The "Big Three"...and the "Small Six"?

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Wrapping up a BYU win and a sort-of lost Saturday for the MWC...


I'll get to the Cougars' win over Utah State later, but Saturday made clear yet again that there are the "Big Three," then the rest of the league. For all of the before-the-season talk of teams ready to challenge BYU, TCU and Utah for the MWC's upper tier, yesterday's results and results to this point of the season have not only refuted that belief, but have somewhat dented the league's reputation.


Because of the profile and the platform a Top Ten BYU team enjoyed at the time, the Cougars' 26-point home loss to a Florida State team that has only one FBS win (over BYU) is almost as disappointing as anything else that has happened in the league this season. The fact Oklahoma has only one FBS win at this point of the season is doing BYU and the MWC no favors, either.


Undefeated TCU is the team currently carrying most of the weight in the MWC, and a BYU win over TCU can resume some genuine luster to the Cougars' portfolio, since only the Frogs and Utes (November 28th) offer the opportunity for a quality win the rest of the way.

Having said that, TCU's schedule has actually been soft, despite a pair of road wins in the ACC. The ACC teams TCU beat (Virginia and Clemson) are a combined 3-6, with the Cavaliers winning their first game of the season yesterday and the Tigers losing to a Maryland team that had previously lost to Middle Tennesse State and Rutgers, and gone to overtime to beat James Madison. TCU's opponents have a combined record of 7-10, and none have a winning record.

While TCU is 4-0 and the only undefeated team in the MWC, I'll be curious to see what the computers think about the Frogs' accomplishments when the first BCS Standings are released.


For that matter, BYU's opponents have a combined record of 10-12, and only one opponent has a winning record: Colorado State, which last night became the second MWC team to lose at Idaho this season (ouch).

BYU's schedule strength was supposed to be a feather in the cap this season, but five weeks into the season, none of BYU's foes have distinguished themselves, and the win over Oklahoma currently means less than anyone ever imagined it would.


As for the other member of the MWC's power trio, Utah's victims have a combined record of 3-9, with the loss to Oregon (now 4-1) probably helping the Utes as much as their three wins.

So, recapping, the best three teams in the MWC have a combined one win over teams with a winning record (Colorado State), and their opponents' combined record is 24-32. And those are the top three teams in a league whose bottom six teams are in a weekly contest to out-do each other with embarrassing or otherwise damaging losses.


Saturday in the MWC...


Air Force badly missed a short field goal in OT to lose at Navy, 16-13. The Falcons only wins are over Nicholls State, New Mexico and San Diego State.

New Mexico (0-5) scored 21 4th quarter points to put some lipstick on the pig that was 48-28 in favor of Texas Tech.

UNLV made sure Mike Sanford will not coach a sixth season in Vegas, by going to Reno and losing 63-28 to previously-winless Nevada. More on this game below, since it was an all-time mind-blowing disaster.

Colorado State took a 14-nothing first quarter lead, probably figured the game was won, and lost, 31-29 at Idaho. Idaho. The Vandals are 2-0 against the MWC this season.



Wyoming strikes a blow for the MWC against the Sun Belt Conference, rallying on the road to defeat winless Florida Atlantic, 30-28.

San Diego State found a team it could beat, taking care of New Mexico State, 34-17. Lobo fans are jealous.

TCU did as expected and beat SMU, 34-17. Frogs turn the ball over 3 times, but hold the Mustangs to -16 yards rushing.


Now, more on the UNLV-Nevada game...

I literally sat staring at the box score for about five minutes, to really absorb what I was seeing. First I was amazed, then I was amused! I mean, this had to be a joke, right? Then, I wondered if Mike Sanford would still be the head coach for UNLV's Saturday game with BYU.

If Sanford does endure the season, I think this would have to be his last season, and yesterday's game may very well seal the deal. I don't know that Sanford can recover from what happened yesterday--certainly not considering his 13-39 record at UNLV.

Where to start?...

Let's start with (previously winless) Nevada's 773 yards of offense!!

Then, let's note that the Wolfpack lost four fumbles, and still had 773 yards of offense!!

Then, let's note that UNR committed 15 penalties for 169 yards, and still had 773 yards of offense!! (just imagine how many yards and points a disciplined team could have scored against UNLV yesterday)

Nevada actually ran three fewer plays than UNLV (74, to 77)!!

The Wolfpack did not punt, and made every third-down conversion attempt (7/7)!!

Three UNR players ran for 170+ yards, and the Wolfpack averaged 10.2 yards per rush as a team!!

Every Nevada drive ended with either a touchdown or a fumble!!

This was a tie game at halftime!!


Oddly, the game stats cannot yet be found on UNLV's website--Nevada's website manages to include them.

UNLV's "bounce-back" games: home to BYU and Utah in consecutive weeks. Then there's the end-of-the-month trip to TCU. Good times in Vegas.


As for BYU's Friday night win over Utah State, sure it would have been nice to keep the Aggies out of the end zone on the final drive of the game, but it was a nice, solid win keyed by a dominant first half of defense and a run-heavy yet balanced offensive attack; 43 rushes for 213 yards, 23 passes for 218 yards.

The Aggies were 9th in total offense coming into the game--they rank 17th after Friday night. Robert Turbin was 4th nationally in rush yards per game before facing BYU; he's now 17th after a 47-yard night. BYU did a good job keeping Utah State's "big play" players in check. All in all, a worthy win.


Random Notes:

Only one team has attempted fewer field goals this season than the three attempted by BYU: Nevada (0/1), and we know the Wolfpack were only scoring touchdowns yesterday.

Of the 17 "front page" stats tracked by the NCAA, BYU is ranked in the Top 10 nationally in one category: net punting (6). Additionally, however, BYU is first in third down conversion at 60% (coincidentally, UNLV is 114th in third down conversion percentage allowed, at 50%).

Only one team (Pittsbugh, with 19) has more red zone touchdowns than BYU's 18. BYU has scored touchdowns on 11 consecutive red zone possessions, and 16 of its last 17 red zone appearances overall.

Only one team (Miami, OH, with 11) has thrown more interceptions than BYU's 10.

Only three teams (including Miami, OH) have lost more turnovers than BYU's 15.

Of the teams in the bottom 20 nationally in turnover margin, five have winning records; BYU (106th) is one of the five, and the only team in the bottom 20 with as many as four wins.

Max Hall is in the Top 15 nationally in passing yards per game (15), pass efficiency (14) and total offense (15)--one of only five QBs nationally to be ranked in the Top 15 in all three categories (the others: Jimmy Clausen-Notre Dame, Tony Pike-Cincinnati, Blaine Gabbert-Missouri, and Greg Alexander-Hawaii).


Hearty congratulations to BYU Director of Basketball Operations Tim LaComb, who successfully completed the St. George Marathon Saturday, in a time of 3:42! Tim was (literally) following in the footsteps of his wife, who ran St. George in 2008.

While I don't have any recent race results handy, I can inform you that hoops Assistant Coach John Wardenburg has also completed numerous triathlons.


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