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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Chouinard: MWC has a leg up on the PAC-10 this year

By Bryan Chouinard

The Mountain West Conference turned 10 this year, and no matter what Commissioner Craig Thompson and his office had planned to commemorate the first decade of the conference’s existence, there was certainly nothing planned about this past weekend.

The MWC had four matchups with the Pac-10. By the time the weekend was over, the Mountain West had given their neighboring BCS conference a collective beat down, sweeping all four matchups. While the Utes were taking care of business in Logan, BYU, UNLV, New Mexico and TCU were all in on the collective ass-kicking.

A Stanford team that had the dream upset last season, knocking off national title contender USC, were doubled up by emerging national contender TCU 31-14, who sits on the outskirts of the AP’s Top-25. TCU limited Stanford to a mere 193 total yards. Later that night, New Mexico welcomed Arizona into Albuquerque. Five turnovers later, the Wildcats were sent home with their first loss of the season, falling to the Lobos by a score of 36-28.

UCLA was also on the road in the Mountain West last weekend, looking to follow up on Rick Neuheisel’s coming-out party against nationally ranked Tennessee. The Bruins made their second trip into the great state of Utah in the past two years, and left with the same result. Flashback to 2007, when the then 11th-ranked Bruins came into Rice-Eccles Stadium to face a depleted Utah side, only to leave with a 44-6 thrashing at the hands of the Utes. Fast forward to 2008 as the Bruins try their luck in Provo against BYU. After falling behind 42-0 at halftime and giving up 521 yards of total offense before the game was over, the Bruins left Utah on the wrong side of a 59-0 embarrassment.

But the most surprising and maybe most defining win of the weekend actually came on the road, from the most unlikely source. UNLV traveled to Tempe, Ariz., to take on No. 15 Arizona State. After pushing ASU to overtime and converting on a 20-yard field goal try, the Rebels were able to hold on defense and force ASU into a field goal try of their own. Just as a second overtime looked inevitable, UNLV’s Malo Taumua was able to get up and get a hand on the field goal try, completing Saturday’s biggest upset in college football.

“It is maybe the biggest week since the inception of the Mountain West, going 4-0 against Pac-10 teams,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Not only did the Mountain West go undefeated against the Pac-10, but as a whole the conference was 7-1 on the weekend, the only loss going to San Diego State at the hands of San Jose State, 35-10.

With two teams capable of cracking the BCS in the conference and a third (TCU) with a chance to enter that discussion after this weekend, the Mountain West has quickly become the premier non-BCS conference in the country. The conference has been rewarded for scheduling top-ranked opponents and the country is being forced to take notice. Inevitable talks have been raised of crashing the BCS dance; some are even calling for an automatic bid out of the Mountain West Conference, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The MWC is stronger than ever, with four undefeated teams, three weeks into the season, as well as deeper than ever (see UNLV upset).

Barring any major setbacks, and there is still a ways to go, USC could be leaving a vacant spot in the Rose Bowl this year to go to the national championship game, leaving the door wide open for a MWC team to sneak in and play a Big 10 school. It would be the obvious choice for the selection committee over a second-place Pac-10 school after the beating they have taken thus far.

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