McBride Says MWC Is Still Wide Open

Beyond even the postponement or cancellation of games due to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, it has been a strange football season for the teams of the Mountain West Conference.

Almost universal conference favorite Colorado State is just 2-4 overall heading into this Saturday. Predicted second place finisher UNLV lost its first four games of the year before recovering to win its last two. There is a new coach stalking the sideline for BYU, but the Cougs have responded with a 6-0 start.

And Utah? After pundits labeled the Utes just the sixth best team in the MWC, they have responded with a 4-1 record, with the possibility of going to 5-1 on Saturday very strong, with a home contest versus Wyoming.

It seems nothing is as expected. OK, except for the Cowboys going 2-4 overall, 0-3 in the MWC.

Consequently, despite strong starts by the Cougs and Air Force (4-1, 2-0 MWC), given all the strange frequencies running through the Mountain West, Utah coach Ron McBride maintains it’s far too early to be handing the conference title to anyone.

“It’s really hard to tell how it’s all going to shake out,” McBride said. “The conference is pretty balanced. I think it’s going to be won by whoever gets hot down the stretch.”

The U coach had plenty of opportunity this past weekend?when his own team was off with a bye week?to more closely observe what the other MWC teams are capable of.

His impressions?

“Over the weekend, the best team I saw play was [UNLV],” he said. “It seemed like they did everything right.” Enough so, anyway, that the Rebels’ 31-3 victory over SDSU left him with the feeling that “San Diego didn’t even belong on the same field.

“I don’t know what’s going on [in San Diego],” he added. “They’ve got good players, a lot of returnees?I actually thought they’d be the favorites to win [the MWC], but they look like they don’t know what they’re doing.”

McBride said he believed UNLV’s slow start was merely “a product of balls bouncing the wrong way earlier in the season.”

Meanwhile, though Colorado State dropped a 25-22 overtime decision to top-10 Fresno State, the U coach came away “impressed with Colorado State’s defense.”

However, given the Cougars’ fast start, he said that while they’re not guaranteed to win anything, it’s hard to bet against them.

“If I have to pick a favorite, I’d say BYU, just because of what they’ve done already,” McBride said. “But I [still] don’t know who the best team in the conference is.”

And his own team? He said the best is yet to come.

“We’re not going to feel good until the season is over and we’ve got what we want,” McBride said.

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