The Ross Report

It's rivalry week and DJ Ross is weighing in on what that means for the Cougars. After taking a look back at the New Mexico game, Ross looks forward to what he calls the most important Holy War <U><i>EVER!</I></U> Of course we also get Ross' predictions on the rest of the games in the Mountain West as well as some key national match-ups.

Soap Box: I have to admit to being quite perturbed as the seconds wound down confirming what we all began to suspect during the 3rd quarter of last weeks exercise in laissez faire football. Here was a chance for Crowton and company to prove once and for all that BYU was on its way back to becoming a winning program. Anyone worth their salt in football knew that this game was going to be a battle, but the Cougar team that took the field Saturday morning appeared to be asleep at the wheel.

An offensive line that had been blowing out defenses in prior weeks gave up 7 sacks against the Lobos. It took Wyoming, Air Force and San Diego State to generate the same number of sacks against BYU. In spite of Beck getting pounded, he was one of the brighter spots in a game full of what can only be described as a concentration lapse. John took another step toward his maturation as a veteran passer when he was forced to run the two-minute offense to keep Cougar hopes alive. On BYU's final score, Beck completed 6 out of 7 passes for 62 yards.

The number 7 seems to be the key to this game as 7 sacks were complimented by 7 passes dropped by Cougar receivers. I was shaking my head to gain clarity since I could have sworn I was experiencing the 2003 season all over again. Anyone can drop a pass now and then, it happens to the best, but 7 passes dropped at crucial times during the game this late in the season? The rope walk at BYU is a narrow one which leaves little to no room for any more "learning" experiences.

Somebody forgot to wake up Matt Payne and let him know that BYU had a game Saturday morning. He must have thought he was attending some midmorning mandatory scrimmage to walk through game strategy. Three missed field goals in a row? Come on, that has to be some kind of record by a Lou Groza award finalist. Well no one can blame Matt for doing anything halfway. When he is on, he is ON, and when he is off, he is really AWFUL. BYU sure could have used those nine points, or even six, which would have given BYU a chance to tie the game with a two point conversion.

What really surprised me was how banged up the Cougars were even before the game started. Several linemen looked gimpy out there, which was made even clearer by the early replacement of Offensive Lineman Brian Sanders with Sophomore Gary McGiven. The portent of the days events should have been clear already when wide receiver standout Todd Watkins limped out onto the field at the start of the game; his first reception was also his last. Linebacker Justin Luettgerodt has been playing hurt all season, but his lack of playing time as of late clearly states his physical condition. Things didn't get any better during the game, and Cougar fans had a heart stopping moment when star defensive back Aaron Francisco went down with a knee injury.

Regardless of their current status, the Cougars are going to have to get their act together if they stand any chance of staying with a Utah team that has the wind caught fully in their sails. There is more riding on Saturday's match-up than at any time in the rivalry's history. Forget bragging rights and a beehive boot trophy. Although the conference championship is already sewn up, it would be secondary to the implications of what this game brings.

If Utah wins, they will have successfully broken the BCS. If BYU wins, they will have broken the second longest winning streak in the nation and robbed the entire conference of 14 Million dollars. Win or lose for either team, there are big question marks about whether the coaches will be returning for next season.

A win for Utah could set a standard for the MWC getting closer to the elite club that is the BCS. The Big East is struggling this year due to weak scheduling, and next year's additions will only weaken the conference as a whole. Utah's rise could prove providential for the entire conference over the next two years. I learned long ago, that the first sale is always the hardest, and once the BCS gets used to the idea that the MWC represents well among them, it will directly effect how conference schools are ranked and considered on a national scale.

Regardless of the outcome, BYU has a monster game ahead of them, and they will need to be at their best if they have any hope of winning. Cougars were really banged up last week, but many of the walking wounded will be in better shape by game time. Todd Watkins is practicing and his ankle seems to not be bothering him as much. Aaron Francisco is running on his injured leg and is probable for Saturday.

This game is often determined by the defensive efforts on both sides, but this years battle may just be the opposite. Expect offensive fireworks. Alex Smith and company have been lighting it up at will against all comers, and BYU has shown that they can score lots of points given the chance. The New Mexico game may be the litmus test to illustrate each school's strength on offense. When Utah beat the Lobos, they did it on the ground to the tune of 301 yards. BYU on the other hand was able to move the ball through the air. I see this game being won by Utah on the ground or by BYU through the air. UTAH 42 – BYU 35


Picks: Last Week 13-7 (.650) Season 61-26 (.701)

(CSU @ Air Force) This game lacks any bowl implications, and both teams are playing for next season. The Rams snuffed out the final spark in a UNLV team that is so happy that basketball season has started. Air Force is struggling at the QB spot. Fitch was capable of leading his Falcons to a victory over SDSU, but got hurt in the 3rd quarter and again Air Force had to rely on freshmen Shaun Carney. The results weren't stellar. Air Force still has problems to sort out, while CSU seems to be coming into their own as of late. Their own freshman quarterback Caleb Hanie looked like a seasoned veteran vs. the Lobos. Falcons are at home however, and CSU's defense is not ready to shut down the wishbone. Air Force 36 – CSU 30

(Wyoming @ New Mexico) The toughest run defense in the league will force the young Cowboy squad to air it out. This team needed overtime to pull out a road victory in Las Vegas. Albuquerque will offer a different challenge: a stifling Lobo defense. Wyoming would have a chance, if were not for Dontrell Moore. He was able to grind out a modest 101 yards and a score against the Cougars. Double the yardage and triple the scoring and that shouldn't be to far off a prognosis for Moore's output this Saturday. Lobo defense relaxes slightly since New Mexico is now bowl eligible. New Mexico 33 – Wyoming 21

(UNLV @ San Diego State) A tale of two teams gone south. Both squads have suffered injuries, bad press, timing, and coaching dramas. The difference…? The Aztecs have never given up throughout the season. They have brought their best each and every week. Last weeks debacle vs. Colorado State showed a Rebel team that has decided to pack it in. UNLV defense has allowed 161 points in its last three games. Aztecs will not end up last in the MWC this year. SDSU 36 – UNLV 25

Rest of

the Best:

Wake Forest (4-5, 1-2 away) vs. (13) Miami (7-2, 3-1 home) Hurricanes have struggled at times this season, but the Demon Deacons pose no threat to stop Miami. Miami 40 – Wake Forest 22

(19) BC (7-2, 3-2 away) vs. Temple (2-8, 2-3 home) The Eagles are flying high as they make a run at the Big East Title. Temple hasn't done much to motivate remaining in the Big East which they will leave at the end of this season. The Owls however can keep it close and they will. Boston College scares Eagle fans in a tight win. BC 27 – Temple 25

(2) Oklahoma (10-0, 3-0 away) vs. Baylor (3-7, 3-2 home) Sooners are looking to finish in the top 3. Bears upset the Aggies, and they have been tough at home. Baylor keeps it close but Oklahoma takes this one Sooners 31 – Bears 27

(16) Tennessee (7-2, 3-0 away) vs. Vanderbilt (2-8, 2-3 home) Volunteers have been overachieving all season. Commodores are par for the course. Tennessee takes a less than exciting match Tennessee 31 – Vanderbilt 23

(7) Michigan (9-1, 3-1 away) vs. Ohio State (6-4, 4-1 home) This will be one of the most exciting games this weekend; a gutsy, gritty and grimy, gridiron battle. Many are hoping that Michigan wins in a convincing manner thus providing the BCS happy media enough ammo to bump Utah down a couple of spots. Of course the greatest focus is on a Rose Bowl berth. Wolverines will take the Big Ten title to Pasadena, but the Buckeyes buck up for this one and grind out a win at the Horseshoe Ohio State 23 – Michigan 21

(18) Virginia (7-2, 2-1 away) vs. Georgia Tech (6-3, 3-2 home) Virginia looked rather ordinary last week against Miami. The Cavaliers are inconsistent on the road. The Yellow Jackets have quietly put together a good season after last years struggles. Georgia Tech keeps the Cavs reeling Yellow Jackets 25 - Virginia 22

Louisiana Tech (5-5, 1-4 away) vs. (12) Boise State (9-0, 6-0 home) Another WAC fest here! Being the road team, La Tech will not be able to score as much as the Broncos did vs. San Jose, but they will keep it respectable. Boise State wins this one Boise State 41 – La Tech 28

(3) Auburn (10-0, 3-0 away) vs. Alabama (6-4, 5-1 home) Rivalry week continues as the battle for state supremacy rages in Alabama. Crimson Tide playing tough in the SEC, but Auburn has the edge. Tigers 24 – Tide 21


Stanford (4-6, 1-3 away) vs. (4) California (8-1, 4-0 home) Cal is perfect at home, and Stanford has only won once away. This is one rivalry that won't even be close. Golden Bears 33 – Cardinal 17

(9) Wisconsin (9-1, 3-1 away) vs. (17) Iowa (8-2, 5-0 home) Well after predicting the Spartans winning over the Badgers last week, I will go one further and claim that Wisconsin is in for another beating. The Badger offense is nonexistent, and Iowa has enough tools to score especially at home. Wisconsin's weak scheduling has finally caught up to them. Hawkeyes 33 – Badgers 17

(11) Louisville (7-1, 3-1 away) vs. Houston (3-7, 3-1 home) This game is going to be a barn burner. The Cardinals have been lighting it up as of late, but they are still in the "what have you done for me lately Conference USA". Houston has only lost to Miami at home this year, and they can produce points as well. Last year Louisville beat the Cougars 66-45. Don't look for numbers that gaudy in this years contest. One of this weeks upset specials as Louisville looks past Houston to the Liberty bowl. Houston 35 – Louisville 34

SMU (3-7, 0-5 away) vs. (25) UTEP (7-2, 4-1 home) SMU has actually been playing much better as of late, and who knows, maybe in a couple of years they will be bowl eligible for the first time since the death penalty. UTEP is trying to show that they are for real. Coach Price certainly has the Miners believing. UTEP is too tough for Mustangs. UTEP 38 – SMU 28

BYU (5-5, 2-2 away) vs. (6) Utah (10-0, 5-0 home) Utah 42 – BYU 35 (see above)

Florida (6-4, 1-3 away) vs. (8) Florida State (8-2, 5-0 home) Coach Zook will leave at the end of this season, and Gators are feeling it. Seminoles are fighting for an ACC championship. This game won't be that exciting. FSU chops Florida in Tallahassee Florida State 33 – Florida 13

Mississippi (3-6, 1-3 away) vs. (14) LSU (7-2, 6-0 home) This game will be a yawner as the Tigers take it to the Rebs. There really isn't anything on the line in this game. LSU 37 – Ole Miss 12

Roll Call: Urban MeyerHead Coach Utah – Grid Street Darling

Well Florida fans are convinced that Coach Meyer is a done deal, and Ute fans are asking their Cougar cousins for priesthood intervention to keep Urban in Salt Lake. Well keep praying Utah, at least your team is undefeated and about to break into the BCS.

Fisher Deberry – Air Force – Stock stable

Injuries and youth are making things difficult for the Falcons. If this keeps up next year, get prepared for a coaching change

Gary Crowton - Brigham Young – Stock Dropping

Well there was no blowout, and Crowton's head is back on the chopping block. Crowton daytraders are getting whipsawed to death, looking for the right side to his stock. Is he a winning play for BYU? If he is, can BYU afford the buy and hold strategy much longer to prove it?

Joe Glenn – Wyoming – Stock Stable

Regardless of what happens the rest of this year, Glenn gets a flyer. He has the Cowboys going bowling.

Sonny LubickColorado State – Stock stable

Lubick may get the last laugh this season as some have begun to question his ability as a coach. One thing that goes unnoticed is Sonny's penchant for finding tough hard nosed NFL type QB's. His freshman phenom is quickly becoming a hometown favorite, and next year will be decision time for Lubick in regards to who plays. Both Holland and Hanie are excellent passers, and both can take the hits. Sonny's stock has taken a hit as well, but CSU is looking good as a future pick.

Rocky Long – New Mexico – Stock stable

Rocky stock looking stable as Lobos finish season at home vs New Mexico. A possible 8-4 season awaits Rocky. He better recruit some offensive players in the off season, because he won't get away with winning without an offense next season.

John Robinson – UNLV – Stock has been bought out.

Still no word. UNLV has hung it up.

Tom Craft – SDSU – Stock may have found bottom

Well the talk is still going on, but the Aztecs finally won, and they did it at altitude and in the snow; encouraging signs for Craft. SDSU finishes the season at home vs. UNLV. They couldn't have ended with a better opponent. Craft stock could stop bleeding with a season ending victory vs. the Rebels.

Whispers: BYU Administration looking at DC's for next Head Coach. There remains a real possibility that Gary Crowton will be around for at least another year, but the strongest rumors tend to focus on DC candidates replacing the beleaguered coach.

Fandumb: This week's fandumb award goes out to ESPN's Trev Albert.

He has been known to grate and irritate college football fans. Well for people who like to blow their own horn, Trev seems to be quite good at it, but his Kerryesque spin doctoring leaves much to the imagination:

"It was a football fans dream. Starting Oct. 28, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC teamed up to air 19 straight days of college and NFL action! That's 19 straight days of nonstop football! To make it even more exciting, we recruited ESPN's outspoken college football analyst Trev Alberts to try and match wits with SportsNation!(meaning we the fans)

Throughout the 19 days, Trev Alberts picked the winners along with you, SportsNation. When it was all said and done, Alberts came out on top, as he so boldly explained in his visit to The Show on Monday.

"In closing, there is a reason why you are sending questions and I am answering them. I won the SportsNation head to head 19 Days of Football picks. I missed some to keep it close, but it was a nice try by all of you. We'll do something again during the bowl games to give you another shot."

That's right. We'll do it again during bowl season. Brush up on your picking skills and give it another shot!

Final Records: SportsNation 13-6 | Trev Alberts 15-4"

Hey Trev, beating your chest on national television and insulting the fans in your patrician manner only serves to further disconnect you from reality. Come on, a one game difference separates the "expert" from the "joe shmoe"? Please! There is a reason why Disney is falling out of favor with the public and it has to do with a nipple ring, nudity and a nincompoop called Trev. By the way Mr. Alberts, my picks for those 19 days of football went 17-2, guess that means I should get paid six figures to starch my hair, my collar and read a teleprompter just like you. Hmmmm.

Ross Out!

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