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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Don’t sleep on Mountain West

    UA wide receiver Mike Thomas watches the ball fall to the turf after getting blasted by New Mexico linebacker Herbert Felder in Saturdays 36-28 Lobo win in Albuquerque, N.M.
    UA wide receiver Mike Thomas watches the ball fall to the turf after getting blasted by New Mexico linebacker Herbert Felder in Saturday’s 36-28 Lobo win in Albuquerque, N.M.

    Take a step back before judging the Arizona football team too much for its 38-26 loss to New Mexico.

    While the Wildcats are as disappointed as ever after dropping a game to the Lobos – a Mountain West Conference team – for the second consecutive year, ruining their chance to go 3-0 in nonconference play, it may not be as big of an upset as commonly perceived.

    A rather frequent misconception toward New Mexico and the Mountain West is one of mediocrity, making it that much worse that the Wildcats couldn’t overcome the Lobos.

    The consensus around the Wildcats, however, was that the Lobos were just as tough as any of their other opponents – including Pacific 10 Conference teams – and while they may have overlooked the game against New Mexico, it certainly wasn’t regarded as a big upset.

    “”The Mountain West is a good conference. People look at them like they aren’t that good but they have some solid teams,”” said UA cornerback Devin Ross. “”They have a lot of good players on those teams. They are all D-I, so I wouldn’t doubt them. Everyone earns their scholarship.””

    Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes was also impressed with the conference’s résumé to date.

    “”It is a solid conference. I am sure people in the Pac-10 are disappointed,”” Dykes said of the loss to the Lobos. “”I think we should have beaten New Mexico and I think we have a better football team, but they beat us and they earned it and we didn’t.””

    While college football is still early in its season, various schools in the Mountain West are drawing some attention, particularly No. 14 Brigham Young. The Cougars throttled Arizona’s upcoming opponent, UCLA, 59-0 in Provo on Saturday.

    In addition to BYU, the Mountain West also sports Bowl Championship Series-buster hopefuls in No. 20 Utah and Texas Christian, which received 45 votes in the AP Poll.

    Aside from the six conferences that are qualifiers for the BCS – the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Southeastern Conference and Pac-10 – the Mountain West is still trying to earn respect in terms of consideration to elite bowls or even the title game.

    While it may seem far-fetched at the moment to send a Mountain West team to play a Southern California or Oklahoma in the title game, the conference may not be far off from that day.

    After all, the agreement amongst the Wildcats is if any Mountain West school gets to 12-0, it is more than qualified to take a shot in the title game.

    “”I think (a Mountain West team) would be well deserved to go (to the title game),”” said defensive tackle Earl Mitchell. “”They work as hard as us and they do the same things. They should be appreciated.””

    With teams like BYU, TCU and Utah playing tough out of conference schedules, it isn’t a guarantee they will make the title game if they go undefeated, which differs from teams like USC or Georgia.

    But if one of the teams somehow escapes the conference schedule, the question still remains if they should be sent to the title game.

    “”To me, I think so,”” Dykes said. “”You play 12 regular season games in college football and it is hard to win all of those. You go back and look at last year, LSU plays in a great conference, but they lost two games and won the national championship. Somebody comes out of the Mountain West 12-0, I think they deserve a chance.””

    But if one does come out of the Mountain West undefeated, will it happen?

    “”Yes, I think it would.”” Dykes said.

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