From the shotgun: Quick takes from the MWC

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2005 12:00 a.m. MST

TCU and Colorado State will play Saturday for the Mountain West Conference championship in Fort Worth. It will be the game of the year for the league. If TCU wins, the Horned Frogs will clinch the outright title. If CSU wins, they will move into a tie with TCU — and have the head-to-head advantage.

It's definitely the game to watch this week in the MWC.

The only problem is that unless you are in Fort Worth on Saturday, you won't be able to watch it.

It's not on TV — not even in Texas and/or Colorado.

Instead, the regional ESPN-plus MWC "game of the week" is the BYU at UNLV contest.

That's the type of situation that league commissioner Craig Thompson is happy to report won't be an issue next season when the MWC switches from ESPN/ABC to CSTV as its television partner.

Next year all MWC football games will be broadcast. Some will be on national CSTV. Some will be on the regional Mountain West Conference CSTV network and others will be carried live on video stream on the Internet.


Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick isn't about to put the "must win" tag on Saturday's road matchup between the Rams and No. 20 TCU.

"I won't sell it that way to the team," Lubick said Monday. "We take games one game at a time around here and will still have two games left after TCU, both of which will be tough to come away with wins . . . Except for TCU, we, like the rest of the league, are fighting like heck. It is a big game for us, but I don't think our team will take this game as the end of all of the season, win or lose. I've got to make that point to my team."

Of greater concern is his team's notoriously slow start to begin games. The Rams trailed Wyoming 10-0 before taking control for a 39-31 win.

A week ago, Colorado State watched New Mexico take a 25-12 halftime lead. The Rams' defense never allowed New Mexico to reach midfield in the second half and scored 23 unanswered points to win 35-25.


While San Diego State looked like world beaters against both BYU and Utah, the Aztecs have been very beatable to just about everyone else.

SDSU certainly gave league-leading TCU a scare last week before losing 23-20 in San Diego on Saturday night. The loss dropped the Aztecs to 3-6 overall and put them out of bowl consideration. SDSU is the only team that hasn't qualified for a bowl game since the MWC was formed six years ago.

As one might expect, there are many wondering if Aztec coach Tom Craft will be able to keep his job.

For his part, Craft says he's not worried about the vultures overhead.

"My focus is on continuing the rebuilding process here and on the players," Craft told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It's not on rumors or anything else. I don't have time for that . . . I see a lot of progress, but it's not coming fast enough for us, either."


This may go down as the year of the receiver for the MWC. Six of the league's pass catchers are in the nation's top 40 — and that doesn't even include BYU star Todd Watkins or Utah's John Madsen.

New Mexico's Hank Baskett leads the league with 928 yards, which is third best in the nation. He is followed by Wyoming's Jovon Bouknight (10th in the nation), Colorado State's David Anderson (14th), SDSU's Jeff Webb (17th), Air Force's Jason Brown (27th) and BYU's Jonny Harline (40th). Harline, by the way, is second in the nation for yards by a tight end.


Representatives from the Liberty Bowl will be at Saturday's CSU/TCU game. The Liberty Bowl has an at-large berth open to go up against the No. 1 pick from Conference USA. Thompson says both TCU and Colorado State are being considered for the open spot. The Liberty Bowl is also considering Fresno State, Navy and others . . . Five of the nine MWC teams rank in the top 16 in interceptions in the latest NCAA rankings. TCU leads the nation with 19, followed by New Mexico (13), Wyoming (12) and Colorado State and San Diego State with 11 each. . . . In all non-league games the MWC is 13-13 overall — including a 5-8 record against BCS opponents. The other non-BCS leagues combined don't have five wins against BCS opponents.

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