Right about now be a fine time for the Mountain West Conference to show a little fur with Pac-10 schools.

The Utes will get their stage time Oct. 2 with Oregon State, but for now BYU hosts UCLA, Texas Christian gets Stanford in Amon G. Carter Stadium, New Mexico hosts Arizona and UNLV gets a hot Arizona State team.

Who can deliver?

The best chances come from BYU and TCU, a pair of MWC teams on a roll. They're teams that don't need a lot of tire-kicking to understand themselves, and they get these Pac-10 guests at home — a component that cannot be ignored these days with that particular league.

The more intriguing matchup is the Cougars and Bruins, who meet for the third time in 370 days.

Nobody does that except presidential candidates in debates.

UCLA will be led by a defense that is tough, stingy and confident. DeWayne Walker will add a few

twists and wrinkles to a pressure package bent on disrupting the fountain of BYU's success, quarterback Max Hall.

While the Bruins' offense is missing a few components and breaking in a new quarterback, Kevin Craft, the Norm Chow-driven unit will answer a lot of questions about how progressive the Cougars' defense is after losing eight starters. Are these Cougars improving or is their talent level going to be a season-long issue?

In the three meetings between these two teams, they've taken on certain characteristics. Turnovers have been the biggest factor in the point spread, and that will certainly be the case today.

While UCLA is young offensively, this is not the case with the Cougars. Hall is better than he was last year. Dennis Pitta is a significantly more serious big-time target. Austin Collie and Mike Reed are wily veterans at receiver, and Harvey Unga shows no signs of stumbling in this, his second year behind a veteran and improved offensive line.

This BYU experience, that kind of firepower in this venue, should give the Cougars the edge and ultimately make the difference.

The scary part of this for Cougar fans is that two years of momentum, a national ranking, the nation's longest winning streak and a sizable chunk of credibility are on the line. After last week's controversial penalty in Seattle, a boatload of cachet built up over the past 24 months is on the line today.

It doesn't help that UCLA, over the years, has plain and simple owned title to BYU's number, winning 7 of 9 meetings. Only Steve Young and Max Hall have experienced wins over the Bruins in their respective eras, seasons that have included the likes of Ty Detmer.

WYOMING 24, NORTH DAKOTA STATE 17: They're already barking at the backside of Joe Glenn's Levis and he needs this one over an FCS team that is not easy candy for the taking.

ARIZONA STATE 42, UNLV 14: Rudy Carpenter won't have to run like Brian Johnson to burn a mark on the Rebels. The Sun Devils will not coast for a half but are likely to lay down the whip from start to finish.

UTAH 42, UTAH STATE 9: Some perspective here. Sorry Aggies. Utah owns 14 wins over automatic-qualifying BCS teams since 2001, more than any other non-automatic-qualifying BCS team. Shelter yourselves and accept the ticket receipts as a positive for the weekend labor.

SAN DIEGO STATE 17, SAN JOSE STATE 14: You'd think if the Aztecs can lead Notre Dame in the fourth quarter and almost go up by a pair of TDs that they can find a way to box up the Spartans and maintain some pride.

AIR FORCE 34, HOUSTON 21: The problem with Houston is that these Cougars don't play the Falcons very often and there is no way they can practice against this option precision. It will show in an easy AFA win on a neutral field because of weather.

ARIZONA 33, NEW MEXICO 21: The Lobos are hurting and facing an improved Arizona team in the Year of the Stoops Brothers. This is not going to solve Rocky Long's challenges.

TCU 24, STANFORD 21: This is a great matchup. I'll go with the Frogs, who are third in the nation in rushing defense and give up less than 30 yards per game. A key non-league victory is in the cards here for the respect-starved Mountain West.

BYU 28, UCLA 21: Football is a game of weapons and momentum, and the Cougars should have them both on their home turf. UCLA's defense will determine the margin in his game, but the Cougars have too many ways to outrace the Bruins' offense, even if stymied at times by DeWayne Walker's defense.

E-mail: [email protected]