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Mountain West with little playoff hope in football

The number of playoff spots doubled to four a year ago, but the feeling inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas was the field needed to double again for a Mountain West team to have a realistic shot at making it.

Only Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said at the conference’s media days last week he believed a Mountain West team that put together a spectacular season could get one of the four coveted spots.

“If you’re not in it, something really special happened for the other four that are in it,” Harsin said.

His conference brethren were more skeptical than Jon Stewart is of Fox News.

“I talked to a couple of coaches myself and I understand those thoughts, but I disagree,” said Bill Hancock, College Football Playoff executive director. “I think Mountain West teams absolutely have an opportunity to make this playoff. There’s no question about it.”

Harsin was smart not to be critical of the process. He oversees the one Mountain West team with any shot of making the playoffs, so expressing anything other than optimism does him or his program no good.

But special conditions would need to take place for the Broncos to make it.

Boise State would have to go undefeated and hope for a season like in 2007 when the top major college teams kept losing. That season ended with two-loss Louisiana State winning the national title.

So a Mountain West team could make a four-team format, but no one should get too excited until the field eventually expands to eight.

It just might be a while before that happens.

“We went to the 12-year arrangement for a four-team tournament because we wanted folks to know it was staying there,” Hancock said. “We wanted folks to come to know it and love it, and there’s just no discussion about any kind of expansion.”

NEW YEAR’S ROCKIN’ SEMIS Last season’s CFP debut was an enormous success. Each semifinal registered more than a 15.0 TV rating, and the championship game pulled in an 18.2.

College football fans had waited a long time for a playoff, and it helped the semifinals were on New Year’s Day when many people already were plopped on their couches.

This season’s semifinals will take place on New Year’s Eve. The games are at 1 and 5 p.m. PST, so choosing between watching football and going out to celebrate will not be as much of an issue in the West as in the East.

But Hancock said he believed a new tradition will begin; the semifinals will be on New Year’s Eve four of the next five seasons.

“ESPN is promoting New Year’s Eve a great deal,” he said. “I believe we will change the paradigm for New Year’s Eve in this country. When we go to New Year’s Eve parties, they better have televisions so we can watch college football.

“People watch the NCAA Tournament on Thursday and Friday. They figure out a way.”

True, but it’s easier to check on the basketball bracket while at work than convince a spouse to watch eight quarters of football on the biggest party night of the year.

EARLY LOOK The two Big 12 Conference teams left out of the semifinals last year are ranked in the top four in the coaches’ preseason poll. Texas Christian is No. 2 and Baylor No. 4.

Also in the top four are Ohio State at No. 1 and Alabama at No. 3.

If that’s the way the CFP rankings end up in December, the Atlantic Coast and Pac-12 conferences will be left out.

The coaches showed last year they were pretty good at picking the field. Their preseason top four: 1. Florida State, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Oregon.

Three of those teams made the playoffs. Ohio State was ranked sixth, but later went on a remarkable late-season run to claim the national championship.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65. He is first vice president of the Football Writers Association of America.

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