MWC football: The climb begins

League's three main contenders hope to separate from pack.
This is an archived article that was published on in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Since the Mountain West Conference was formed in 1999, only four schools have climbed to the top and won the league football title: Colorado State, BYU, Utah and TCU.

The Utes and Cougars have won or shared four apiece, while Colorado State has won or shared three and newcomer TCU has won one.

Six times the eventual champion has stood alone and gone undefeated, including each of the last five years.

Will that happen again?

"Given the strength and the parity in the league this year, that would be a remarkable feat," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall at the MWC football media gathering in July.

Although every MWC school except Utah and TCU have already played a league game, the real race begins today, as eight schools will play conference games and San Diego State will get a well-timed bye to prepare for its Oct. 17 meeting with BYU. Judging by what has happened so far, it appears to be a three-team race, maybe four, as was predicted when the season began. No. 10 TCU (4-0), No. 18 BYU (4-1), Utah (3-1) and Air Force (3-2) are clearly the class of the league, although Wyoming (3-2) is off to a surprisingly strong start.

That means arguably the most significant game of the day will take place in Colorado Springs, where 2-0 Air Force plays host to TCU.

The Frogs are 10-point favorites, but as TCU coach Gary Patterson reminded in Tuesday's MWC conference call, third-year Air Force coach Troy Calhoun is 1-1 against him.

With snow expected at Falcon Stadium, it will be interesting to see whether the adverse weather affects Calhoun's option attack or further enables TCU's already stingy defense.

In two weeks, TCU travels to BYU for the first of what should be a terrific series of games between TCU, BYU and Utah. TCU plays host to Utah on Nov. 14 and the annual BYU-Utah rivalry game is Nov. 28 in Provo.

MWC standings

Conference All Games

Air Force2063273216163
Colorado St.01234232128133
San Diego St.01142623117129
New Mexico0113370574190

Today's Games

New Mexico at Wyoming, noon

Utah at Colorado St., 4 p.m.

TCU at Air Force, 5:30 p.m.

BYU at UNLV, 8 p.m.

Key remaining MWC games

SaturdayTCU at Air Force, 5:30 p.m.CBS C
Oct. 17Colo. State at TCU, 3 p.m.Versus
Oct. 24TCU at BYU, 5:30 p.m.Versus
Oct. 24Air Force at Utah, 2 p.m.Versus
Nov. 7BYU at Wyoming, noonThe Mtn.
Nov. 14Utah at TCU, 6:30 p.m.CBS C
Nov. 21Air Force at BYU, 1:30 p.m.CBS C
Nov. 28Utah at BYU, 3 p.m.CBS C, Mtn.