college football:

Mountain Best: Teams around the league doing their best to avoid a meltdown


Associated Press

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, right, talks with quarterback Brett Smith during the Cowboys’ loss at Texas on Sept. 1, 2012. This week Christensen was fined $50,000 and suspended one game for his on-field conduct after losing to Air Force two weeks ago.

It’s been a pretty memorable week in the Mountain West. San Diego State defeated UNR with a two-point conversion in overtime, Air Force needed a late stand to hold off New Mexico and, most importantly, video surfaced of the postgame tirade from Wyoming’s Dave Christensen (NSFW) that caused Air Force’s Troy Calhoun to compare the situation to Jane Fonda fraternizing with the North Vietnamese in 1972. It also resulted in a one-game suspension and $50,000 (!!!) fine for Christensen.

None of the games this week figure to be able to match the pure entertainment of watching that Christensen video for the 14th time, but there are a couple of good ones. UNR at Air Force will likely eliminate one of those teams from contention for good, Fresno State at New Mexico could be interesting because the Lobos lost by only three at home to Boise State a few weeks back, and UNLV is hoping its game at San Diego State is closer than the last three road trips.

On to the rankings:

    • Boise State's Jerrell Gavins (4) makes an interception in the end zone against UNLV's Eric Johnson (9) during the first half Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Boise, Idaho.

      1. Boise State (6-1, 3-0)

      Previously ranked first

      Last week: Won, 32-7, vs. UNLV

      This week: at Wyoming (1-6, 0-3), at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network

      Line: -16.5 (4-3 ATS)

      Breakdown: Boise State isn’t particularly impressive in person, which in a weird way makes them even more impressive. The Broncos were very workmanlike while dismantling the Rebels.

      Certainly there are other games that will draw more visible fire — an important distinction as I have little doubt the players actually were excited to play — but this week figures to be about the same. Traveling to Wyoming to face a bad Cowboys team is about as mundane as it gets for a Broncos squad trying to get to another BCS bowl game.

      Chris Petersen on Wyoming without Christensen this week: “We don’t expect anything different.”

    • 2. Fresno State (5-3, 3-1)

      Previously ranked third

      Last week: Won, 42-14, vs. Wyoming

      This week: at New Mexico (4-4, 1-2), at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Time Warner Cable SportsNet

      Line: -12.5 (7-1 ATS)

      Breakdown: Fresno State lost its chance to be the conference’s best team, but an upset last week sets the Bulldogs up to be the best of the rest.

      Fresno already outpaced San Diego State 52-40 a few weeks ago, and the Aztecs’ upset in Reno last week gave every team outside of Boise State at least one conference loss. Of those one-loss teams, only Fresno and SDSU have a victory against a current top-five league team, and the Bulldogs’ head-to-head win gives them the edge.

      This week’s game in Albuquerque could be interesting, although Fresno is more capable than most teams of stopping the run. The Bulldogs allow just more than 150 rushing yards per game, which ranks second in the league, or about half the Lobos’ average.

      Tim DeRuyter, when a reporter suggested New Mexico running back Kasey Carrier (5-foot-9) and Fresno back Robbie Rouse (5-6) are the same size: “Carrier might be able to eat soup off of Robbie’s head.”

    • 3. San Diego State (5-3, 3-1)

      Previously ranked fifth

      Last week: Won, 39-38 in OT, at UNR

      This week: vs. UNLV (1-7, 1-2), at 5 p.m. Saturday on Time Warner Cable SportsNet

      Line: -18 (5-3 ATS)

      Breakdown: To hear him tell it, coach Rocky Long’s team is succeeding because it does the things UNLV is trying to do. Specifically, he’s talking about finding a way to win a game when you have the chance to.

      Take Saturday’s 39-38 overtime victory at UNR, for example. The Aztecs battled back from a 10-point deficit multiple times and kicked a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation. The Wolf Pack scored first, and after SDSU responded with a touchdown, Long decided to capitalize on the momentum he felt the Aztecs had rather than let it switch sides.

      “You’re going to be in close games, and you don’t hope you can win, you go out and try to win,” Long said.

      That’s the philosophy behind his successful two-point conversion, a decision that gives the Aztecs much more momentum coming into this weekend’s game against UNLV despite starting backup quarterback Adam Dingwell.

      Long on going for a two-point conversion instead of a game-tying extra point: “It made sense at the time.”

    • 4. UNR (6-2, 3-1)

      Previously ranked second

      Last week: Lost, 39-38 in OT, vs. San Diego State

      This week: at Air Force (4-3, 3-1), at 5 p.m. Friday on CBS Sports Network

      Line: -3 (2-6 ATS)

      Breakdown: The Wolf Pack are two points from being undefeated and likely ranked in the top 20 ahead of Boise State. Instead, UNR is trying to regroup in a short week and prepare for the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense.

      UNR had every chance to defeat San Diego State but simply couldn’t hold on at the end. It probably hurt just as much as it did when South Florida won with a 56-yard touchdown pass in the final minute back on Sept. 8.

      This was only the Wolf Pack’s first conference defeat, so they’re certainly not out of the race, but they will be if they trip up again Friday night at Air Force.

      Chris Ault on Air Force’s system: “You don’t see this type of offense.”

    • 5. Air Force (4-3, 3-1)

      Previously ranked sixth

      Last week: Won, 28-23, vs. New Mexico

      This week: vs. UNR (6-2, 3-1), at 5 p.m. Friday on CBS Sports Network

      Line: +3 (2-5 ATS)

      Breakdown: Going back to Air Force’s loss at UNLV in September, coach Troy Calhoun has never been very happy with his depth at running back. Starter Cody Getz is the nation’s ninth-leading rusher and averages 7.6 yards per carry, but the next leading running back is Jon Lee with nearly 700 fewer yards.

      There are two rushers in between those guys, but they come from other positions — quarterback Connor Dietz and receiver Ty MacArthur. Calhoun said those are the spots he’s looking at again to find a different backup in the backfield.

      In addition to moving some guys around on both of his lines, Calhoun said he’s looking at moving backup quarterback Kale Pearson or another receiver over to running back. The moves aren’t for a single reason, although Calhoun did call UNR the most athletic team he’s faced this year (including Michigan) and is likely trying to match that as best as possible.

      Calhoun on why he stays at Air Force, where the Falcons don’t have the same scholarships or admissions standards as most Division I schools: “I think it’s the ultimate challenge in all of college sports.”

    • 6. New Mexico (4-4, 1-2)

      Previously ranked fifth

      Last week: Lost, 28-23, at Air Force

      This week: vs. Fresno State (5-3, 3-1), at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Time Warner Cable SportsNet

      Line: +12.5 (6-2 ATS)

      Breakdown: I was wrong on this one. I thought New Mexico would win straight up as an 11-point dog, but it couldn’t quite pull it off in the fourth quarter, which included what could have been the Lobos’ drive of the year.

      A fumble recovery gave New Mexico the ball at Air Force’s 46-yard line with 12:06 remaining and a 28-23 deficit on the scoreboard. The Lobos ran the ball every play, picking up both a fourth-down and third-down conversion along the way and running time off the clock until they had fourth-and-four at the 12 with about four minutes remaining. Instead of kicking a field goal and hoping to get the ball back, coach Bob Davie went for it. The result was a four-yard loss.

      New Mexico had to burn its three timeouts as Air Force took over and picked up multiple first downs to secure the victory. This would have been the best win of the year for a team that also fell just short, 32-29, against Boise State. Despite their success, the Lobos don’t have a marquee victory yet, something they get to aim for again this week at home against the Bulldogs.

      Bob Davie on Fresno State: “They are the most balanced team, in my opinion, in this conference.”

    • Boise State's Jamar Taylor hits UNLV quarterback Nick Sherry, causing Sherry to lose the ball Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Boise, Idaho.

      7. UNLV (1-7, 1-2)

      Previously ranked seventh

      Last week: Lost, 32-7, at Boise State

      This week: at San Diego State (5-3, 3-1), at 5 p.m. Saturday on Time Warner Cable SportsNet

      Line: +18 (6-2 ATS)

      Breakdown: First things first, freshman quarterback Nick Sherry is listed at questionable with an undisclosed injury. My guess is his status won’t be revealed until game time.

      Moving on: Last week’s Boise State game was almost exactly like the road trip two weeks prior to Louisiana Tech. Barring a miracle, both scores were going to be ugly (and they were). The thing to remember is that those were indictments on the teams’ respective talent levels, not any decisions that were made on game day.

      These games are the ones where I’ve seen the most venom come out against UNLV coach Bobby Hauck. It’s understandable, but I feel like a lot of it still is misdirected. Not that it should be aimed at someone else, just a different topic regarding that same person.

      If you want to knock Hauck for the talent he has assembled in three years, by all means go for it. This most recent class is the only one that could make you feel the program is headed in the right direction, and even that is up for debate.

      But UNLV was clearly outmatched in both of those games, so coming down hard after the fact for individual plays or calls that wouldn't have affected the outcome doesn’t make much sense to me. However, the Aztecs are a little different. They’re definitely better than the Rebels, but not to the same degree as the Broncos and Bulldogs.

      If UNLV is going to do something positive with this season — and it’s possible because games against the rest of the bottom half of the league are still on tap — it needs to be more competitive this week than it was in two of the last three games.

      Bobby Hauck on bouncing back from the UNR loss two weeks ago: “I don’t think we recovered from it very well on the offensive side (against Boise State).”

    • 8. Wyoming (1-6, 0-3)

      Previously ranked eighth

      Last week: Lost, 42-14, at Fresno State

      This week: vs. Boise State (6-1, 3-0), at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network

      Line: +16.5 (4-3 ATS)

      Breakdown: The intrigue in this game almost entirely revolves around head coach Dave Christensen’s $50,000 fine and one-game suspension.

      The fine is surprisingly hefty, though the school probably felt compelled to do something drastic after the video surfaced (again, NSFW) with Christensen berating Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. Oh, and it was on Wyoming’s Military Appreciation Night.

      Assistant coach Pete Kaligis will run the team this week and both coordinators are still in place, so there probably won’t be much difference in game-day execution. And as for the lead up to the game against Boise State, this can only motivate the Cowboys, right? It’s not like they had much chance with Christensen present anyways.

      Kaligis on replacing Christensen this week: “The team’s taking it very well. When it comes down to playing the game, you can’t focus on the distraction from the outside.”

    • 9. Colorado State (1-6, 0-3)

      Previously ranked ninth

      Last week: Idle

      This week: vs. Hawaii (1-6, 0-3), at 4 p.m. Saturday on Root Sports

      Line: -6.5 (1-6 ATS)

      Breakdown: Third-string quarterback Conner Smith will get the start in a pivotal game for the Rams.

      It’s pivotal because this is the team’s last best chance to win a conference game this year. They’ll have decent chances again next week at Wyoming and at home against UNLV a week after that, but none will be as easy as this. Just look at that point spread. Colorado State hasn’t been favored all season, and it’s failed to cover in six straight since winning straight up against Colorado.

      Smith came in after starter Garrett Grayson and backup M.J. McPeek both went down earlier this year. McPeek is back and available this week while Grayson may be healthy in the next few weeks. Also, the team is going to wear throwback orange uniforms on Saturday. So there's that.

      Jim McElwain on having a few days off: “It was a much-needed week for everyone in the program.”

    • 10. Hawaii (1-5, 0-3)

      Previously ranked 10th

      Last week: Idle

      This week: at Colorado State (1-6, 0-3), at 4 p.m. Saturday on Root Sports

      Line: +6.5 (2-4 ATS)

      Breakdown: Here’s a story:

      Jordan Pu’u-Robinson was a defensive lineman at Washington State, where he had a full scholarship, Hawaii coach Norm Chow said. But Pu’u-Robinson was pulled closer to home — he grew up in Maui — and decided to walk on to the Warriors’ football team. The NCAA originally declared him ineligible before he won an appeal. On Oct. 6 at San Diego State, in just his second game and his first start, Pu’u-Robinson broke his finger on his first play.

      What originally was a week-to-week injury will actually end his season, Chow learned this week. He’s the fifth or sixth (Chow has lost count) defensive lineman to be lost for the year.

      “To see the hurt in these guys’ eyes, the tears, that’s what gets you,” Chow said.

      The Hawaii football 2012 season thus far couldn’t be summarized much better.

      Chow on either team playing this game with desperation: “We’re both in our first years. We can’t worry about that sort of thing.”

    Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

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    1. What's up with the mugshot for Colorado State?

    2. I saw that too Mark. That was hilarious!