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CRUCIAL TILTS NOT SO IMPORTANT NOW

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Way back in August, this looked like the week when all of the state's college football teams would be preparing for crucial conference encounters.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way.BYU's opponent, Colorado State, is a non-contender now; Utah travels to Hawaii for a meeting of teams no longer in the Western Athletic Conference race; and Utah State is out of the Big West title hunt, reeling from the announcement that coach Chuck Shelton will resign, and preparing to face league power Fresno State.

Only the Weber State-Nevada game has the promise of living up to its preseason billing.

Here's an early look at this week's games, as offered by coaches courtesy of the weekly Big 5 Huddle:

BYU (5-3 overall, 4-0 WAC) at Colorado State (3-5, 2-3), 6 p.m. Thursday - BYU coach LaVell Edwards is worried about the rash of injuries that has hit his team lately. Fullback Peter Tuipulotu and defensive back Tony Crutchfield are expected to play against the Rams, but the coach isn't sure yet about punter-placekicker Earl Kauffman, receiver Micah Matsuzaki, and punt returner Brad Clark.

"We are going to need everybody we can to play Colorado State," Edwards said.

The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Utah (5-3, 2-2) at Hawaii (3-4, 2-3), 10 p.m. MST, Saturday (televised by KUTV-Channel 2) - Utah coach Ron McBride expects the Rainbow Warriors will be looking to recover some pride lost when the last Island visitor, San Diego State, drubbed them 47-21.

"Those guys, after being embarrassed once at home, will be hard to handle," McBride predicted. "We're going to have to play the best we can play just to hang in there with them."

McBride said his team won't be able to beat Hawaii if it makes the kind of mental errors it made in the fourth quarter of last week's loss to San Diego State.

Utah State (1-6, 1-2) vs. Fresno State (7-0, 3-0), noon, Saturday, Romney Stadium - The big question of this game is how the announcement of Shelton's resignation will affect the Aggie players. Will it cause them to live up to their preseason expectations and knock off the Bulldogs, or will it cause them to get even farther down in the dumps?

Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney said he saw Utah State as the possible "fly in the ointment" for his team months ago, and he hasn't changed his opinion.

The Bulldogs have a lot of offense while the Aggies haven't shown much, but USU has given Fresno State a lot of trouble in recent years, including last season's 24-24 tie in Fresno.

Weber State (5-2, 4-1) at Nevada (8-0, 5-0), 2 p.m. MST Saturday - It's the No. 1 scoring team in the nation (Weber) vs. the No. 2 scoring team in the nation, but Wildcat coach Dave Arslanian is more worried about defense.

He hasn't had much of one, you see, while Nevada's ranks 12th in the nation.

If his Wildcats should find a way around that Wolfpack defense, Arslanian said, "I'm afraid that 63-59 record we set a few weeks back . . . is in jeopardy."

"It's going to be a wild time in Wolfpack country," the coach said.

Southern Utah (5-3, 2-1) at Cal State Northridge (3-4, 1-1), 7 p.m. MST, Saturday - Afer a loss to Portland State Oct. 5, T-Bird coach Jack Bishop said, his team dedicated itself to winning its final six games. "We're halfway there now," he noted.

Northridge is the T-Birds' last road obstacle, but it's a sizable one. For one thing, Southern Utah has a 1-4 lifetime record against the Matadors.

The big matchup: Southern Utah's offense - tops in the conference, eighth nationally - against Northridge's defense - No. 1 in the conference.