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This week was a great week for the Mountain West Conference. For the first time in it's 11-year history three teams will start the season ranked in the USA Today Coaches' Top 25 poll. It is also the first time in the Bowl Championship Series era that three teams from a non-automatic-qualifying conference have appeared in the preseason Coaches' poll.
TCU was ranked 17th, followed by Utah at No. 18, and BYU at No. 24.
It shows that the conference, especially the Big Three, Utah, BYU and TCU, have earned respect nationally. Here is how the Mountain West Conference, as well as the WAC, stacks up with the six BCS conferences when it comes to teams in the Top 25.
The MWC trails three of the conferences by one and matches the powerful Big Ten. The most interesting thing about this is that the Big East doesn't have a single team in the Top 25 yet they get an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. Huh? Wasn't it that football powerhouse Cincinnati that represented the Big East in the Orange Bowl last year? That was a thrilling game. How do you think TCU or Boise State would have fared against Virginia Tech in that game? I wish we could have seen that.
Right now the Mountain West Conference is more deserving than the Big East for an automatic BCS bowl bid. But as we learned this summer nothing can be done about it now. The only thing teams like TCU, BYU, Utah and even Boise State can do is keep beating BCS teams in the regular season and in bowl games. As we see in this poll, big wins like Utah had in the Sugar Bowl has forced the nation to take notice.
Here are 5 more observations from the weekend in sports.
5 games on TNT and 8 games on ESPN next season for the Utah Jazz. The team will appear on national television a total of 21 times including a rare Thanksgiving night home game against the Chicago Bulls. The Jazz also face 19 back-to-back sets, which was a huge problem last year. They have to win more games on back-to-back sets next season if they want to be a factor in the Western Conference. The end of the season will be difficult again with 19 of the last 31 games on the road. If this young team can't figure out how to win on the road it could be a long season. 4 is the new number being worn by BYU wide receiver O'Neill Chambers. Why does that matter? Because he gave up his old number 11 for senior fullback Manase Tonga, who is expected to return to the Cougar backfield as early as Monday. If this happens, and he has kept up with his conditioning, Tonga would be a huge addition for BYU. Not just for his blocking skills and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but for his leadership. The impact he had on BYU's back-to-back conference titles was tremendous. If he returns, it will be interesting to see the impact he has on the BYU offense in 2009.
3 Utah quarterbacks began their battle to replace Brian Johnson as the starter at the U. The battle will be trimmed down to two after Thursday's scrimmage. It seems like Corbin Louks should have been named the starter by now. He knows the offense and has had success as a backup to Brian Johnson in a change-of-pace role. But is he ready to be an every down guy? Clearly the coaching staff isn't sure yet or Terrance Cain and Jordan Wynn have showed them enough that they have to take a longer look. It could also be that the coaching staff is using the open competition to push Louks even harder. This happens all the time. 2 straight victories on the tour for Tiger Woods after missing the cut at the British Open. Tiger was in top form yesterday firing a final round 65 erasing a 3 shot deficit on Sunday. It was his 70th tour victory and he set a tour record by winning for the 7th time on the same course. He looks primed to win his 15th major this week when the PGA Championship gets underway this week. Despite five wins this year on tour, anything short of victory next Sunday would make this a disappointing season for Tiger Woods.
1 goal by Robbie Findley accomplished two important things for Real Salt Lake. First, RSL is now just 1 point out of a playoff spot after the 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders. They cannot afford to lose at home if they want to remain in the playoff race and they got the job done. Second, Findley passed Jeff Cunningham to become the all-time leading scorer in franchise history. The 24-year-old striker is one of the most exciting players in the league. It's too bad only 14,000 fans saw the goal at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Video of the Week: Check out South Africa's "Xtreme 19th-hole" at the Legends Golf and Safari Resort. The tee box is only reachable by helicopter. Amazing! You can read more about it here.
Countdown to the college football season: 24 days!