Monday, Oct. 26, 2009 | 12:01 a.m.
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: TCU (duh ...)
In hindsight, no one should have really been surprised by what went down in Provo on Saturday evening, with TCU slamming BYU in front of the Cougars' home crowd, 38-7.
It was almost a carbon copy of last year's 32-7 Horned Frogs thrashing of Bronco Mendenhall's club in Fort Worth, with TCU having its way on offense thanks to big plays and blinding speed and, on defense, getting into Max Hall's grill, pushing him around and forcing him into silly mistakes.
The rest of TCU's schedule lays out nicely towards a BCS berth, beginning next Saturday at home against 3-5 UNLV. The Horned Frogs' only real remaining test is a home game against No. 19 Utah, which is having some issues of its own that are masked by a 6-1 record.
And if TCU should win out, it's looking more and more like the BCS is where the program would land.
The Horned Frogs didn't move up in the AP poll this week, staying at No. 8, and are up to No. 6 in the coaches poll. But the best news for TCU is that it leap-frogged Boise State in the BCS rankings, coming in at No. 5 — one slot ahead of the No. 6 Broncos, who are TCU's main competition for an at-large bid into one of college football's big-money bowl games.
Loser: Colorado State
That 3-0 start by the Rams must feel like ages ago for Steve Fairchild & Co.
CSU not only lost its fifth in a row on Saturday, but it did so at home. To San Diego State. After blowing a 14-0 first quarter lead, falling 42-28.
At 3-5, it'll take some work for the Rams to get to 6-6 and a potential second straight trip to the New Mexico Bowl. Remaining on the slate are very winnable road games at New Mexico and UNLV, but tough home contests against Wyoming and Air Force.
Winner: The Ryan Lindley-to-DeMarco Sampson connection ... and SDSU in general
It was a shame that star senior receiver Vincent Brown was forced from San Diego State's victory at Colorado State early on with a thumb injury.
But despite losing its top deep threat, sophomore quarterback Ryan Lindley found a worthy — and somewhat unlikely — replacement in senior DeMarco Sampson.
A former big-time recruit, Sampson had fallen into depth chart oblivion thanks to ineffectiveness and injuries, and now in his fifth year in the program is finally delivering.
In that victory, he had 15 catches for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
This came on the heels of a five-catch, 77-yard, two-touchdown performance a week earlier in a 10-point loss to BYU.
Those five touchdown grabs in two games gave him six for his career.
Better late than never, right?
As for Lindley, the sensational soph is thriving in Brady Hoke's high-powered offense. He ranks 26th in the nation in total offense, while SDSU's passing attack ranks 17th out of 120 FBS programs.
The Aztecs are 3-4, folks. Hoke's going to have that team in a bowl game within three years. Mark that down.
Apparently, that aforementioned 38-28 escape from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego should have raised some red flags on BYU, who dropped out of the polls completely (but is still ranked 23rd in the BCS) on the heels of a second embarrassing home loss of the season.
While a 14-13 victory to open the season over then-No. 3 Oklahoma opened up some eyes early on in 2009, the Cougars are apparently suffering from the same problem they did a year ago — lack of team speed.
The two fastest teams BYU has faced — Florida State and TCU — have run rampant over them.
But, hey, a December trip to Las Vegas (for the fifth straight season) is always nice.
You've got to give UNLV some props this week. Why? Well, because who knows how many more opportunities there will be this season.
The Rebels got healthy after a confidence-building effort in a home loss to Utah and executed in fine fashion in a 34-17 victory over New Mexico, which lost its 11th straight game and may finish the 2009 season with that skid at 16.
Meanwhile, UNLV snapped a 20-game road losing streak in Mountain West games and won its first October tilt since 2005.
In the process, the Rebels were efficient on offense behind junior quarterback Omar Clayton, they were defensively stout and they didn't turn the ball over.
To boot, senior receiver Ryan Wolfe now has 270 career grabs, which makes him the conference's all-time leading pass-catcher.
Even though this season's gone south pretty fast for coach Mike Sanford, the Rebels will at least have one memorable night to hang their hats on when its all said and done.
Loser: New Mexico
Yes, continuing to kick the Lobos while they're down is getting a little old. But, man, after seeing that team first-hand this weekend, it gave better context as to why they're still winless.
It's amazing to think of how fast a program that a couple of years ago was a perennial bowl squad hit the skids. Signs of that trend changing right now are pretty much minimal.