A quirky weekend in the rearview mirror produced plenty of story lines. Here are hits on the week in review.
THUMBS UP: Utah and New Mexico for flexing some MWC muscle at a time the league stock was certainly on the decline. UCLA and Arizona go back to your Pac-10 corner and sulk.
THUMBS DOWN: BYU senior linebacker and captain Bryan Kehl, the league's leading tackler heading into the Tulsa game, basically disappeared Saturday night with three unassisted and two assisted tackles and no sacks. In his defense, on a night BYU had no defense, most Tulsa plays sailed out of his area code and over the heads of 10 other BYU players.
THEY SAID IT: Tulsa coach Todd Graham about setting goals heading into the BYU game: "I felt like we could hold them to a touchdown a quarter. That was our thought process. We thought we could score more than 30 and they would score less than 30. Most people think golly, your goal is to hold them to less than 30? But they're a very good offensive football team. That was our thoughts. We gave up 27 points in the second quarter and nine-tenths of that had to do with field position and the poor job we did on kickoffs."
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Utah is 4-0 of late when playing teams that just finished facing the Cougars. Utah and BYU are favored over UNLV and Air Force by 9. Oklahoma is favored over Tulsa by 20. Utah's pass efficiency defense ranks 8th nationally, first in the MWC; BYU is 24th in the NCAA and first in the league in kickoff returns. Air Force is No. 17 and BYU No. 21 in rushing defense.
MY MWC PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ute safety Robert Johnson. His two picks, his deflection and general disruption of UCLA's offensive drives may have been the backbone that solidified Utah's big win in Rice-Eccles.
BOTTOM LINE: With TCU and Utah already suffering MWC losses, Saturday's BYU-Air Force matchup clearly will go further toward determining the status of the conference race and who has the upper hand. The Falcons win and they go 4-0 and own scoreboard over the top three preseason picks. BYU wins and they'll get the nod over contenders Utah and TCU in Provo.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: CSTV's broadcast needs help. Just like Versus (UCLA-BYU), a lack of camera equipment and angles detracted from the Tulsa-BYU production. On Saturday, airing the Tulsa-BYU game, the crawlers, the ticker information usually at the bottom of the screen, appeared the whole time and proved obtrusive and distracting. Not enough replays of key plays. Technically speaking, it smelled.
DUMB AND DUMBER: BYU offensive guard Travis Bright's three second-half penalties, two of them back to back. ... After all the clamor over getting The mtn, BYU's top-line stadium press box has the greatest pre-game meal in the country but still lacks the ability to carry CSTV and Versus broadcasts live. Instead, a feed used on the video replay display is piped in. BYU has banned access to Versus on its campus cable, citing cost and content issues such as ultimate fighting.
UNSUNG HERO: Cougar sophomore Austin Collie, just nine months back from the streets of Argentina, had four catches for 121 yards (30 yards per catch) and a combined 245 yards in return yards against Tulsa. It was the best return job since Golden Richards gained 247 against North Texas on Sept. 10, 1971. Richards played at Granite High, BYU, University of Hawaii and for the Dallas Cowboys. He set a conference single game mark for all-purpose yards (336) and return yards (237).
YEAH, BUT ... More than 2,000 MWC fans showed up to the Festival Cinemas in Orem Saturday to watch BYU-Tulsa on the big screen via Versus (satellite) at no charge. Now comes word from Comcast that it wants to charge Festival Cinemas $13,000 for infrastructure work to hook up cable service so games aired on The mtn., (BYU-AFA) can be aired. I'll drill a few holes and string cable for $25 plus parts.
TREND SETTERS: In just his third start, BYU's Max Hall is now on track to pass for nearly 5,000 yards and 32 touchdowns. His 537 total offense broke the MWC single game mark set by John Beck (507) against TCU in 2005. It was the fourth best in the nation this year. Hall currently ranks No. 3 in the NCAA in total offense.
OVERRATED: Wisconsin, Texas, UCLA and the Cougar offensive line.
UNDERRATED: Hawaii, Air Force, Tulsa, BYU's receiving corps and Utah's secondary.MY TOP FIVE: I'll go with (1) Florida, (2) LSU, (3) USC, (4) Oklahoma and (5) West Virginia.
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