BOISE — Boise State and the Mountain West built reputations as giant killers in college football during the 2000s.
Now that theyve joined forces, neither has been able to retain that rep.
The Mountain West has claimed one nonconference victory over a team with a winning record this season Fresno State over Rutgers and is 0-17 against the five conferences that will have automatic access to the new College Football Playoff beginning next season.
The Mountain West likely will finish with a losing nonconference record for the second straight year, which hasnt happened since 2005-06. This years struggles follow an abysmal 2012 that saw the Mountain West finish last in the computer rankings behind the Sun Belt, Mid-American, Conference USA and folding WAC.
Fresno State, which at No. 14 in the Bowl Championship Series standings is in line for a Fiesta Bowl berth, can cover up this years struggles with three more wins. The Mountain West hasnt landed a BCS bid since TCUs trip to the Rose Bowl in 2010.
I guess Fresno has done pretty good, beat whoever theyve played, Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. The rest of us have not.
At the Mountain West media preview in July in Las Vegas, Petersen was among the coaches who predicted big things for the Mountain West this year.
This is a pretty strong conference, he said then. On the outside, nobody really knows that yet. It will take a while to figure that out.
That process might take a little longer than he thought perhaps another season or two.
There are promising signs. Former doormats UNLV and Colorado State are on the verge of earning bowl berths, San Jose State and Utah State have backed up last years breakout seasons with strong efforts and San Diego State has shaken off a dreadful start.
But like the Broncos previous home, the WAC, the Mountain West has too many teams stuck in the bottom quarter of the national rankings six, which is half the membership.
This is a good league, Petersen said this week. This is going to be a good league. Its a good fit and all those types of things. I think its one year. I think the parity in the league is better, and so thats something. Hopefully we can all stay a little healthy and do better when we play outside the conference.
Coaches point out the Mountain West has been hit hard by injuries this season. Boise State and Utah State lost their starting quarterbacks, which contributed to blowout losses to BYU.
The league also likely would have had a Pac-12 win had the Fresno State-Colorado game not been canceled because of flooding.
The difference in some years is the ability to win those close games out of conference, Nevada coach Brian Polian said. Fresno finds a way to beat Rutgers. Utah State goes down to the Coliseum and loses 17-14 (to USC). Wyoming loses to Nebraska, loses a very close game. I think its too simple to just look at the nonconference record and say, Boy, theyre not what theyve been, because a couple of field goals in a couple of those games and its a different story, and peoples opinion might be different.
One area where the league hasnt disappointed is offense. The Mountain West boasts five of the top 30 teams in yards per game (No. 5 Fresno State, No. 16 Wyoming, No. 18 Boise State, No. 28 Utah State, No. 29 San Jose State).
I know this, Fresno is a BCS-type team, New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. I saw it last year when they came out on the field. I think everybody is seeing it this year. I cant imagine theres a better offensive league across the country than this league. Youve got two teams in Fresno and potentially Utah State and Boises still in the thing that are BCS-caliber teams. Thats a pretty good league.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398; Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat