Too early for verdicts on AFA, Denver 

One important lesson for all sports columnists, commentators and even fans also happens to be just as appropriate in everyday life.

Always remember, things are never as good or as bad as they seem.

It's so easy to overreact, and everyone has been guilty of that at one time or another. Last weekend was full of temptations with Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State and certainly the Denver Broncos.

First, on Saturday, Air Force took its early-season excitement and momentum to Brigham Young but came home stunned and humbled after a 31-6 loss.

The initial reaction, which seemed universal, was that the Falcons suddenly reverted to last year's ways. Never mind that BYU hasn't lost a Mountain West game since 2005 and was angry after tough defeats at UCLA and Tulsa. Never mind the Cougars have a terrific quarterback in Max Hall and a stifling defense. And never mind that Air Force, despite all its progress under new head coach Troy Calhoun, had jumped out to 3-0 helped considerably by the luck of facing two injury-riddled opponents, Utah and TCU.

The past quarter-century has been filled with gifted, overachieving Air Force teams that didn't match up well against BYU, and the Cougars simply brought the Falcons back to reality. It doesn't mean the season is suddenly lost. The Falcons are still 3-1, and if you had told Calhoun a month ago his team would be 3-1 going to Navy this week, he would have been giddy at having already beaten two teams that won bowls in 2006.

Air Force still has made strides, especially on defense, and the opened-up offense can only benefit from having faced BYU. Now comes Navy, and the Falcons' chance to win back the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 2002. Playing the Middies at Annapolis won't be easy, but Air Force can win with a performance more like the overtime victory against TCU.

Navy still has a prolific offense, so the Falcons will have to click much better than they did at Provo. But it never hurts to have a senior quarterback in a service-academy game, and Air Force's Shaun Carney has a chance to heal many past wounds.

Prediction: AFA 27, Navy 24.

Meanwhile, the state's other major-college programs are looking at much more foreboding challenges.

Colorado (2-2) finally rediscovered its offense in thumping Miami of Ohio, 42-0, but that doesn't mean CU should expect to hang with Oklahoma on Saturday at Boulder (11:30 a.m., FSN). Even if new quarterback Cody Hawkins has his best game yet, the Buffs will be out of their league. They aren't ready to reassert themselves among the Big 12's elite. OU 41, CU 17.

Colorado State (0-3), meanwhile, couldn't be lower after losing at Houston, the Rams' ninth straight defeat dating to last October. That streak will go to 10 as they play at TCU, amid rumors CSU coach Sonny Lubick might be ready to retire. But the Rams honestly aren't that bad. They're scoring 27.6 points a game, and they have three home games in October starting with San Diego State next Saturday. That won't help this week, though. TCU 44, CSU 24.

Bronco talk

Apparently the Denver players were as fooled as their fans by those two last-kick victories against Buffalo and Oakland. Because the Broncos were 2-0, nobody seemed to mind that the offense had been so sputtery, the defensive front seven so un-swarming and the team leadership painfully lacking.

Jacksonville exposed all that, and now comes a trip to Indianapolis that looks more like walking the plank. If you have Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai in a fantasy league, you're happy. After that, Denver hosts San Diego and LaDainian Tomlinson, has a week off and then faces Pittsburgh and rejuvenated Ben Roethlisberger. So that 2-0 start easily could become 2-3.

The good news for Denver, still leading the AFC Worst, is that another 9-7 record probably will be enough to win the division. But that won't happen unless quarterback Jay Cutler comes around soon and the defense somehow finds some emotional leaders.

Ice shavings

Colorado College begins selling tickets Monday for the 2008 NCAA West Regional hockey tournament, March 28-29 at World Arena. As a host team, if the Tigers make the NCAA field, they will be assigned here. Three-game package tickets are $89 each for lower bowl, $74 for upper bowl, available at the World Arena box office, at cctigers.com or by calling 576-2626. Semifinals will be at 4:30 and 8 p.m. on Friday, March 28, with the final at 8 p.m. on March 29. The winner advances to the Frozen Four, April 10 and 12 at Denver's Pepsi Center.

Still on the ice, the National Hockey League actually starts Saturday and Sunday with a most unusual back-to-back matchup, Anaheim facing Los Angeles in London, as in England. The Sunday game will be aired here on Versus, starting at 10 a.m. ... Colorado opens at home Oct. 3 against Dallas (7:30 p.m., Versus), and as of Wednesday you could actually buy club-level tickets for $116 each at ticketmaster.com.

Contest winners

There is a true sports-trivia buff out there, after all. Bob Blackledge became the first entrant to answer all seven questions correctly in the four-week "Ralph's Back" trivia contest, which means he can claim tickets to an upcoming Denver Broncos or CC hockey game.

Others who came close, and can claim tickets as available for Broncos or CC hockey, include Wendy Huebner, James Batzel, Gina Gabel, Danielle Hudson, Todd Lane, Tracy Barrera and Kate Rappel. Except for Blackledge, tickets are first-come, first-served. Contact the Indy at 577-4545, ask for Lori Green and be ready to prove identity.



September magic: Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Rockies' sweep at San Diego last weekend was their most impressive road series in years, if not ever.

Almost disaster: Nebraska gave coach Bill Callahan an extension, then he nearly lost at home to Ball State.

See the headline? DEA has busted 26 steroid labs across the country, also finding out that most illegal supplies were coming from China.

Golf options: Presidents Cup will be on TNT for Thursday (3 p.m.) and Friday (10 a.m.), then NBC for Saturday (6 a.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m.).

TV roulette: Several times a year, we get the shaft on ABC college regionals because we're considered a Big 12 area. It happens again Saturday as most of the nation sees California at Oregon; we get Kansas State at Texas.

Ralph's picks

Four weeks, and still at least one upset has come through each time. But who would've dreamed Syracuse winning at Louisville? Now, Week 5:
Upset specials
- California (taking 5) at Oregon
- Baylor (taking 17) at Texas A&M
- Michigan State (taking 7) at Wisconsin
Against the spread
- TCU (giving 12) vs. Colorado State
- Duke (taking 25) at Miami
- West Virginia (giving 7) at South Florida
- Oklahoma (giving 22) at Colorado
- Mississippi State (taking 16) at South Carolina


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