Oct 212003
 
Authors: Vince Blaser

The Mountain West Conference returned a team to the Top 25 polls

this week, but the conference’s future continues to be a hot topic

for the member schools.

The Utah Utes have entered the Top 25 in both the Associated

Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time since

1996. Utah entered at No. 23 in the Coaches Poll and at No. 24 in

the AP poll. It was only the third year in school history that Utah

(6-1, 3-0 MWC) has been ranked in the polls.

The hottest topic around the conference, however, are rumors

circulating about the MWC’s expansion plans. Rice, Tulsa and

Southern Methodist announced this week that they are leaving the

Western Athletic Conference for Conference USA.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Oct. 19 that the eight

MWC athletic directors voted to push their individual presidents to

add a ninth school to the conference. The Star-Telegram reported

that Conference USA member Texas Christian is the leading candidate

to fill the void.

Meanwhile, while Air Force and CSU have byes this week, the

other six MWC teams play each other with bowl eligibility and

conference standings on the line. Here is a look at the games.

New Mexico (4-3, 1-1) at Utah (6-1, 3-0), Saturday Line: Utah by

9 – With Air Force and CSU not playing Saturday, the Utes can only

lose ground in their MWC lead.

Utah is one of the hottest teams in the nation. Since sophomore

Alex Smith took over as starting quarterback, Utah has won five

straight including victories over Pacific-10 conference opponents

California and Oregon. Last week Utah coasted to a 28-10 win at

UNLV.

New Mexico heads to Salt Lake City riding its own three-game

winning streak. The Lobos are coming off a dominating 30-7 win at

San Diego State Saturday.

Cornerback Gabriel Fulbright was the MWC defensive player of the

week because of his three interceptions against the Aztecs.

Fulbright and the Lobos will have to contend with MWC leading

rusher Brandon Warfield and a hostile Utah crowd.

Brigham Young (3-5, 2-3) at UNLV (4-3, 0-2). Line: UNLV by 3 1/2

– This game is a must win for two teams on a slide.

UNLV had a tough start to its MWC season, losing to Air Force

and Utah on the road. The Rebels only need two wins in their

remaining five games to become bowl eligible, but desperately need

their first conference win.

The Cougars fall has been worse, having lost four out of their

last five games including a Thursday night loss to CSU on ESPN2 in

which they gave up the most points (58) ever at home and a 13-10

loss Saturday at traditional conference doormat Wyoming.

BYU must win three out of its four remaining games to become

bowl eligible, with games against Notre Dame, Boise State and Utah

remaining after UNLV.

Quarterback Matt Berry returned to the lineup for BYU last week,

going 21-for-34 for 225 yards. Cougar running back Reynaldo

Brathwaite is averaging 6.6 yard a carry in MWC games.

Berry and Brathwaite will have to contend with a UNLV defense

that holds opponents to a conference-leading 26.8 third down

conversion rate.

Wyoming (3-4, 1-1) at San Diego State (0-3, 3-5). Line: SDSU by

3 – Coming off a big win at BYU, the Cowboys will try to prove

Saturday that SDSU should replace Wyoming on the MWC doormat.

Amazingly, the Cowboys could become bowl eligible in head coach

Joe Glenn’s first year if Wyoming wins three of its last five

games. If they can get past the Aztecs, the Cowboys would have

three home games remaining against CSU, New Mexico and UNLV and a

game at Utah.

San Diego State has had a dismal season in conference play,

scoring only 13 points total in losses to Utah and New Mexico.

However, the Aztecs’ defense leads the MWC, giving up an average

of 300 yards per game. Wide receiver Jeff Webb can be explosive for

the Aztecs, as evidenced by 253-yard receiving game against

BYU.

The Cowboys feature a fun-and-gun attack led by quarterback

Casey Bramlet. Bramlet leads the MWC with 258.3 yards passing per

game.

 

 

 

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