have been able to manage those and some off-field distractions, as three players have been forced to sit out because they violated NCAA rules. But they haven’t started conference play yet. That begins this week, so Boise State still has much to do to get back to a BCS game.