The Ultimate Schedule: Mountain West

August 27th, 2009

Mountain West Scheduling “Rules”:

-         Four non-conference games

-         Eight conference games


Week 1: BYU vs. Oklahoma (September 5th in Arlington, TX)


Very few people, if any, will expect the Cougars to beat the Sooners in the season opener. However, they’ve got the tools necessary to stick around for all four quarters. The last meeting came all the way back in 1994, when BYU beat Oklahoma in the Copper Bowl. The quarterback matchup alone should be worth the price of admission, with Max Hall facing off against reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford. The question: how much pressure can the Cougars put on Bradford? If he’s allowed to stand in the pocket and find open guys without pressure it’ll be a long day for the Cougars. But if Jan Jorgensen and company can make life difficult for Bradford then BYU will have a shot.


Other Games Considered: Colorado State @ Colorado (9/6), San Diego State @ UCLA (9/5)


Week 2: Texas @ Wyoming (September 12th)


Very rarely does a team in the position of the Cowboys get to host a traditional power like the Longhorns, and they’ll be fighting an uphill battle when Colt McCoy and company arrive in Laramie. New head coach Dave Christiansen has experience against Texas given his prior position as offensive coordinator at Missouri, but he also doesn’t have the same caliber of playmaker. Texas will have an advantage at every position on the field, but War Memorial Stadium can be a tough place to play if you fall behind early. The Cowboys have won their last two home games against BCS opponents, beating Virginia in 2007 and Ole Miss in 2004. But neither team had the ability that Mack Brown’s team does.


Other Games Considered: Air Force @ Minnesota (9/12), Oregon State @ UNLV (9/12)


Week 3: Utah @ Oregon (September 19th)


The game that’s gotten the bulk of the attention on the Ducks’ schedule is their opening night trip to Boise State. But the Utes will be a handful and then some when they walk into Autzen Stadium. Utah beat Oregon in 2003, but they’ll find the task much tougher thanks to the presence of players such as QB Jeremiah Masoli and RB LaGarrette Blount. The Ducks return just nine starters, but the amount of talent at new head coach Chip Kelly’s fingertips is enough for some to peg Oregon as a team that could possibly dethrone USC in the Pac-10. Whichever team does the better job of stopping the run will have the upper hand as both rely on the ground game to open things up in the passing game.


Other Games Considered: Florida State @ BYU (9/19), Nevada @ Colorado State (9/19), Air Force @ New Mexico (9/19)


Week 4: TCU @ Clemson (September 26th)


The Horned Frogs make their second and final trip of the season into ACC country, this time looking to knock off a Clemson team that’s hard to peg in Death Valley. Kyle Parker hasn’t played in a college football game but he’ll be the starting quarterback for the Tigers, and Willy Korn will also see time. But if TCU can’t keep RB C.J. Spiller and WR Jacoby Ford under wraps they’ll have a hard time leaving with a victory. The Horned Frogs have a good enough offense to keep Clemson’s offense off of the field, but they’ll need some plays from Gary Patterson’s dependable defense to ensure a win.


Other Games Considered: Colorado State @ BYU (9/26), New Mexico State @ New Mexico (9/26)


Week 5: Bye Week (October 3rd)


There are a couple of appealing non-conference games on this date, most notably Air Force travelling to Navy in a game that will likely decide which service academy wins the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. UNLV will play in-state rival Nevada for the Fremont Cannon and New Mexico will visit Lubbock (Texas Tech), but none of those games are as appealing as the already selected non-conference games.


Week 6: BYU @ UNLV (October 10th)


The trip to Las Vegas can be a tricky one, despite the recent struggles of the home team. If you allow yourself to get caught up in the bright lights that are “Sin City” a loss is a distinct possibility, despite the face that BYU has won the last four games in the series. The Cougars needed a touchdown in the final two minutes of the game to win last season, a game that came in the middle of a five-game skid for the Rebels. The Cougars have done well in navigating their trips to Vegas, having never lost to UNLV on the road. So long as Max Hall and company come out with a business-like approach BYU should be in decent shape, but the chance is always there for the Rebels.


Other Games Considered: Utah @ Colorado State (10/10), TCU @ Air Force (10/10)


Week 7: Colorado State @ TCU (October 17th)


The Horned Frogs have won five straight in the series since Colorado State beat them in Fort Collins in 1998. They hadn’t played often in the past due to different conference affiliations, and the Rams have averaged just 8.4 points per game in those five losses. TCU’s defense can give many teams trouble, and they did just that in holding the Rams to just eleven yards rushing in last year’s 13-7 victory. And with Gartrell Johnson gone things could possibly get worse for CSU, but it isn’t like they weren’t in that game. If Colorado State can make a few plays offensively they can hang around. But if Jerry Hughes and company shut them down, look out.


Other Games Considered: Wyoming @ Air Force (10/17), Utah @ UNLV (10/17)


Week 8: TCU @ BYU (October 24th)


The Mountain West title, and possibly even more, could be on the line when the Horned Frogs visit Provo. Last year’s meeting was the first tell-tale sign that everything wasn’t right with BYU, with TCU putting forth a dominant showing in the 32-7 blowout. BYU could establish nothing on the ground (23 yards rushing), and the one-dimensional version of the Cougar offense didn’t stand a chance. In fact, TCU held eight straight opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground to start 2008. Can things be different with a change of scenery? That’s what the Cougars will hope, having won three of the four meetings between the two teams in Provo.


Other Games Considered: Air Force @ Utah (10/24), San Diego State @ Colorado State (10/24)


Week 9: Air Force @ Colorado State (October 31st)


The two Mountain West teams in Colorado square off on Halloween, with both looking to be teams caught in the midsection of the league. The Falcons have won the last three meetings in the series, with the neither of the last two being close. Air Force accounted for more than four hundred yards in last season’s 38-17 victory, even throwing for 171 yards. The Falcons are going to get their yards on the ground; when they’re able to hit the big play through the air as well Troy Calhoun’s team is virtually impossible to stop. If CSU can accomplish the task of limiting Air Force on the ground, they could win the Ram/Falcon Trophy for the first time in three years.


Other Games Considered: Wyoming @ Utah (10/31), UNLV @ TCU (10/31)


Week 10: BYU @ Wyoming (November 7th)


We should have a good idea as to how much Coach Christiansen has changed the culture in Laramie by the time the first week of November rolls around; whether or not they can be competitive with the Cougars will show how far they have to go. BYU has won eight of the last nine meetings, and six of those eight meetings were decided by double digits. Six turnovers cost the Cowboys in last year’s 44-0 shutout, but even without those miscues Wyoming would have been in serious trouble. If Karsten Sween and company don’t take better care of the football they’ll be in for a long day.


Other Games Considered: Colorado State @ UNLV (11/7), TCU @ San Diego State (11/7)


Week 11: Utah @ TCU (November 14th)


The second of three games that will most likely decide who wins the conference will be in Fort Worth, with TCU likely remembering the fact that they were one loss away from a trip to the BCS. Utah won 13-10 thanks to a touchdown pass from Brian Johnson to Freddie Brown with forty-eight seconds remaining in the game, sealing the fate of both teams. With the home-field advantage TCU will hope to turn the tables on Utah, this time finishing off a superior effort. The preseason signs point to a TCU win, but the Utes have won five of the six prior meetings. The winner will go a long way towards cementing a possible conference title, and maybe even a BCS bid.


Other Games Considered: UNLV @ Air Force (11/14), Wyoming @ San Diego State (11/14)


Week 12: Air Force @ BYU (November 21st)


The Cougars have won the last five meetings in the series, including a 38-24 win in Colorado Springs last season. BYU won the time of possession battle by just over two minutes, but the key in their win was the fact that they took better advantage of their opportunities than the Falcons. The problem for Air Force is that they haven’t even been close in the series, with none of the last five games being decided by single digits. If Air Force can control the game on the ground and keep Max Hall from matching last year’s output (354 yards passing and two touchdowns) they’ll have a punchers chance. But make no mistake about it: Air Force will be fighting an uphill battle.


Other Games Considered: TCU @ Wyoming (11/21), Colorado State @ New Mexico (11/21)


Week 13: Utah @ BYU (November 28th)


To say these two schools don’t like each other would be like saying that 1+1=2. There’s a reason why the game has the nickname of the “Holy War”, and Utah fans took great joy in watching their team embarrass the Cougars in Salt Lake City last year. Six BYU turnovers led to a 48-24 beating that sealed the Utes’ trip to New Orleans, ending a two-game losing streak in the series. Anything from a possible BCS berth to the conference bowl pecking order could be on the line, but those perks won’t replace the allure of bragging rights for a year.


Other Games Considered: Wyoming @ Colorado State (11/27), San Diego State @ UNLV (11/28)