by Ralph Routon
You have to wonder how Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson must have felt Wednesday night during the Las Vegas Bowl.
Thompson had to be sad, seeing the University of Utah playing its final football game as a Mountain West member, in a stadium with a capacity crowd. Losing Utah as well as Brigham Young in 2011 will change the conference's makeup, its demographics and its personality — not to mention removing the great rivalry between those two schools.
Yet, at the same time, the commissioner surely was giddy about seeing Boise State, which will join the MWC next fall, show its superiority in pounding Utah, 26-3. Holding the Utes to just a field goal proved once again that the Broncos deserve their place among the top 10 or so in the national rankings, with a 38-2 record over the past three seasons.
Boise will lose some of its front-line players, but quarterback Kellen Moore will return as a Heisman Trophy favorite for 2011, and the Broncos should start next season well up in the national polls. Early indications are that Air Force will travel to Boise for the first conference game between those two, because the Falcons normally would have gone on the road to play Utah and Brigham Young in 2011.
Boise also could bring the Mountain West another shot of fresh exposure in its 2011 opener, facing the University of Georgia on Sept. 3 in a new corporate-sponsored game (Chick-Fil-A) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, surely on national TV.
Meanwhile, the Mountain West's bowl schedule continues tonight with San Diego State facing Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, the Aztecs' home field. That game kicks off at 6 p.m. Mountain Time on ESPN.