Pac-10 Expansion to Pac-12 and Automatic Qualifying (AQ) Info

So, it’s a forgone conclusion that the consolation prize for the Pac-10/11 is now the Utah Utes.
It’s official – the Pac-10 will be a 12-member conference (and probably called the Pac-12) as Utah will accept the invite from the conference.

Actually, I’m happy about it. I wasn’t really thrilled with the prospect of having to play Texas and Oklahoma in football every year – any thoughts of a Rose Bowl could just be kissed goodbye.

But now, with Utah and Colorado in the fold, a Rose Bowl is still possible, depending on which division USC gets placed in – and even then, we’ve got a good shot anyway for the next two years as USC is banned from the postseason.

All this conference expansion discussion is now moving toward finding out who the next BCS Automatic Qualifier (AQ) will be, if there even will be one.

According to the BCS, the rules for gaining an AQ are simple:

Under the terms of the agreements with the bowls and television rightsholder, the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC will have annual automatic qualification for their champions for the 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

Results from the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 regular seasons will be evaluated to determine whether a seventh conference earns automatic qualification for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 bowl games.

This means that after the 2011 season, there might be a 7th AQ. How will they determine the next AQ?

Actually, it’s based on three criteria over the four-year review period:

  1. The final BCS ranking of the conference’s highest-ranked team
  2. The final regular-season rankings of every team in the conference by the six BCS computers
  3. The number of teams the conference has in the Top 25 of the final BCS standings

Criterion number 3 is based on points: a rank of 1-6 = 4pts, 7-12 = 3 pts, 13-18 = 2pts, and 19-25 = 1pt. There are adjustments to account for conferences that have a disparate number of teams:

  • 12+ members = no adjustments
  • 10-11 members = additional +12.5% of total
  • 9 or fewer members = additional +25% of total

A conference will become the seventh automatic qualifier if it finishes among the top six conferences in both [Criterion] No. 1 and No. 2 and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 50 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3.

This will all make sense in a moment. The first one is easy to figure out – the highest ranked team for each conference. Since the review period began in 2008, we only have two seasons to work with, making it very simple. Remember, this is an average of the highest final BCS rankings (pre-bowls) from 2008-09. It also takes into account the latest movements by Nebraska, Colorado, Boise State, and Utah:

  1. SEC: 1.5
  2. Big 12: 1.5 (yes, I know it’s a tie)
  3. Pac-10: 6
  4. MWC: 6.5
  5. Big East: 7.5
  6. Big Ten: 8
  7. ACC: 11.5
  8. MAC: 25.5
  9. C-USA: 38
  10. WAC: 50.5
  11. Sun Belt: 52

Really, all we care about at this point is the non-BCS conferences: Mountain West, WAC, MAC, Conference USA, and Sun Belt. And based on this listing for the past two years, it looks like the MWC is headed toward AQ status since it’s firmly entrenched in the top 6 (at number 4) for the first criterion.

The second part is trickier. I’ve seen a couple of blogs out there that attempted to calculate the final rankings by dropping high and low scores like the actual BCS formula does. However, the qualifications quoted above actually say “six”, not “four”, computer rankings will be calculated. That said, here’s the list for the second criterion:

  1. SEC: 38.7
  2. ACC: 40.4
  3. Big East: 43.4
  4. Big 12: 45.53
  5. Pac-10: 48.06
  6. Big Ten: 48.88
  7. MWC: 58.42
  8. WAC: 80.97
  9. MAC: 86.6
  10. CUSA: 81.06
  11. SBC: 95.94

MWC comes in 7th here. And while it _looks_ like they should catch the Big Ten, the reality is that the MWC as a whole really is three teams and a bunch of nobodies. You have Boise State, BYU, and TCU. The next best team after them? Air Force (averaging a rank of 50). And that’s not to mention New Mexico and Colorado State who are dragging everybody down with them (100 and 82, respectively).

What happens if they can’t reach that magic 6th spot? Well, there’s a provision for that:

… a conference will be eligible to apply to the Presidential Oversight Committee for an exemption if it finishes among the top six in both No. 1 and No. 2 and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 33.3 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3, OR

If it finishes among the top seven in either No. 1 or No. 2 and among the top five in the other and if its ranking in No. 3 is equal to or greater than 33.3 percent of the conference with the highest ranking in No. 3.

So, right now, the MWC needs to hit at least 33.3% of the conference with the highest ranking’s points.

Criterion number three requires a bit of research to find the final BCS rankings for the teams in the MWC. Note that this criterion pretty much puts the conference at the mercy of its best team.

To calculate the points, you check each conference’s members’ final rankings for 2008 and 2009 and see if any of them were in the top 25. If so, you assign points. For example, in the Big 12 in 2008, 5 teams finished in the top 25 – Missouri #21, Oklahoma #1, Oklahoma State #13, Texas #3, and Texas Tech #7. That’s worth 14 points. And in 2009, only Oklahoma State (#19) and Texas (#2) were Top 25 finishers. That’s another 5 points. That gives the Big 12 19 points. But since they only have 10 members (NOW), there is an added adjustment of 12.5% of the total. 12.5% of 19 = 2.375, so the Big 12’s total is 21.375.

Here’s the full list:

  1. MWC: 22.5 (–)
  2. SEC: 22 (97.8% of leader)
  3. Big 12: 21.375 (95.0%)
  4. Big Ten: 19 (84.4%)
  5. Pac-10: 19 (84.4%)
  6. Big East: 15 (66.7%)
  7. ACC: 12 (53.3%)
  8. MAC: 1 (4.4%)

CUSA, WAC, and Sun Belt Conference all have 0.

MWC definitely hits the jackpot here. The addition of Boise State raises their standing in the last criterion from 3rd place to leading the pack.

What does this tell us? Actually a lot. The reason why MWC is leading the pack is because of the bonus adjustment of +25% due to the fact that the MWC has nine teams. If the MWC expands to a 10th team (rumors are leaning toward the University of Houston) then the score for this criterion becomes 20.25, due to the adjustment being cut in half. Great, they still qualify, right?

Well, yes, if the AQ was determined now. But there’s still two years to go, and you have to believe that the trending for the MWC isn’t getting better for its teams – remember the exception process REQUIRES a 7th place score at worst – and several teams in the MWC got worse in ’09 than ’08. Air Force dropped from 39 to 59. Colorado State went from 62 to 101. New Mexico went from 86 to 115. UNLV went from 79 to 82. Outside of the big three (TCU, BYU, BSU) only Wyoming and San Diego State improved, but SDSU’s improvement isn’t saying much (110 to 95).

No, if trends hold true, MWC has no hope of climbing to 6th place in the 2nd criterion, and instead will have to apply for an exception… assuming that BYU and TCU continue to stay in top-25 form, because realistically, the rest of the MWC doesn’t have a chance to do that.

As for Boise State? Well, they were the big fish in the tiny, tiny pond of the WAC, now they’re a medium-sized fish in a bigger pond called the MWC, and they will have to play BYU and TCU every season instead of at the end of the season at a bowl game. In-season games make a huge difference on BCS rankings, and BSU just found it harder to get those undefeated seasons churned out.