For the Mountain West Conference, last weekend will be difficult to top.

Overall, the league posted a 7-1 record against non-conference opponents, including a perfect 4-0 mark against teams from the Pac-10 Conference.

For a 10-year-old league yearning for respect, it was just what the MWC needed.

"It's probably the best day we've had as a league, certainly that I can remember, going 4-0 against the Pac-10," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It was a phenomenal Saturday for the conference.

"We talk about respect and notoriety and so forth. I've said it many times. The only way to earn that is to do what we did on Saturday — to beat teams from BCS leagues. You can't talk yourself into respectability. You have to play yourself into it, and I think that's exactly what we did on Saturday — at least a step in the right direction towards that."

Indeed, it was a weekend to remember for the MWC, highlighted by four victories over the Pac-10. On Saturday, TCU defeated Stanford, 31-14; BYU destroyed UCLA, 59-0; New Mexico knocked off Arizona, 36-28; and UNLV downed then-No. 15 Arizona State, 23-20, at Tempe, Ariz.

The most stunning result was turned in by the Rebels, who have, for years, been mired in the lower echelon of the MWC.

"That was a great win for us — a great win for our program and what we're trying to build here," said UNLV coach Mike Sanford. "Obviously, it was one of several great wins for the Mountain West Conference.

"As a conference, we showed we are a force to be reckoned with. Without a question, I think we have one of the top conferences in the country. I think people need to recognize that. The fact we were 4-0 against the Pac-10 is pretty darn good."

When it comes to long-term Bowl Championship Series implications, this past weekend could make an impact. BYU, Utah and TCU are undefeated and vying for a spot in a BCS bowl and victories over Pac-10 teams certainly helps raise the MWC's national profile.

"I think what's happening in our league is, we're getting better," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "The credibility that possibly we might be gaining as a program, now could be spreading more toward the league as a whole. I think that will happen over time if we keep having the type of weekend we just had."

"I think there's a general attitude — not really from the coaches — is a lack of respect for our conference and our teams in general," Sanford said. "I wouldn't say by the Pac-10, I'd say in general. I really believe our conference is deserving of an automatic bid to the BCS. That's something our conference should have. It shouldn't be a deal where we have to go undefeated to go to the BCS. It's a good conference and there's a lot of competition. Within our conference, it's hard to go undefeated. Our conference deserves a bid to the BCS.

That's the bottom line."

TCU coach Gary Patterson agreed, adding that teams from all non-BCS conferences are in the same situation as the MWC. Teams from those non-BCS leagues shouldn't have to go unbeaten to be considered for the BCS, he said.

"I've always felt like we have 50-some-odd team from the power conferences going to all the bowls. For the other 55 teams or whatever it is, you have to run the table. There are two or three teams from non-qualifying conferences every year that have the chance to go to those kind of (BCS) ballgames."

MWC VS. BCS: The MWC has registered a 6-3 record against teams from BCS conferences (including Notre Dame), the best of any league in the country. In their last 13 games against BCS opponents, TCU is 11-2 and Utah is 10-3.

Here's how the rest of the leagues have fared against BCS opponents this season: Big Ten (5-5), Big 12 (5-3), Pac-10 (5-3), SEC (4-2), ACC (4-6), Big East (2-5), Sun Belt (2-10), C-USA (2-10), WAC (2-10), MAC (2-14).

THE UNBEATEN: For the first time in its history, the MWC has four teams with 3-0 records (Air Force, BYU, TCU and Utah). The league is one of four conferences with four or more teams with 3-0 marks. The others — Big 12 (Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech); Big Ten (Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin); and SEC (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt).


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com