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08.21.05: Associated Press preseason college football poll
08.20.05: Groh signs $1.7 million per year deal with UVa
08.19.05: Mountain West tidying up postseason deals
08.18.05: Talk 1070 touts Pirates, Panthers, new shows ... Fort Worth Bowl embraces Mountain West, TCU... NYC schools reap windfall from NCAA-NIT deal
08.17.05: Tulsa inks football coach to long-term pact ... NCAA, NIT apparently come to terms in lawsuit
08.16.05: Carnesecca takes stand in NCAA-NIT legal clash
08.15.05: Mascot decree has some schools on war path
08.14.05: New sheriff brings law and order to Gatorville
08.13.05: List: 2005 College Football Hall of Fame class
08.12.05: South Bend at odds with Hall of Fame over $$$
08.11.05: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium among 'shrines' on pigskin 'tour'
08.10.05: 'Cock-n-Fire' offense may stay in holster awhile


News Nuggets, 08.22.05
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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

Mountain West angling for clearer path to BCS

By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer

A year after Alex Smith and the Utah Utes went undefeated and became the first outsiders to finally crash the BCS party, most everyone in the Mountain West Conference knows it's a bit much to ask for a repeat.

``I don't know that you can have an encore,'' commissioner Craig Thompson said.

That's not necessarily a bad thing.

The Mountain West and its member schools have been clamoring for years to be included in the Bowl Championship Series. Utah's run to the Fiesta Bowl, where it routed Pittsburgh 35-7 to finish 12-0, certainly raised the league's credibility and exposure.

Of the conferences that don't automatically send their champion to the BCS, the Mountain West has the most potential to do so.

``We've had a lot of people comment that maybe our league deserves an automatic bid more than leagues that have automatic bids, without naming names,'' Thompson said.

``We have said that if you play in a BCS bowl game, and if you win a BCS bowl game, are you in fact not a BCS conference?'' he said. ``You did it, so that's momentum to build on. It does show our coaches and administrators up and down the line that you can play in a BCS bowl game by winning the Mountain West Conference.''

With Smith gone to the San Francisco 49ers as the top pick in the NFL draft and coach Urban Meyer gone to Florida, the general consensus is that the MWC will be much more balanced, with Wyoming and New Mexico — which has finished second three straight years — seemingly poised to unseat the two-time defending champion Utes.

With the addition of Texas Christian, it's now a nine-team conference.

``I think we're going to have tri-champions at 9-2 or 8-3,'' Thompson said. ``I think it's that balanced. That's a little unfortunate, and where we need to get with our league is that that 9-2 still gets an automatic, like everyone else's automatic.''

The Utes were No. 6 in the final BCS ranking, ahead of the Big East, ACC and Big 10 champions.

``They can get in at 9-2, 8-3, but we have to be 11-0,'' Thompson said. ``That's what we're trying to change.''

The league has a number of solid programs with potential to become top 25 teams, and the BCS in 2006 will weigh the performance of other teams in a conference besides its champion when determining who gets an automatic bid. For now, it's probably unbeaten or bust as far as the BCS goes for the MWC champ.

``I think our situation is we would probably be better suited to have somebody go 11-0 again,'' Thompson said. ``But two to three years from now, we'd be better suited to have two or three 9-2, Top 25 people. But right now we just have to keep pushing.''

If there's one lingering disappointment, it's that Utah didn't get to play in the Sugar Bowl against unbeaten Auburn.

``I would have liked to have gone against an undefeated team,'' offensive lineman Jesse Boone said. ``I felt like we deserved that. You take what you get, and we showed them.''

At the conference media day, Boone wore two huge rings, from the 2003 Liberty Bowl and last January's Fiesta Bowl.

``I've got more fingers,'' he said.

Coach Kyle Whittingham, promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Meyer, said the Utes' goal is simply to win the conference championship.

``It's not about going undefeated. As soon as you put those kind of parameters on a season, what happens as soon as you drop a ballgame? The air goes out of the whole deal,'' he said.

A capsule look at the teams in predicted order of finish:

UTAH — Sophomore Brian Johnson replaces Smith. He played in 10 games last year as Smith's understudy, completing 14 of 21 passes for 142 yards, with one TD and one INT. ... The Utes return only five starters on offense and five on defense. ... Utah opens at home against Arizona on Sept. 2, and plays another game against a team from a BCS conference when it visits North Carolina on Oct. 1.

WYOMING — QB Corey Bramlet said the Cowboys have a new mind-set after their 24-21 win over UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. Bramlet's 12-yard TD pass with 57 seconds left won it. ... The Cowboys, whose 19 returning starters are the most in the league, open Sept. 3 on the road against Meyer's Florida Gators.

NEW MEXICO — Senior RB DonTrell Moore, coming off knee surgery and 1,091 yards, can become the sixth player in Division I-A history to have 1,000 yards rushing in four straight seasons. ... New Mexico has lost three straight bowl games.

COLORADO STATE — RB Nnamdi Ohaeri was picked as the preseason newcomer of the year. He started at CB for UCLA in 2003 before deciding to transfer. He attended a JUCO last year.

TCU — The Horned Frogs competed against most of the MWC teams when they were in the 16-team Western Athletic Conference from 1997-99. ... TCU, which moves to the MWC after four seasons in Conference USA, was 26-10 over the last three years, including two bowl appearances.

BRIGHAM YOUNG — Gary Crowton resigned after the Cougars' third straight losing season and was replaced by defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall.

AIR FORCE — The Falcons are trying to bounce back from only their third losing season under Fisher DeBerry since 1984.

SAN DIEGO STATE — RB Lynell Hamilton returns after missing all last season with a broken leg and ankle. He rushed for 1,087 yards and four TDs in 2003, being named MWC freshman of the year. ... Coach Tom Craft, 14-22 in three seasons, is in the final year of his contract.

NEVADA-LAS VEGAS — Mike Sanford, who was Utah's offensive coordinator the last two seasons, was hired as head coach after John Robinson retired. Sanford will call the plays in a spread offense as the Rebels try for their first winning season since 2000.

News Nuggets are compiled periodically based on material supplied by staff members; data published by ECU, Conference USA and its member schools; and reports from Associated Press and other sources. Copyright 2005 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Page Updated: 02/23/2007 12:27 PM


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