Saturday Snapshots On Mountain High: Part 1


New Mexico at Wyoming (-23) – Laramie, Wyo.

Pick: The Lobos just won their first game in more than a year. It was described by some players as the best feeling in the world, an undescribable victory during a season that saw their head coach get fired following a 2-26 campaign. The interim coach, George Barlow, didn’t fare much better until last week. Before winning 21-14 against UNLV, New Mexico had allowed more than 200 points and scored just 14 in five games.

For a school in the midst of a search for a long-term replacement, the Lobos weren’t doing much to aid the search. After winning just two games in nearly three seasons (no, spring games don’t count) is anybody capable of winning at New Mexico?

New Mexico’s hard-fought not-decided-until-the-final-minutes victory last Saturday on senior night proved there is enough talent on the Lobo roster to at least win one game a year. Apparently that was enough to lure Bob Davie away from the announcer booth and back to the sidelines 10 years after he was fired from Notre Dame mid-season.

It was a curious hire, to say the least. Davie has only one stint as a head coach and his 35-25 record at Notre Dame is the worst overall coaching record in Fighting Irish history. When the Lobos hired Locksley three years ago, they made the decision to go young and hire an upstart coordinator and highly-touted recruiting on the heels of Rocky Long’s departure.

At least by hiring Davie, the Lobos are getting a coach who has some experience running a big-time program, even if he never won a bowl game in three tries and was embarrassed by Oregon State in Notre Dame’s first ever BCS Bowl.

With a new coach announced but not yet part of the program, what happens for New Mexico during these last two games? Is George Barlow coaching for a coordinator job these final two weeks? Can the Lobos ride the momentum of last week’s big victory and upset the bowl-focused Wyoming Cowboys on the road in Laramie?

Ironically, the last team New Mexico beat before UNLV was Wyoming a year ago. That was near the end of a 3-9 season for the Cowboys, one I’m sure they’d wish to forget both for the record and the loss to New Mexico. If the Lobos can pull off the upset, it would be almost as shocking as Iowa State knocking off Oklahoma State last night … Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it would still be an upset no one would expect.

The Cowboys are one win away from bowl eligibility and as excited as they must’ve been to face New Mexico with bowl eligibility on the line, they have to be equally excited about the fact that New Mexico got off the schnide last week and there isn’t the immense pressure to win as there was at this point last week.

Brad Smith and the Cowboy offense is gelling at the right time, particularly coming off a tough road-win at Air Force, and I don’t think New Mexico will be as inspired this week as last. When Locksley was fired, this 2011 campaign became a lost season. Now that the Lobos have gotten their first win and hired a new head coach, I just don’t see them having much to play for.
Pick: Wyoming wins/covers 35-10

Colorado State at TCU (-34) – Fort Worth, Texas

Pick: Boy, Colorado State’s season sure has unravelled quickly. At one point the Rams were an early surprise in the Mountain West and a candidate for bowl eligibility after a 3-1 start. Since then, however, it’s been quite a different story and now the Rams travel to Fort Worth, losers of five in a row, and about to become one of only four programs in the nation to start a true freshman at QB in two consecutive seasons … not something you’d want to brag about.

TCU, on the other hand, completely turned around its season after last week’s upset of Boise State in Boise. Sure, the Horned Frogs were aided by a Kyle Brotz–I mean a Dan Goodale missed field goal. But that doesn’t discount the fact that, after taking a lead, the TCU defense kept Kellen Moore out of the endzone and allowed fewer than 200 yards passing while holding on for the win. That doesn’t bode well for whoever the Rams choose to put under center.

Now ranked No. 19, TCU is on track to win its third-consecutive Mountain West Conference Title, going undefeated in conference play for the third year in a row, and potentially making a BCS Bowl Game. Sure, the Horned Frogs have a lot of ground to make up, but if they can notch two convincing victories over Colorado State this week and then UNLV next week, both at home, then they have an outside shot at moving far enough up the polls to get that BCS berth. Today is the penultimate step toward another MW title and I expect Casey Pachal and the TCU offense to thrive.
TCU wins/covers 51-13

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will include previews of the UNLV – Air Force showdown and a running diary of the first-ever meeting between Boise State and San Diego State.