Oct 242010
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

SALT LAKE CITY – The Mountain West Conference is a great analogy of the socioeconomic statuses in the United States.

There’s the upper class, featuring Utah and TCU; upper-middle, home of San Diego State, Brigham Young and Air Force; lower-middle, with CSU, Wyoming and UNLV; and then there’s that lower-class called New Mexico, which is fitting since Albuquerque, N.M. is such a dump anyway.

The upper class parties almost strictly with fellow elites when playing non-conference opponents, scheduling the likes of Oregon State, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame in its free time.

The upper-middle tries to act like its superior, partying with schools like Washington and Florida State that give the naked eye the sense of luxury, but upon further examination is just a knock-off Louis Vuitton handbag from the homeless cat lady in Central Park.

Of course, the upper-middle does occasionally splurge for the big exotic getaways in Oklahoma and Missouri, only to be left feeling empty after returning from vacation.

Jumping down to New Mexico, the Lobos like to keep the lower class stereotype in tact by snorting (figurative) crack and shooting (figurative) heroin with houseguests New Mexico State and UTEP, both of which are also fellow (figurative) drug addicts.

See, I have to cover my behind, don’t want those lunatics in New Mexico to think I’m actually calling them drug addicts –– AMC’s “Breaking Bad” does that just fine.

And that brings us back to those wild Rebels, Rams and Cowboys working paycheck-to-paycheck in the lower-middle class. They’re all hard workers, who want to do things the right way but just haven’t caught a big break. All three of these schools have faced tough opponents throughout the season and have nothing to show for it but losses in the record book.

Starting with Wyoming (2-6, 0-4 MWC), the Cowboys have faced five opponents that are either currently ranked in the AP Top 25 or were at the game’s date –– four of those schools in the top ten (Boise State, TCU, Texas and Utah). In none of these games did Wyoming score more than seven points.

With UNLV (1-6, 1-2) against opponents in the same ranking category, four games played and the Rebels have allowed 43 points per contest. UNLV has yet to play TCU or Air Force, which will increase its total to at least six.

Finally there’s CSU (2-6, 1-3), where in three of the four games against schools once ranked in the Top 25, the Rams finished without a single touchdown ­­–– once completely scoreless.

So against schools once ranked in the Top 25 this season, Wyoming, UNLV and CSU are a combined 0-13, but facing everyone else, these same schools are 5-4.

Not much better, but you have to appreciate improvement in contrast.

And just like most lower-middle class households in this country, they’re full of proud people who stay the course. That’s no different for the Rebels, Rams and Cowboys.

They’re all unified groups that believe in the process and that hard work will eventually pay off.
After CSU’s 59-6 loss at Utah on Saturday, I asked senior linebacker Ricky Brewer if the Rams were better than the record showed due to a tough schedule. Ricky being Ricky, he made no excuses for the 2-6 mark, but never denied the Rams are better than advertised.

When asking freshman running back Chris Nwoke the same thing, he had a different answer.

“We definitely are (better than our record shows),” said Nwoke, who earned his first career start against the Utes, rushing for 48 yards. “Especially against TCU and (Utah). I definitely think once we put all three phases together again, we’ll do some great things … we live and learn and get better each week.”

While I disagree that CSU –– or Wyoming or UNLV, for that matter –– get better each week due to the rollercoaster of performances on both sides of the ball, I do agree that things are going to come together soon for the Rams.

And by soon, I mean by season’s end. I felt that, before this season, CSU was a five-win team, and I still think that’s how they’ll finish, beating New Mexico, BYU and Wyoming, paving way to a bright 2011.

But rebuilding projects like the ones the Rebels, Rams and Cowboys are all in the process of take time, and beating your lower-middle class peers is the key to breaking into that next group.

Assuming the Pokes take down UNLV on Nov. 13, the Border War will likely tell whether it’s CSU or Wyoming that’s ready to make the next step. The loser, well it might want to take out another mortgage.

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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