Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Mountain West wants an automatic BCS bid. To accomplish this, it needs a forgiving mood from the BCS powers-that-be and strong performances on the field. It can count on those from the likes of Boise State, TCU (this season, anyway) and Fresno State. But it also needs better performances from the woeful bottom half of the conference, where the four teams at the bottom of the standings -- Wyoming, UNLV, Colorado State and hapless New Mexico -- went a staggering 2-34 in 2010 against all other FBS competition.
It looked like Wyoming wasn't going to be keeping that kind of company after their breakthrough 2009 season, in which first-year coach Dave Christensen led them to a 7-6 record and a thrilling New Mexico Bowl upset of Fresno. But it's all been downhill since then, as the Cowboys stumbled to a 3-9 record, handed New Mexico its only win of Mike Locksley's two-year tenure, and saw starting quarterback Austyn Canta-Samuels elect to transfer after the season.
Now things have gone from bad to worse as fellow signal-caller Emory Miller Jr. has also decided to leave Laramie following spring practice. "Personal reasons" were the only factor cited by the Laramie Boomerang, and Christensen declined to comment other than to wish Miller luck at his next destination.
Miller's and Canta-Samuel's decisions leave Christensen in a gigantic bind at the quarterback position. The Cowboys are down to just two scholarship quarterbacks on their projected 2011 roster: Brett Smith and Adam Pittser. But there's an even bigger problem than the numbers, as both Smith and Pittser are true freshmen straight from the Cowboys' 2011 recruiting class.
For the optimists in the Cowboy fanbase, Smith enrolled in time for spring practice and battled Miller to at least a draw in their battle for the starting spot, and Pittser (a "dual-threat" QB from Richmond, Ill.) is one of the most highly-regarded recruits of Christensen's tenure. To boot, Christensen has already enjoyed some success with a true freshman under center in Laramie; Canta-Samuels started the majority of the 2009 campaign and was named the MWC Freshman of the Year.
But surely no one, Christensen included, believes that entering the 2011 season starting a quarterback a year removed from high school and backing him up with a second quarterback a year removed from high school is the optimal situation. And should the Cowboys suffer through another lackluster season and help deprive the MWC of the automatic bid it so desperately wants, that'll go double in the MWC offices.