After a relatively light schedule last week, teams from the Mountain West Conference hit it into high gear for one of the most important weeks this season. While there are only two conference games, it will be the out of conference schedule that defines this week's play.
Utah, San Diego State, Wyoming, Colorado State and UNLV all play out of conference opponents, while TDS plays TCU and New Mexico battles Air Force in the only two conference games this week. Utah plays intermountain rival Boise State Saturday in Salt Lake City, while San Diego State travels up to San Jose for their game against the Spartans. And the battle for the Fremont Cannon between UNLV and Nevada will be played in Reno as the Rebels are looking for their first win over Nevada since the 2004 season. Colorado State will face their second straight WAC opponent in Fresno State after the Rams were blown out on the road against Nevada two weeks ago.
Here's a quick breakdown of each game and my prediction for the final outcome. Last week I went 2-2 with my picks and am 23-5 on the season.
TDS @ TCU
The conference game of the week pits undefeated TCU against TDS. TCU has won 13-straight games, the longest streak in the nation, and will look to start conference play with a victory over a hungry TDS team. TCU has only lost 4-games at home since 2000 and is the best coached team in the conference. TCU's defense will ultimately dictate the flow of this game as TDS' offense can be explosive and TCU has yet to show they've got the offensive weapons to succeed in a shootout. Look for the Frogs defense to stuff TDS' running game and keep starting quarterback John Beck -- who's working on a bum ankle -- in check. TCU wins 24-21
Wyoming @ Syracuse
Prior to the season I thought this was nearly a lock for the Cowboys, but now I'm wavering. Wyoming has no offense and while they've got a fantastic defense, they've only won one game all season long. Syracuse, while not nearly a good team, is still 1-2 on the season with a close road loss to Iowa and a road win against Illinois. If this game were being played in Laramie, I would give Wyoming the advantage, but since it's being played at Syracuse, the Orange should win. Syracuse wins 21-10
New Mexico @ Air Force
The Lobos have improved every week since their embarrassing loss to D1-AA Portland State. Air Force on the other hand had a strong showing against Tennessee in week two and then beat Wyoming to open their conference season. Are the Falcons back, or is this just their traditional early season rise before the fall? Well the Lobos game should give us a better indication of where Air Force stands. Last season the Falcons defeated New Mexico in the final game of the season, ending any hopes for a Lobo bowl berth. I'm guessing Rocky Long remembers that and is not above using that as motivation. The Lobos are slowly building success again and if their offense continues to improve, they should win. New Mexico wins 31-27
Boise State @ Utah
Saying this is a huge game would be a complete understatement. If the Utes win, they'll have unreal confidence heading into their game against TCU. A loss however might foretell struggles against TCU the next week. For Boise State, their BCS dreams hinge on this game as a loss would most likely kill any chance for a BCS bowl berth. The Broncos have a solid running game with running back Ian Johnson and Jared Zabransky is always tough through the air. Utah benefits from playing at home, as Boise State has struggled on the road over the past 5-years -- especially this season as they nearly lost to Wyoming at Laramie -- and the Utes are tough at home. The Utes will need to shut down Boise State's running game and force Zabransky through the air. If they do that, Boise State will most likely struggle to win. The game should be close, but with the home crowd behind them, Utah wins. Utes win 34-24
San Diego State @ San Jose State
The poor Aztecs have limped to an 0-3 start for the second year in a row and the news doesn't get much better. Starting running back Lynell Hamilton is out indefinitely after being injured in the Utah game. Luckily for the Aztecs, they face San Jose State and the Spartans aren't very good. Granted they played tough against Washington and beat Stanford (who hasn't?), but they edged out D1-AA Cal Poly last week. The Aztecs aren't good enough to dominate, but they shouldn't lose this game. If they do, they might as well call off the season. San Diego wins 28-17
UNLV @ Nevada
The Rebels looked solid in week one and week two, only to get blown out in week three against Hawaii. Last week they were idle and now face another tough test as they battle instate rival Nevada on the road. Mike Sanford's offense has struggled against D1-A opponents and that probably won't change this week. Nevada is tough at home and the Rebels just aren't very good. Nevada wins 41-28
Colorado State @ Fresno State
Fresno State defeated Nevada, Nevada defeated Colorado State...so Fresno State wins by default, right? Well it's not that easy, however the outcome shouldn't change. The Bulldogs have had two heart breaking losses to BCS teams over the past three weeks and have had a week off to stew in anger. Look for them to take it out against the Rams, whose offense has been less than spectacular all season long. Could this be the beginning of the end for the Lubick era in Fort Collins? Fresno State wins 35-14
There you have it, a big week for the Mountain West, and especially the Utes!