4th & 18: Can the Mountain West get a little love?

Brian Heissenbuttel, Managing Editor

I woke up in the morning on Saturday, Nov. 1 and immediately rushed down to the television in order to jump into the day’s college football action. A lot of the particularly interesting games hadn’t started yet, but on ESPNU, the doomed Temple Owls were somehow leading East Carolina, which was ranked 23rd in the top 25 poll. Temple closed out the win in the second half and I was shocked and overjoyed! East Carolina will fall out of the top 25! That leaves room for CSU!

Fast-forward to later that night, when CSU neared the end of a tight division matchup with San Jose State. SJSU recovered an onside kick. They immediately threw a touchdown pass to tie it! Luckily for CSU, the receiver stepped out of bounds so the touchdown was waved off. It was 4th down for the Spartans, and the pass was incomplete! CSU won!

Sunday morning rolls along, and the AP and USA Today top 25 polls are promptly released. I open their website, ecstatic to see where the Rams are in the new rankings. However, the AP poll reads:

21. Arizona

22. Duke

23. Marshall

24. West Virginia

25. Wisconsin

Wait…what? The Rams just had a massive division win, extending their winning streak to 7 games and have an 8-1 record. However, they lost the 25 spot in both the AP and CFP polls to a 6-2 Wisconsin team? Credit to Wisconsin, as they are coming off a big win against Rutgers, but why was this stellar CSU team consistently denied a spot in the top 25?

As a matter of fact, that question is rhetorical. Any serious college football fan could make an educated guess, because it is simple fact that the Mountain West Conference doesn’t get the same respect that the Big Ten has.

This puts CSU in a pickle, since their out-of-conference schedule includes wins over the struggling CU Buffaloes in week one, UC Davis from the FCS in week three, and the 6-3 Boston College Eagles in week four. When their big division wins come against teams such as Utah State and Wyoming, they will almost always be pushed down beneath teams like Wisconsin with their division wins over Illinois and Rutgers.

My message to the members of the Associated Press and College Football Playoff Committee who develop their weekly polls: don’t disregard small conference teams so easily. If there is one thing last year’s BCS bowls taught us, it is that small conference teams (*cough* UCF *cough*) can’t be written off just because their opponent may play in a more competitive conference. Central Florida proved it by putting up 52 points on Baylor in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville Cardinals proved it by beating Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, and Boise State proved it by upsetting Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

The fact of the matter is that, while the strength of schedule may differ throughout teams and conferences, small conference teams should not be written off. The Mountain West Conference alone has captured many bold victories over larger conference opponents in the last five to ten years, so why have they not earned the opportunity to be considered a legitimate football conference in the FBS?