Air Force couldn't be in much more of an envious spot than on Saturday, playing service-academy rival Army on CBS as the lead-in game to the must-see showdown between No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 2 Alabama.
"It's a very easy channel to find," Falcons coach Troy Calhoun said.
Calhoun didn't seem to intentionally take a shot at the Mountain West Conference's TV deal, but his words still were striking and underscored one reason Air Force and Boise State could soon announce they will leave for the Big East Conference.
Reports surfaced Tuesday that Air Force and Boise State will be invited as football-only members, joining four other schools. CBSSports.com posted a story saying an announcement could come Friday following Boise State's board meeting the previous day.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson didn't comment. He seems to only speak these days when announcing a merger with Conference USA or trying to push a playoff system that, while making sense, will never gain traction.
Thompson can take solace Air Force and Boise State probably will be around another year. The exorbitant exit fees the Mountain West would have imposed next year decreases enough that if those schools announce they will leave in 2013, the Bowl Championship Series money will more than make up the difference.
So in two years, UNLV could be part of a conference where the toughest team would be, who? Maybe UNR, Hawaii, San Diego State, Fresno State, Wyoming or even Southern Mississippi or Tulsa with the C-USA merger.
It doesn't exactly conjure up the days of when Brigham Young, Texas Christian and Utah made regular appearances in the polls.
If UNLV's administration hadn't neglected its football program years ago when it was an emerging power, maybe the Rebels would be in the Pacific-12 Conference today, and they wouldn't have to worry about this mess.
And it is a mess.
AROUND THE MWC
Air Force dominated the Commander-in-Chief's series until Navy began a seven-year run that the Falcons ended last year. Now Air Force could re-establish its prior dominance. If the Falcons beat Army, they will capture the trophy for the second year in a row. "We haven't done that yet," Calhoun said. "Each game is its own unique game in these particular contests." ... Losing to UNLV isn't good for a coach's future, and following a 38-35 loss to the Rebels on Saturday, Colorado State's Steve Fairchild appears in trouble. He is 16-29 in four seasons, and athletic director Paul Kowalczyk has called this a "very critical year," according to The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. ... Wyoming hosted Nebraska this season, but coach Dave Christensen called Saturday's game against TCU "the biggest game here since the 1990s." It would be an opportunity to show last weekend's 30-27 victory at San Diego State wasn't a fluke, and a win would make the Cowboys a conference contender. At least, probably, until they play Boise State on Thanksgiving weekend.
RANKING THE TEAMS
1. No. 5 Boise State (7-0, 2-0 MWC) at UNLV (2-5, 1-1). The Broncos have scored in all but two of 28 quarters.
2. TCU (6-2, 3-0) at Wyoming (5-2, 2-0). The Horned Frogs have allowed only four rushing touchdowns.
3. Wyoming (5-2, 2-0) vs. TCU (6-2, 3-0). Wyoming's Brett Smith leads all incoming freshman quarterbacks with 1,665 yards and 11 touchdown passes.
4. San Diego State (4-3, 1-2) vs. New Mexico (0-8, 0-3). Aztecs quarterback Ryan Lindley has thrown touchdown passes in 17 consecutive games, four behind the Mountain West record set by former TCU standout Andy Dalton.
5. Air Force (4-4) vs. Army (3-5). The Falcons have won 13 of the past 14 meetings.
6. UNLV (2-5, 1-1) vs. No. 5 Boise State (7-0, 2-0). The Rebels recorded four sacks against Colorado State, their highest total since getting four on Oct. 24, 2009, at New Mexico.
7. Colorado State (3-5, 1-2), off. The Rams have returned interceptions for touchdowns two games in a row, Shaquil Barrett at UNLV and Momo Thomas at Texas-El Paso. Barrett also returned a fumble for a TD at Utah State.
8. New Mexico (0-8, 0-3) at San Diego State (4-3, 1-2). The Lobos failed to score in the past two games, the first time they have suffered consecutive shutouts since 1988.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Army at Air Force. It's a rare chance for a Mountain West team -- one for now anyway -- to showcase itself on network TV. The Falcons also will go for their second Commander-in-Chief's Trophy in a row and trip to the White House.
ON THE HORIZON
Boise State will be busy trying not to run up the score on UNLV at about the same time, but what happens across the country Saturday between LSU and Alabama affects the Broncos. They need one team to win that game convincingly and take the other out of national-championship consideration. A close game increases the already long odds for Boise State to make the BCS championship game.