While the Utes didn't play, this was an important week for the Mountain West. I thought it would prove to be a week that separated the pretenders from the contenders and I think for the most part, it has.
What we do know is that Utah, TCU and BYU will all compete for the conference championship. I say this not because they're all three equal (they're not), but because there is a huge gap between these three and the rest of the conference. That was proven today when the supposed fourth and fifth-best teams struggled in out of conference play.
Out of the big three that played this week, the Cougars looked the worst. Mostly because Max Hall has struggled since the Oklahoma game and that just may be what holds them back the remainder of the season. Of course, TCU wasn't that much better against the SMU Mustangs. They had a hard time putting away the clearly over matched Mustangs, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt - it was a rivalry game after all.
As mentioned, the drop off after TCU, BYU and Utah seems very apparent after week five. Colorado State, the same team that had opened the season 3-0, lost at Idaho and Air Force dropped another contest to Navy. Though they took the Midshipmen to overtime, it was a loss nonetheless and a victory there would have been huge for the program and the conference.
Beyond that, UNLV probably laid the biggest egg this week. They were thoroughly embarrassed by Nevada Reno 63-28 - a loss that almost certainly seals Mike Sanford's fate.
This was a game that the Mountain West didn't need, especially when you couple it with Colorado State's loss to Idaho. To date, New Mexico State (who lost to the Aztecs this week) owns a victory over the Mountain West, as do the Vandals (two, in fact) and Wolf Pack. Granted, both Utah & BYU defeated Utah State and the Rams did beat Nevada, but it goes to show that the bottom and middle of the two conferences aren't that much different.
Where the Mountain West makes it up is the top-half, which I still feel is far stronger than the WAC (who's basically Boise State and the Other Guys). But that still might not do much in terms of perception.
Ultimately, the conference saw its supposed best team win, which is huge. I hope TCU is undefeated when Utah rolls into Fort Worth later this season and who knows, if the Utes are as well, it could position them for another BCS bowl bid. What I do know, though, is that Utah has no excuse for losing to the Rams next Saturday. Their defense looked abysmal against Idaho last night and if the Utes are going to challenge, this is a game they can't afford to drop.