Sportsman of the Year
Life of Reilly
SI for Kids
SI Customer Service
SI Media Kits
Get into College
Can Colorado State be topped?
By Michael C. Lewis, Special to CNNSI.com
Some teams lose the starting quarterback from their championship squad and
are considered to be rebuilding the next season. When it happens to Colorado
State, though, the Rams are simply penciled in for another title run.
"What you're talking about is consistency," UNLV head coach John Robinson says.
"And they have established that."
Such a notion would have been unheard of in Fort Collins, Colo., a decade ago, when
the Rams were steeped in a long tradition of mediocrity. But since the Rams
hired Sonny Lubick away from Miami in 1993, they have
helped set the standard in the old WAC and now the
The Rams are 67-29 under Lubick, and won the first two MWC championships.
They also have 14 starters returning from last season's 10-2 team -- the third
10-win team in school history, all under Lubick -- including All-MWC wide
receiver Pete Rebstock, tight end Jose Ochoa and running back Cecil Sapp.
Exciting kick returner Dallas Davis also is back, after missing most of last
season with back and hamstring injuries.
Clearly, that's why members of the news media picked CSU to win its third
consecutive championship, even though quarterback Matt Newton, the league's
offensive player of the year last season, has finished his eligibility.
Sophomores Bradlee Van Pelt and D.J. Busch will battle to replace him,
although Lubick says it's possible that both will play.
"The quarterback is a key ingredient on every team," Lubick says. "But if
everybody else plays great, then the quarterback won't have to be the most
The most important part, Lubick says, is attitude.
"We think that we can beat anybody," he says. "And it's genuine. I can
remember when we played CU in '82 or '83 or '84, whenever it was, and there
was not one person getting on that bus who believed we could win that game. ...
Now, we believe we can win and we think we can, and we have won, and all of
that compounds itself and gets rolling."
Just like the Rams.
The Wyoming Cowboys already have two of the top three wide receivers in NCAA
history on their alumni list.
Could they be shooting for No. 1?
Sophomore Ryan McGuffey might be the man to make UW fans forget Marcus Harris
and Ryan Yarborough, who combined to catch nearly 500 passes for almost 9,000
yards in their careers with the Cowboys. After all, McGuffey caught a Wyoming
freshman record 63 passes last season for 696 yards -- far more than either
Harris or Yarborough caught in their first years at Wyoming.
"He's as good as there is," head coach Vic Koenning says.
The biggest question might be whether new quarterback Casey Bramlet can get
him the ball the way former quarterback Jay Stoner did. The Cowboys also
might not need to throw as much this season, if they have improved enough
from their 1-10 season a year ago to avoid playing from behind all of the
HOT: UNLV QB Jason Thomas
Getting attention as long-shot Heisman Trophy candidate
NOT: Colorado State RB Cecil Sapp
Runs for 841 yards and 10 TDs, then breaks leg in spring
HOT: Commissioner Craig Thompson
Secured three bowl berths and five games on ABC
NOT: BYU Cougars' legal standing
Five players arrested since Gary Crowton became head coach
HOT: New Mexico DE Brian Johnson
Made 9 1/2 of the Lobos' 46 sacks -- fourth-most in the country
NOT: Utah coach Ron McBride
Shuffled staff to appease critics, still faces schedule that screams 5-6
San Diego State head coach Ted Tollner continues to toe the Mountain West party line about
the importance of playing high-profile, non-conference opponents, even though
his Aztecs are 1-12 in the past four years in non-conference games against
teams from the Pac-10, Big Ten and Big 12 conferences. That has contributed
mightily to Tollner's mediocre 40-40 record at SDSU and helped fuel
speculation about his job security.
Nonetheless, the coach still scheduled
games against Arizona and at Arizona State and Ohio State to start the
season, before having to play CSU in the conference opener Sept. 22.
Colorado State WR Pete Rebstock
With teammate Davis hurt last year, led league in punt returns and
San Diego State LB Jomar Butler
League's top returning tackler after ranking third with 113 stops last year
Air Force WR Ryan Fleming
Caught 53 balls for 930 yards -- a league-leading 84.5 per game -- and five TDs
The Mountain West is one of those leagues whose non-conference games are
probably more alluring than the conference ones -- especially in a year when
Air Force gets a shot at Oklahoma at home, CSU gets Colorado again in the
first game at Denver's Invesco Field, and UNLV tries to survive a schedule
with Arkansas, Northwestern and Arizona in the first month.
Yet if one stands out, it would probably have to be the Sept. 14 matchup
pitting Colorado State at UNLV.
The Rams are the two-time defending conference champions, but they are
replacing key figures on the roster and the coaching staff. The Rebels are
the sudden media darlings, after a turnaround season that saw them win six
consecutive home games and beat Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl. The winner might
go all the way.
Crowton will be the first new boss at BYU in nearly 30
years when the Cougars open the season against Tulane on Aug. 25. Crowton
took over when legendary LaVell Edwards retired after 29 seasons. ... Air
Force begins the season Sept. 1 at home against Oklahoma, marking the third
consecutive season in which a MWC team has opened against the defending national
champion. Wyoming lost 42-17 at Tennessee to open the '99 season, while BYU
fell 23-9 to Florida State last year. ... UNLV may have QB Thomas, but the
Rebels need Washington transfer Jabari Johnson to take up some of the slack
from departed Jeremi Rudolph, Kevin Brown and James Wofford, who combined for
nearly 2,000 rushing yards last season. ... Wyoming safety Al Rich and
linebacker Leo Caines were awarded medical redshirts after missing almost all
of last year's 1-10 season with injuries, and both were named team captains
for 2001. ... Colorado State's Lubick lost longtime offensive
coordinator Steve Fairchild to the NFL's Buffalo Bills, but hired son Matt
Lubick to coach wide receivers. ... New Mexico was by far the worst passing
team in the MWC last season -- only 118 yards per game -- and needs quarterback
Rudy Caamano to become more proficient in the offense. ... San Diego State's Tollner turned down a job with the NFL's Cleveland Browns.
Michael C. Lewis covers the Mountain West for the Salt Lake Tribune. His "This Week in the Mountain West" column will appear weekly during the season.