Scattershooting around the college football scene with just more than a week to go before all this preseason stuff comes to an end.

THUMBS UP: Nice timing by the Lobos. A day before a gloomy headline hit the program on Wednesday, New Mexico officials gave head football coach Rocky Long a 5-year contract and a raise from $439,000 to $750,000 a year.

THUMBS DOWN: The NCAA placed New Mexico on probation for academic fraud on Wednesday. Is the academic work in Albuquerque (to get in or stay in school) that tough that somebody would need to fudge?

HE SAID IT: After a rash of injuries in UCLA's camp, Rick Neuheisel fielded an interesting question about balancing physical play in practice — something BYU played the conservative card with during its two-a-days.

His response was even more interesting.

Said Neuheisel, "That would certainly be an option. But if you stop being physical, you stop giving yourself a chance to play, because it is going to be a physical game. I can call (Tennessee coach) Phil Fulmer and ask if we could just play touch. I don't think he'll go for it."

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: The Cougars ranked last in the country in 2007 in field goals attempted (15). Utah tried 22 and Utah State 21.

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: Here are the penalties handed down for the Lobos' football program. New Mexico can only recruit four junior college players who were nonqualifiers coming out of high school instead of the allowed nine. The number of paid visits to prospective student-athletes has been reduced each season to 46 for 2008-09, 48 for 2009-10, and 48 for 2010-11. UNM will not be allowed to save any of its unused visits for the next year.

DUMB AND DUMBER: Most of America's sports media with room temperature IQs would at least give BYU a decent chance of playing in a BCS bowl at the end of this college football season. That's what makes ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit's dissing of BYU in favor of ESPN family member Fresno State kind of strange. Herbstreit says BYU "doesn't deserve it."

On the other hand, everybody is 0-0, preseason hype means nothing, every team — including the Cougars — has everything to prove and can only do so after kickoff. So, what's Kirk's deal? Why go there in August?

UNSUNG HEROES: BYU and Utah long snappers Chris Muehlmann and Clint Mower. You don't notice them until they mess up.

YEAH, BUT...: Herbstreit aside, this comes from Paul Myerberg's sports blog in Wednesday's New York Times on BYU: "(It is) the Countdown's belief that this team, much like Boise State in 2006, is good enough to run the table and bust into the BCS. The rationale for this prediction is a simple one: BYU is an extremely talented team, and if it can get past its two Pac-10 battles in the month of September, it has a strong chance of going through the MWC undefeated for the third straight season."

TREND SETTERS: A rumor is floating that the Utes may sport some new duds (maybe only once) this year, a little black from Under Armour, and the Cougars could come out with all-white uniforms on the road.

OVER RATED: Ohio State.

UNDER RATED: Missouri: The Tigers could be scary good.

BOTTOM LINE: As Brian Johnson and Max Hall go, so do the Utes and Cougars.

MY TOP FIVE: 1. Georgia, 2. Southern Cal, 3. Oklahoma, 4. Florida, 5. Missouri.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com