Editor’s note: This is a local sports column.
There was a good blog series this week about the perception of college football conferences.
It was refreshing in that writers asked coaches the obvious but lesser-talked about views of the competitive state of college football. It’s not a hard quiz to ace. The SEC is the clear leader and powerhouse, the Big 12 has spread offenses, the Big 10 is power football but slow, and the Pac 12 is finesse.
ACC coaches wanted credit for (the reality) their top two Clemson and Florida State holding a respectable record against SEC schools over the past few years.
It made me wonder where the Mountain West Conference falls into that conversation. The easy answer is that it doesn’t. Those are the big boys, and the MWC is for all intents and purposes a mid-major with countless small perceptions and realities. It’s a conference that has after this off-season emerged from intensive care, found new life, but likely not many shiny new crusaders for an out-of-the-woods suddenly super-competitive cause.
But bear with me. There’s an easy discussion here.
Boise is the (obnoxious) national Cinderella, and the others sort of mesh together. Hey, didn’t that one guy come from that MWC school or was it the WAC, says NFL fan. Colin Kaepernick went to Nevada? Weird. Is that why he runs like an ostrich? San Diego State and UNLV have made noise on the hardwood lately, but gridiron progress has been left wanting.
Wyoming’s perception is probably not far from a reality.
The reality is what may be hard to hear. The Pokes recent barometer for success lies simply in winning the six games they are supposed to with the ultimate reward of a low-end bowl game. Wyoming has won eight or more games just four times since 1990, they won nine that year. There have been five bowl game appearances during that time. Conversely, they have won less than three games just three times, under Vic Koening from 2000-2002. Inaccessible in their mediocrity.
Placing Wyoming into a discussion with these power conferences may not be fair, but that in itself is a realization, as a fan, I have to come to.
The Laramie solution is harder to see than what some of those bloggers found to be the current belief of ACC coaches — in so many words, they say the SEC is great because it’s on the national stage EVERY week; a fast, hard-nosed near-NFL game setting. They’re in front of 85,000 people each time they are on the field. Learn high pressure, know you’re the best and be the best. Seven straight years of national titles for the SEC.
Harder to do in Laramie, harder to do in any MWC stadium. There’s obviously a middle ground.
There’s something to be said for the Cowboys holding a constant potential as a better than .500 team. Fans can find pleasure in the fact that the Cowboys show up at War Memorial every Saturday in September, enjoying weather more perfect than the thick humid air of Texas or Alabama football in the South. The trip to Jonah Field is a unique one in our state. Wear the brown and gold, amp up Cotton Eyed Joe on the loudspeakers, strap on the pads and just play some football.
All while winning enough games to hold your hope.
Being aware of your team’s trending downfalls doesn’t mean you’re going to stop being a fan. That’s not a bad fan base. It’s a better one, tougher, perhaps on edge but more resilient and tested. More focused and smarter than a CSU fan. No matter the team or sport, there will be things to be desired.
Before Dave Christensen, Wyoming hadn’t been to two bowl games in three years since the late 1980s. The question now is, in the current college football landscape, can Wyoming, with its isolated recruiting headquarters, be better than its pattern — a maxed out 7-6 or an unsurprising 4-8 (last year)?
I hope so.
The Pokes head man seems to have, whatever “it” is, that could catapult the Cowboys recruiting-wise into the Boise anomaly of a college football national threat. Maybe it’s the Spurrier-esque visor or the Bowden straw hats. The Saban hair flip?
Wyoming has the new turf to get them started, and I’m betting it’d win a popularity vote over that blue carpet in Idaho. We have the quarterback, the offensive blueprint. Now, for the defense.
Kicker: Does Christensen stay long enough to make it all happen? I’d like to think that he does, but who knows. That question carries less weight after he’s still in Laramie for another year. But, Chip Kelly had Oregon flying in a happy V of ducks, building himself a likability for his unwavering college homage comparable to Emilio Estevez himself before bolting for a better, more lucrative bird in the NFL.
Step in the right direction? Beat Nebraska on Aug. 31 in Lincoln.
Bring perception forcibly closer to a reality.
Brad Estes is The Sheridan Press sports editor.