What if all of us who have been whining and carping about the Mountain West Conference's television deal have been completely wrong?

Well, it would be hard for us to be completely wrong. Because, of course, The mtn. still has lots of problems with both distribution and quality of production.

But it would be easy to argue that all of our doom-saying about lack of exposure has been, at the very least, overdone.

Just look at the past couple of years of MWC football. Last season, Utah ended up in a BCS bowl game and finished No. 2 in the national rankings. TCU was No. 7. And BYU, despite ending the season with two straight losses, was still in the Top 25.

Right now, TCU is No. 6 in the BCS rankings — on target for a BCS bowl — and Utah is No. 16. BYU, despite two losses, is just outside the AP and USA Today Top 25s.

The MWC never had it so good when it was on ESPN. The same is true when you go back to the days of the WAC.

And all the current success comes despite airing most of the league's games on The mtn., Versus and CBS C.

Wouldn't it be weird if we were wrong all along?

"GAMEDAY" DOWN: Qualitatively, ESPN's visit to Provo this past Saturday was a triumph. "GameDay" proved that it really is far-and-away the best show of its kind.

Quantitatively, things didn't go as well. The ratings were down somewhat significantly.

According to ESPN, the Provo telecast drew a 1.5 rating and averaged 1.813 million viewers and 1.529 million households.

This fall, "GameDay" has averaged a 1.7 rating, 2.075 million viewers and 1.721 million households.

So the telecast from outside LaVell Edwards Stadium was down about 12 percent from the season average.

I wouldn't be too quick to blame that on the setting, however. My guess is that it had a whole lot more to do with the fact that, outside of TCU-BYU, there were no big games featuring matchups of ranked teams last week.

Which is what brought "GameDay" to Provo in the first place.

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LAVELL VS. BRONCO? As I wrote last weekend, the biggest surprise during "GameDay's" stop in Provo was the performance of former BYU coach LaVell Edwards. He was more animated than anyone can ever remember seeing him on TV before.

But the other surprise was when Edwards remarked that "the real key" for BYU to have a chance to win would be "Max Hall not turning the ball over."

Hmmm. Wasn't it current BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall who reacted to criticism of Hall's propensity for turnovers by saying that "the level of criticism usually matches the level of education and the fans, the people it comes from"?

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com