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October 21, 2014

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MWC Winners and Losers: Week 6

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AP PHOTO

New Mexico running back James Wright is gang-tackled by Wyoming’s Mitch Unrein (98), Corey Orth (55), Brian Hendricks (8) and Josh Biezuns (44) during the Cowboys’ 37-13 victory over the Lobos on Saturday afternoon in snowy Laramie. While Wyoming is now thinking postseason at 4-2 following its third consecutive victory, New Mexico continues to spiral downard, as the Mike Locksley’s club is the league’s only team without a win in 2009.

Each week during the 2009 football season, we'll take a look at the winners and losers from the weekend in the Mountain West Conference.

Winner: Wyoming ... yet again

If UNLV fans are looking for some kind of silver lining to hang on during the Rebels' current vicious three-game skid, it's that the 30-27 loss at Wyoming a few weeks back is looking better and better as each Saturday passes.

Hey, it's something, right?

Wyoming entered that game pretty much punchless, having gone more than two full games without scoring an offensive touchdown.

Since handing the keys over to freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, the Cowboys have won three straight, with the most recent triumph being Saturday's 37-13 victory over hapless New Mexico in snow-covered Laramie.

In that stretch, Wyoming is averaging 32.3 points per game, and in a complex offense, the freshman gunslinger isn't making any mistakes, with six touchdown passes and just one interception.

So it begs the question: Can Wyoming get to six wins and steal a bowl berth?

The answer: Certainly.

At 4-2, the Cowboys still have very winnable games remaining on the road against Air Force (next Saturday), at San Diego State (Nov. 14) and Colorado State (Nov. 27).

Of course, they still have to go to Utah (Oct. 31) and have home dates with both BYU (Nov. 7) and TCU (Nov. 21).

My money is on the Cowboys stealing at least two of those remaining six games and heading to the New Mexico Bowl.

Loser: Colorado State

While Wyoming is the current Cinderella of the league, Colorado State's glass slipper is in tiny shards all over the dance floor.

After starting 3-0, the Rams have dropped their last three, and if their fans didn't think it could get any worse than last weekend's 31-29 loss at Idaho, try this Saturday on for size.

A victory over Utah could have put Steve Fairchild's team right back on track, but leading by seven over the Utes at home heading into the fourth quarter, CSU allowed a pair of touchdowns to Cimarron High grad Eddie Wide, allowing Utah to escape, 24-17, and improve to 4-1.

Winner: Utah

Since its loss came earlier than BYU's, and since TCU is still the pride and joy of the Mountain West with an undefeated mark, Utah has flown under the radar since falling at Oregon, 31-24, on Sept. 19.

But Utah is still very much alive early on in the Mountain West race, even though you haven't heard much noise from Salt Lake City of late.

Utah's next four games include a road trip to UNLV, then a three-game home swing against Air Force, Wyoming and New Mexico. That means the Utes could easily find themselves at 8-1 and back on several radars when they travel to face No. 10 TCU on Nov. 14.

After all, after going undefeated last year and defeating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, you've got to like Utah's chances, given the team's big-game experience if it heads to Fort Worth still with one loss.

Loser: UNLV's defense ... 611 more reasons

If you're a betting man, you'd be insane to think that Utah won't start that aforementioned four-game stretch with a win next weekend at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Not only does the Utes' offense look like it's found a nice groove behind juco transfer Terrance Cain at quarterback (63.9 completion percentage, 1,162 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT), but now it faces a Rebels defense that ranks 116th in the nation out of 120 FBS teams.

UNLV followed up a 63-28 loss to UNR — during which it gave up 773 yards of total offense — by succumbing 611 yards and 59 points to BYU on Saturday night in a game that got out of hand pretty early.

It's bad enough that the Rebels' defense is so porous, but on Saturday, it couldn't help the offense capitalize on momentum in the least bit. The Cougars answered UNLV's three touchdowns in 107, 105 and five seconds, respectively.

Winner: TCU

No matter who they beat, the Horned Frogs are a winner as long as they keep winning. Just try arguing this one with me.

Just to foreshadow a bit, 5-0 TCU hosts Colorado State next weekend. By the time that game kicks off, there's a very real possibility of Gary Patterson's team being alone in the driver's seat to be this year's BCS buster, as No. 5 Boise State takes on a high-powered Tulsa squad on the road on Wednesday night.

Loser: New Mexico

While TCU is a perennial winner on this list, New Mexico is perennially on the other end of the stick.

The winless Lobos at least breathed some hope into their fans' lungs on Saturday at Wyoming, scoring first to go up 7-0 and even trailing just 17-13 at the half.

Then they were shut out in the second half, 20-0.

New Mexico is off next weekend, but, boy, that home showdown with UNLV on Oct. 24 could be really good or really bad, depending on how you choose to look at it.

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