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Mountain West takes an important step forward

Within the sphere of college football on cable television, there are two categories in the minds of many viewers: ESPN and Not ESPN. Sure, there are offerings like CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network, BTN and Pac-12 Networks, and they all do fine work. But, to many fans, if you're not on ESPN, you don't exist. See: Network, SEC. 

Of the 10 existing conferences, the Mountain West has most often been on the wrong side of that equation. Most of the conference's TV package existed on the now-defunct The Mtn. Once that endeavor folded, the MWC migrated to Versus, which was transformed to NBC Sports Network in 2011. Added together with CBS Sports Network and you get the Mountain West's television package. For the notoriously prickly television viewer, it's not good to be a nomad. Especially a nomad that had a minimal presence on a network that, whether we want to admit it or not, owns college football - or at least the vast majority of its major television properties.

That's why the conference took an overlooked but important step forward on Thursday when ESPN added 15 MWC games to its 2013 slate, bringing the total package to 22 games this fall.

"The Mountain West and its member institutions are very pleased to be re-establishing a television partnership with ESPN," commissioner Craig Thompson said when his league's agreement with ESPN was announced in March.

And here's the kicker, MWC schools won't have to move their games to Tuesday or Wednesday to get airplay on the one-stop shop for college football programming, either. Of the MWC's 22 games, 15 are on Saturday and the rest fall on Thursday and Friday. MACtion is not migrating westward.

Here is the schedule:

Sat., Sept. 7
Tennessee - Martin at Boise State

Fri., Sept. 13
Air Force at Boise State

Fri., Sept. 20
Boise State at Fresno State

Sat., Sept. 21
Wyoming at Air Force

Fri., Sept. 27
Utah State at San Jose State

Sat., Sept. 28
Southern Miss at Boise State

Fri., Oct. 4
Nevada at San Diego State

Sat., Oct. 26
Fresno State at San Diego State
UNLV at Nevada

Sat., Nov. 2
Nevada at Fresno State
Army at Air Force

Fri., Nov. 8
Air Force at New Mexico

Sat., Nov. 9
Nevada at Colorado State
Utah State at UNLV

Sat., Nov. 16
San Jose State at Nevada
Wyoming at Boise State

Thu., Nov. 21
UNLV at Air Force

Fri., Nov. 22
Navy at San Jose State

Sat., Nov. 23
New Mexico at Fresno State

Sat., Nov. 30
New Mexico at Boise State
San Diego State at UNLV
Air Force at Colorado State