Playing The "What If?" Game With The WAC
By Joe Jenkins
With less than two months before the 2013 college football season kicks off in earnest, all eyes will be looking toward camp previews, award watch lists and depth charts.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, lets take one last look at our dear, departed friend, the WAC. We already discussed at length what the WAC was and how it all fell apart, but for a moment, I’d like to suspend reality. Let’s pretend the turnstiles and revolving doors remained locked and that most teams never left. Let’s imagine that instead of expanding foolishly, the conference decided to be a bit choosier about which teams were admitted and which ones weren’t.
With hindsight, the leaders of the WAC probably would have formed a 14-team conference split into two divisions. The “Mountain Division” would consist of Air Force, Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming while the “West Division” would be made up of Fresno State, Hawaii, Rice, San Diego State, San Jose State, SMU and TCU.
But how would it have stacked up against the automatic qualifying conferences?
Fairly well, actually.
As it stands, the WAC boasts a 2-1 record in BCS bowl games. If we are to include Utah’s two victories and TCU’s Rose Bowl win, that brings the record to 5-2.
It’s worth noting that under this theoretical system, it would have been near impossible for Boise State to play TCU, since they would have been in the same conference. Since we can’t extrapolate who would have gotten the at-large bid, much less if they would've won, we will vacate both the BSU win and the TCU loss (you’re welcome Horned Frogs) and call the record 4-1. Even by vacating the 2010 Tostitos Fiesta bowl, the four wins are one more than the ACC and Notre Dame have combined in 20 BCS bowl appearances.
We can’t measure everything in BCS records, however. Something needs to be said for sustained success. Even over a longer period of time, the WAC still excelled. Since 2000, the WAC would have had 29 teams finish the season in the AP Top 25, or an average of 2.23 schools per season. By comparison, the old Big East only had 24 teams finish in the AP polls for an average of 1.84 schools per season during the same 13-year span.
Would the WAC have challenged the SEC for national dominance? Absolutely not.
Even the most powerful version of the WAC probably would have slipped in just behind the Big 12 in terms of power ranking even with the superior winning percentage in BCS games (.450 for the Big 12).
It would have been fun to see, though. And as the real teams in the WAC like Boise State taught us, if you put them in a big game, you never know what might happen.