As No. 4 TCU and No. 6 Utah prepare for their epic showdown Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium — billed as the biggest regular-season game in the history of the Mountain West Conference — there are reports that the Horned Frogs may be leaving the league.

The Big East, which is a BCS automatic qualifying conference, has announced that it is expanding from eight to 10 teams. TCU is regarded as one of the top candidates to join the league, along with Houston, Central Florida and Villanova. The Frogs would give the Big East a top-flight football program and a foothold into a large television market, and fertile recruiting ground, in Texas.

There are some possible complications, however. The Big East already has 16 teams for basketball and would like to remain at that number. Would TCU join the Big East in football only? If so, would the MWC allow the Frogs to stay in the league for their other sports? Not likely.

This is all part of the MWC's rapidly changing landscape.

Of course, the Utes are bolting the MWC after this season to join the Pac-10 while BYU is jumping into independence. Boise State will become a member of the MWC next season. Fresno State and Nevada will join the conference in 2012.

Saturday's Utah-TCU game has national implications, and is a showcase of MWC football. But then there's another underlying theme — that two of the league's top football programs, and possibly a third — won't be part of the league much longer.

IN SEARCH OF FIRST WIN: On the other end of the spectrum, the only two winless teams in MWC play meet Saturday when Wyoming (0-5) visits New Mexico (0-4).

"This is an important week for our football team. We need to respond against Wyoming," said Lobo coach Mike Locksley, whose team fell 38-14 last week at Colorado State. "Our goal this week, like every week, is to get better and play well on Saturday. I felt like we were making progress after the San Diego State game, but Saturday's result against Colorado State was very disappointing. When you're playing a young team, consistency is the last thing to come"

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TROPHY ON THE LINE: Air Force is looking to claim its first Commander-in-Chief trophy, emblematic of the nation's top service academy, Saturday when the Falcons visit Army (5-3).

Navy has won seven consecutive Commander-in-Chief titles, but it lost earlier this season to Air Force.

Air Force has won 12 of the last 13 contests against Army, including four in a row. But the Falcons have lost three straight games, including last week's 28-23 loss to Utah.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com