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September 9, 2010

Week 2 preview in the Mountain West

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Others

THE SCHEDULE
BYU at Air Force, 4 p.m.
UNLV at Utah, 4 p.m.
Tennessee Tech at TCU, 7 p.m.
Wyoming at Texas, 7 p.m.
Texas Tech at New Mexico, 8 p.m.
San Diego St. at New Mexico St., 8 p.m.
Colorado State at Nevada, 10:30 p.m.

The Mountain West had an impressive first weekend, with the league's "Big Three" of BYU, TCU and Utah coming away with impressive wins over Big Six opponents.

TCU (at a neutral site over Oregon State) and Utah (at home over Pittsburgh) beat top-25 teams, while BYU (at home against Washington) beat a team that hoped to be a dark-horse contender in the Pac-10.

Things get a heck of a lot easier for TCU this week, with a visit from FCS member Tennessee Tech. Seven of TCU's past eight victories have been by at least 27 points, and that figure should jump to eight of nine this week.

Utah should have it tougher than TCU, as UNLV heads to Salt Lake City as both teams open league play. Utah QB Jordan Wynn may miss Saturday's game with a sprained thumb on his right (throwing) hand. Senior Terrance Cain would start if Wynn can't go, but it seems unlikely that an injury can keep Utah from winning this one.

That leaves BYU, which plays in the league's most intriguing game this week. The Cougars play at Air Force in the league opener for both; Air Force has won its past 10 conference openers. The Falcons have designs on a top-three league finish, and beating the Cougars might be a necessary step for that to happen. But BYU has won six in a row in the series.

Air Force is expected to be without all-league CB Reggie Rembert, who suffered a neck injury in last week's rout of Northwestern State (La.).

Best matchup: Air Force's offensive line vs. BYU's front seven. The Falcons have five new starters along the line, and four of them made their first career starts last week against FCS member Northwestern State (La.). But BYU has just two starters returning in its front seven, and all that inexperience has to make BYU coaches antsy going against an option-based attack. Sticking with your assignment is the big key against an option team, and inexperienced players often freelance more than coaches want. Watch Air Force FB Jared Tew; if he has a big game running right up the middle, the Falcons will be in excellent shape.

Person on the spot: New Mexico coach Mike Locksley. Locksley's first season as coach in 2009 was a disaster. The Lobos finished 1-11 and Locksley was suspended for one game for fighting with then-assistant J.B. Gerald. It actually got worse in this season's opener, as the Lobos fell 72-0 at Oregon. The Ducks led 59-0 at halftime. This week, the Lobos play host to Texas Tech, a team that beat them by 20 last season. There need to be some signs of progress this week -- forget pulling an upset; a TD or two would be nice -- or the situation could get even uglier.

Numbers game: BYU beat Washington by six points last week. That was the Cougars' 11th consecutive victory in games in which the final outcome was decided by eight or fewer points. That's the longest active streak in one-possession games in the FBS; Cincinnati is second with eight.

What they're saying

"You'll probably see the exact same thing on Saturday. We reserve the right to switch to one or another based on how a quarterback is playing, just like any player, but I was happy for both of them that they were able to perform that well in their opener." -- BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, on whether he will continue his two-quarterback system against Air Force this week

"It was good to win. We said that Saturday night. It's always good to win. It's better than the alternative." -- San Diego State coach Brady Hoke, on his team's opening victory over Nicholls State

"I told them at the Sunday meeting that we didn't need to be the next Ole Miss losing to another Ohio Valley Conference school." -- TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose teams is playing OVC member Tennessee Tech on Saturday

"For me it's the worst I've ever been a part of. I was more shocked than surprised." -- New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, on his team's 72-0 loss at Oregon

"[He's] extraordinarily talented. You look at him, I think he's the most talented quarterback they've had there as a pure NFL, pro-style quarterback, in terms of raw skills and ability at that age." -- Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, on BYU true freshman QB Jake Heaps

Etc.: Beginning Saturday, all Wyoming players will be wearing a "RN" helmet decal in honor of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse, who died in a car accident Monday. "Football is just a game," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "This young man was a very vibrant young man, a wonderful person, and when it gets down to it, everybody understands how hard it is when you have a loss like that." San Diego State is coming off a 47-0 win over Nicholls State, the Aztecs' largest margin of victory since they beat Hawaii by 48 in 1996. San Diego State, by the way, is trying to open 2-0 for the first time since 1994. TCU plays Tennessee Tech this week. Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson earned a master's degree in educational administration from Tennessee Tech in 1984; he served two seasons (1983-84) as Tech's linebackers coach, and current TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas was Tech's defensive coordinator at that time. Utah's 18-game home winning streak is the third-longest active home win streak in the nation, behind Oklahoma (31) and Boise State (26). Air Force's next four games feature bowl teams from 2009: BYU, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Navy. Utah's win last Thursday over Pitt gave the Utes 20 victories over Big Six opponents since the BCS era began in 1998; that's the most of any non-Big Six school. Navy and TCU are tied for second with 18. This week's game with Nevada begins a four-week stretch for Colorado State in which the Rams face three of the six most experienced quarterbacks in the nation. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (34 career starts) is the opponent this week, and Idaho's Nathan Enderle (33) and TCU's Andy Dalton (37) are ahead on the schedule. Colorado State's quarterback is true freshman Pete Thomas, who will be making his second career start against Nevada. Colorado State used seven true freshmen in last week's game against Colorado. The Rams haven't used that many true freshmen in a season since 1946.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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