With only four weeks left of regular season play only one question remains in the Mountain West Conference, "Who is #1?" The BYU Cougars took themselves out of the conversation early on. The Air Force Falcons replaced the Cougars in the "Big 3" before losing on the road to the San Diego St. Aztecs, who would also be in the conversation, except for a road loss to the Cougars in Provo. That leaves us with only two teams atop the Mountain; The Utah Utes and the TCU Horned Frogs.
The easy way to solve the question is to watch the game in Salt Lake with the College Game Day crowd, but where's the fun in looking back, when you can predict the future? That is what I will attempt to do here tonight. But even after Saturday's match up of the unbeatens, the San Diego St. Aztecs remain a wild card that neither Utah or TCU have faced.
#9 New Mexico Lobos (0-8; 0-4)
Some where in San Diego County in a dark corner, Rocky Long is crying as he witnesses the downfall of the program he built in Albuquerque. How a program can fall so far so fast is beyond me, but apparently the assistant coaches in Lobo-land were not paying attention to how Rocky was running the program. The only real question to ask is when will the Lobos win their next game?
#8 UNLV Rebels (1-7; 1-3)
Even the awful Rebels routed the Lobos, which represents their lone win of the 2010 season. Every season they seem to build up all the pre-season hype about how things have changed in Vegas, and how they are finally going to break through, but in the end, the only sure bet in Vegas is a UNLV loss.
#7 Colorado St. Rams (3-6; 2-3)
I was encouraged by the Rams in the opening game of the year against the Colorado Buffaloes, even under the leadership of a freshman quarterback. But they are learning the same lesson that BYU is learning; Even when a kid looks good in the off season, its a bigger jump than people think to go from high school to a Division I college program. I haev to say that the Rams show slight signs of being a decent program, but it never gels for four quarters. This team needs more experience and more leadership. But like UNLV, it seems that the only real experience has come from losing and it is getting passed on to the younger generations
#6 Wyoming Cowboys (2-7; 0-5)
Although the Pokes have one less win than the Rams, they still look like the better team. Wyoming has an offense that at times can move the ball with ease up and down the field, yet at times it just shuts down for no apparent reason. The downfall of the Cowboys is a very poris defense that can't seem to stop anybody. Heck even the inept BYU offense put 30+ on the Wyoming Defense. My prediction is that Wyoming beats Colorado St. 35-17 in the border war.
#5 BYU Cougars (3-5; 2-2)
The Cougars have been through the meat of the schedule and are faced with somewhat of a reprieve over the next three weeks before going on the road to play the team up north. Bronco Mendenhall has revamped the defense and has them firing on all cylinders as they continue to shut down opposing offenses. For the Cougars the big question going into each game is what offense is going to show up? Really it is how many rushing yards will we get? If we can rush for over 150 yards, we have a chance. That would mean we are control the clock and sustaining drives.
#4 Air Force Falcons (5-4; 3-3)
Even with the head to head loss at SDSU I would have had the Falcons #3, but with all the injuries they are dealing with they are clearly not in top form. They have played tough all year, but the season has taken its toll. Luck for the Falcons, they have played all the tough teams. They should be able to finish out the year with little or no contest from Army, New Mexico and UNLV respectively. That would give the Falcons an 8-4 record and another bowl game under Coach Troy Calhoon.
#3 San Diego St. Aztecs (6-2; 3-1)
This team has been vastly improved in 2010. The defense under Rocky Long has been outstanding save for a bad game against Wyoming. Their two losses have come on controversial calls (although I say BYU still wins that game, and BYU should have had a fumble recovery as well that led to an SDSU TD). In any case, I still think that this team is getting better and better, and more and more confident as the season rolls along. While it may be a little too outlandish to predict a win against TCU or Utah in the coming weeks, I see SDSU giving both teams a run for their money. What SDSU has to watch out for this week is a let down against CSU,knowing that they are bowl eligible for the first time since 1993 and are playing an inferior opponent. The Aztecs have to keep the momentum going.
#2 TCU Hornder Frogs (9-0; 5-0)
I know, I know, there is probably nobody on this blog or outside of Ute Land that thinks TCU should be below Utah, but I just see a lot of vulnerability from the Frogs. They let weaker teams hang with them for too long, and when the face a very good team, like Utah, that routine will catch them by surprise. They may find themselves trying to turn on the gas in the 3rd quarter only to find out that there is nothing extra in the tank. Don't get me wrong, TCU is a very good football team. They have won the way they were supposed to win, but when I look at TCU I don't see as explosive of an offense as in the past and the defense is down a notch or two from the last 3 years. The statistics don't back that up, but the on the field play and pressure does. Then again going from A+ to A, aint too bad.
#1 Utah Utes (8-0; 5-0)
Why do the Utes get the nod for the top spot? This one to me comes down to who looks better in their wins and who looks more vulnerable. Utah started the season against a very mediocre Pittsburgh Panthers team and in sloppy "first game of the year" style pulled out an overtime victory, but it was clear throughout the game who was the better team. That trend has continued all year as the Utes have made quick work of every opponent, with no signs of faltering. The only hiccup in the play was this weekend against the Falcons. I expected it to be a tough game, as Utah always seems to struggle to dominate Air Force. This year was no exception, and they very well may have lost the game if Air Force hadn't turned the ball over so many times. But even still the Utes seemed to always be in control of the game.
This will all be a mute point come Saturday night, but I for one (regretfully admit) that when it is all said and done, the Utah Utes will be atop the Mountain West Conference.
PS Then I will be rooting for SDSU to knock them off so niether team goes BCS Bowling. BYU won't be in the MWC anymore, so there is no need to root for a MWC school to be in a BCS Bowl. At least that's my take.