Comparing new Big East vs. merged MWC/C-USA
So I'm reading about this newly announced merger between Conference USA and the Mountain West, which would create a new league with as many as 22 teams to make a claim for a BCS automatic berth in the next cycle. So much of that new league is still in flux, with Boise State, Central Florida, Air Force, Houston and SMU all reportedly in varying levels of courtship by the Big East.
Boise State, obviously, is a huge pivot between the two leagues, giving one or the other a consistent top-10 program and the BCS clout that comes with that. But even if the Big East wasn't able to lure the Broncos eastward, the Big East's proposed new lineup, poaching the other four schools from the merged-league lineup, would be ahead by most statistical measures this season.
If you take Boise out of the equation for now, we'll start with a computer ranking like USA Today's Sagarin ratings -- if the Big East were able to keep its current members and add Houston, SMU, UCF, Navy and Air Force, that lineup (not counting its 12th member) would have six teams in the Sagarin top 45 and 10 in the top 70; the merged MWC-CUSA would have one in the top 45 (Boise) and six in the top 70.
With Boise, the new league could try to make a case for an automatic BCS berth, but so much of the league's membership would be below BCS caliber that it's hard to justify its inclusion because of the weak competition in the conference. The best Sagarin ratings in the new league would be Boise (4), Houston (29), SMU (42), Tulsa (46), Nevada (48), Southern Miss (55), San Diego State (64) and Hawaii (70). After those, it gets ugly, remembering that there are only 120 schools in I-A football: Fresno (94), UTEP (95), Marshall (96), Wyoming (103), Rice (104), ECU (108), Colorado State (121), UNLV (137), Memphis (179), New Mexico (184) and UAB (187).
That's 11 schools at 94 or lower -- all the Big East schools we mentioned would all be ranked higher in the Sagarins. For any reasonable case at a BCS berth, the league would have to see the Big East collapse, which would require some of the current six football schools to land in another BCS league and the remaining schools to be so unattractive that the Conference USA teams would choose the new merge rather than combining with the Big East remnants.
Until the existing Big East schools make a commitment to stay together, there's still much in play, but it's hard to justify a BCS berth for the new league based on how the merged teams have fared against BCS level competition this season. The 22 teams in the new league are a combined 8-33 against teams in BCS conferences (or committed to do so, like TCU) -- take away Boise, Air Force, Houston, SMU and UCF (as the Big East might do) and that record drops to 5-30. The remaining six Big East football schools, by comparison, are a combined 4-6 in nonconference games against BCS opponents.