Heading into the fourth week of the season, three Mountain West Conference teams are still winless.

But one of them is guaranteed to earn its first victory of the season, because New Mexico (0-3) visits UNLV (0-3) on Saturday.

"Both of us are in desperate need of a win," said Lobos coach Mike Locksley.

"It's two teams hungry to get a win," said first-year Rebels coach Bobby Hauck. "One of us will get it this weekend."

To this point, UNLV and New Mexico have been awful, to put it mildly. The Lobos have been outscored this season 180-31, while the Rebels have been outscored 109-38.

To compound matters for UNM, starting quarterback B.R. Holbrook underwent exploratory knee surgery this week and will not play Saturday. With backup Brad Gruner having suffered an injury against Utah last week, true freshman Tarean Austin could make his first career start. Against the Utes, Austin played a little more than two quarters and completed 15-of-27 passes for 128 yards. He threw a touchdown pass and an interception.

Locksley hasn't decided if Austin will start against UNLV.

"I think he's deserving of extended playing time," Locksley said. "I also realize he's a freshman. Sometimes, the pressure of starting doesn't help him."

At UNLV, Hauck has been dealing with ineffective play from senior quarterback Omar Clayton.

"We haven't done much offensively," Hauck said.

If Clayton struggles again this week, he could be replaced by redshirt freshman Caleb Herring.

Meanwhile, the MWC's other winless team, Colorado State (0-3), which has been starting true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas, has been outscored 106-19 this season. The Rams have lost 12 consecutive games dating back to the 2009 campaign.

CSU hosts Idaho this week. The Vandals whipped the Rebels last week, 30-7.

OH-SO-CLOSE: A pair of MWC teams nearly pulled off big upsets on the road last weekend against ranked Big 12 opponents.

Air Force lost by three points at No. 7 Oklahoma, while San Diego State fell by three points at No. 25 Missouri.

"Each game you play, there are lessons and teaching opportunities that you can take away," said Falcons coach Troy Calhoun.

SDSU coach Brady Hoke was also disappointed his team couldn't get the win.

"We had plenty of opportunities in that football game," he said.

Still, he's encouraged by the direction the Aztecs are going.

"I really like this football team. I like how they've responded," said Hoke, whose team hosts Utah State this Saturday. "It's a team that has a lot of good leadership and belief in themselves."

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GETTING EVERYBODY'S BEST SHOT: Ranked No. 4, TCU has learned a lot the past year about life at the top.

The Horned Frogs, who posted a 12-1 record a year ago and are favored to win the MWC title again this season, are finding that every opponent is eager to knock them off their perch.

"We're a statement game for a lot of people," said coach Gary Patterson.

This week, TCU visits cross-town rival SMU in a contest that's being promoted as a "Red-Out" for Mustang fans.

Saturday's contest at SMU marks TCU's final nonconference game. The Frogs open MWC play next week at Colorado State.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com