Friday, August 6, 2010

CFB Preview 2010: Mountain West Conference Football

The Mountain West Conference has accomplished all it can to state their claim to be included in the BCS. It’s just a matter of time before the powers that be finally allow the MWC to join. Utah has decided to take matters into their own hands and joined the Pac 10 Conference thus ensuring the Utes BCS status.

This MWC will crash the BCS party again this year but don’t expect it to go further than that.

TCU Horned Frogs
2009 Record: 12-1
Things To Like About TCU: What’s not to like. The Horned Frogs have the best quarterback in the MWC, Andy Dalton, the best receivers, offensive line and even with the loss of Jerry Hughes the best defense in the conference.

Things Not To Like About TCU: If there is a weakness with the Frogs it’s the running backs and even that is grasping at straws. Matthew Tucker is a dependable back and should get most of the carries.

OSG’s Take: This might be Gary Patterson’s best Horned Frog team in 10 years in Ft. Worth. TCU has a pair of games against BCS teams in the D/FW metroplex, Oregon State to open the season September 4th in Jerry World (Cowboys Stadium) and hosting former Southwest Conference rival Baylor September 18thTCU’s schedule sets up nicely for a showdown with Utah November 6th in Salt Lake City and that might be for a BCS invite.

TCU can run the table this year and that will be enough to crash the BCS party again. That’s as far as it goes for the Frogs.

Wilkie: TCU would be favored to win five of the six BCS conferences. This team is awesome. 12-0 and expect cries from Ft. Worth to include the Frogs in the BCS title game.

Nelson: What Wilkie said... let the crying start anew...

Phil: Ditto. Even if they lose 1 of the "Big Boy" games, they are just better than everyone else.

Utah Utes 2009 Record: 10-3
Utah has the talent and a favorable MWC schedule to challenge TCU for the conference title. What might do the Utes in is their non-conference schedule, lets just say it’s a doozy.

Things To Like About Utah: Matt Asiata returns to the Ute backfield after missing most of 2009 with an ACL tear. With Asiata paired with Eddie Wide Utah has a nice running back combo. With Jordan Wynn under center the Utah offense will put some points on the board. On defense Brandon Burton is all over the field and has next level skills. Another big plus, TCU and BYU must come to Salt Lake City this year.

This Not To Like About Utah: Utah’s starting linebackers from last season are gone. One who returned, Nai Fotu, tore his ACL this spring. Utah might be challenged in stopping the run.

OSG’s Take: Utah has definitely upgraded their schedule opening the season hosting Pittsburgh. The Utes also have a pair of road games against BCS opponents on the schedule, at Iowa State and a November 13th trip to South Bend, Indiana to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Those games might bite the Utes on the backside.

Utah’s league schedule though much more kind. The Utes have TCU and BYU at home so a BCS invite might be a no go but a conference championship is a possibility.

Wilkie: I’m thinking 9-3 is realistic for Utah. Should the Utes get defeat TCU and BYU then their final MWC season might included a conference championship.

Nelson: Since TCU is headed to the BCS, looks like Utah gets to go to Las Vegas to take on a Pac-10 opponent... Does anyone else sense the irony there...??? Losing a school-record six draft picks won't be easy to counteract...

Phil: Yeah, schedule even tougher than TCU's. Good, not great team. 9-3

BYU Cougars
2009 Record 11 – 2
The Cougars return seven starters on offense however one of those it not Max Hall but the BYU offense should be great again. There is still a lot of weapons there.

Things To Like About BYUBYU likes to sling it around and the Cougars have some talent at receiver. The offensive line anchored by Matt Reynolds is outstanding. Three of four starters in the secondary returns.

Things Not To Like About BYU: The inexperience at quarterback is a concern. True freshman Jake Heaps may get the call. The defense is in rebuilding mode with only five starters returning. The schedule is a killer. Road games at Florida State, at TCU and at Utah for the final holy war is a lot to over come.

OSG’s Take: Teams in college football that are going through an overall could go either way. In BYU’s case they will be OK. The offense will be fine. It might take a few games for the defense to find its identity. The Cougars won’t get to high nor too low, that’s head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s style and his team reflects his personality.

Wilkie: I do not like BYU’s schedule which will prevent the Cougars a shot at the MWC crown. 8-4 this year for the Cougars.

Nelson: Yeah, and most of those four losses could come early. If Jake Heaps is the starter at QB, how will the highly-touted freshman respond after those first four games...? I still think 9-3...

Phil: Another good, not great team. 8-4...but only if Heaps develops quickly.

Air Force Falcons
2009 Record: 8-5

Air Force may not be the sexy pic TCU, Utah and BYU are in the MWC however the Falcons consistently string together eight to nine wins and get a bowl invite. If a few things go the Falcons’ way an improvement in the win total might be coming.

Things To Like About Air Force: Jared Tew and Asher Clark are a pair of running backs that could get 1,000 yards each. The defensive back field is outstanding. Last year in the Armed Forces Bowl, AFA picked off six Case Keenum passes. Anthony Wright and Reggie Rembert are as talented pair of corners that you will see in this conference

Things Not To Like About Air Force: Like service academy FBS schools the offensive line is undersized but couple that with five brand new starters this is a big concern. Only three starters return on the Falcons’ defensive front so stopping the run might be an issue.

OSG’s Take: Nothing changes in Colorado Springs. Air Force will be the constant pain in the back side to TCU, Utah and BYU, the latter two are home games by the way. The MWC championship won’t happen however, regaining the Commander in Chief Trophy from Navy just might.

Wilkie: If Air Force goes 2-1 against the MWC’s big three (Utah, BYU & TCU) it could be a special year in Colorado Springs however, the Falcons are 2-15 against the “3” since 2004 and I’m willing to bet that won’t happen. Winning 8 games and going bowling will.

Nelson: I still think Navy has the inside track on the CoC trophy. I can't wait to see what ACC team takes these guys on in Shreveport... talk about a headache.

Phil: The traditional team everyone is scared to play. In this conference, they don't have the horses to run with TCU and Utah...but a good team never the less. 7-5

San Diego State Aztecs
2009 Record 4-8
After hitting rock bottom in 2008 San Diego State had a nice rebound last year going 4-8 in Brady Hoke’s first year. Expect the Aztecs to continue to improve as Hoke upgrades the talent.

Things To Like About San Diego State: The Aztecs have a quarterback. Ryan Lindley was outstanding last year and his go to guys return too. Wide Receiver DeMarco Sampson was 3rd in the MWC in receiving last year and has NFL talent. The other wide out Vincent Brown could have gone pro but stayed at SDSU. Combined Sampson and Brown could be the best pair of receivers in the MWC.

Things Not To Like About San Diego State: The defense had issues stopping the run last year plus allowing way to many big plays. Only returning 1 starter at linebacker may not help that cause. Lindley must cut down in his interceptions, he threw 16 last year and while we are on the subject of the Aztec offense, who will be the featured back. SDSU received no help from the running backs last year. True freshman Ronnie Hillman will be counted on to give the running game a boost.

OSG’s Take: San Diego State is a program moving up the MWC food chain. The offense can put points on the board. The defense will need to make some stops for SDSU to go to a bowl game for the first time in 12 years.

Wilkie: Is San Diego State better? yes. Will they be bowl eligible? I say so. 6-6 and a bowl game.

Nelson: Sounds about right at 6-6 even as they score a lot of points. I think the New Mexico Bowl will pick the Aztecs over Wyoming for 2010 and send the next team to lose a game against C-USA or Army in the Armed Forces.

Phil: Agreed. Like the improvement. Probably shouldn't be a bowl team yet, but at 6-6, it's enough.

Wyoming Cowboys 2009 Record 7-6
Last year you could call Wyoming the Comeback Cowboys. 5 of their 7 wins were fourth quarter comebacks. I’m sure this year Wyoming would like to not live on the edge as much.

Things To Like About Wyoming: Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels become the first Cowboy to earn MWC Freshman of the Year honors. Carta-Samuels will only get better as a sophomore. Brian Hendricks is back to anchor the Wyoming linebackers. Though Hendricks is the only returning starter at that position he can carry the load until the unit gels. Cowboy head coach Dave Christensen loves the Wyoming secondary. Chris Prosinski was second in the MWC in tackles per game at 10.6 from his free safety position and the Gipson brothers, Marcell and Tashaun, have NFL potential according to Christensen.

Things Not To Like About Wyoming: When in the game Wyoming was good at closing the deal, however, they never put anyone away early in the game with the exception of winning big over New Mexico. Then again the Lobos were easy prey. The Cowboys were blown out four times last year. The defensive line lost three starters so their will be some drop off. The receivers need to step up for Wyoming’s offense to click.

OSG’s Take: Wyoming is one of those teams that doesn’t get much respect when the season starts but overachieves and wins a few they were not suppose to. This year the Cowboys have home games against future MWC foe Boise State and so to be former MWC Utah that might put the Cowboys on the radar screen. The Cowboys will overachieve again but I’m sure Coach Christensen would like the Cowboys to have a few convincing wins in the bank.

Wilkie: I’m going to say Wyoming wins seven games and pulls off an upset too.

Nelson: 6-6 is about right for the Cowboys, too. Having Carta-Samuels around for another year helps immensely. But having games at TCU, hosting Utah, and going to BYU will kill them as they try and improve that 107th-ranked offense.

Phil: The law of averages will catch up to them. Without offense, they can't compete in this conference. I say losing season...5-7

Colorado State Rams 2009 Record 3-9
After a tough 2009 season in which the Rams had to endure injuries to key players there is optimism in Fort Collins. After all, things couldn’t be as bad as last year.

Things To Like About Colorado State: The Rams go five deep at running back. UCLA transfer Raymond Carter will headline the unit along with the M&M boys, Jon Mosure and Leonard Mason. Mosure and Mason finished in the six in the MWC in rushing last year. A pair of true freshman Chris Nwoke and Lou Greenwood are in the mix. The Linebackers are solid led by Mychal Sisson.

Things To Not Like About Colorado State: True freshman Pete Thomas is expected to win the quarterback job. You always are concerned when a true freshman leads your team. The offensive line only returns one starter so with the potential of a freshman quarterback and an inexperienced offensive line it’s not an ideal situation. The receivers are new and will need to be productive.

OSG’s Take: This team will be much better that last season and yes they will win a conference game, maybe more. It all depends on how productive the offense will be. The defense will keep the Rams in the game.

Wilkie: I like the way Steve Fairchild is doing things in Fort Collins. Last year was a fluke. Colorado State will be much improved however six wins looks to be the max.

Nelson: Steve Fairchild is quoted as saying that 3-9 "will not happen again." It will happen again... Freshman quarterbacks, while a good idea in the long-term are disastrous more often than not in the short-term.

Phil: What Jon said, plus that Freshman QB, behind a brand new line spells trouble. 3-9

UNLV Rebels
2009 5-7
There’s a new coach on the strip. Bobby Hauck takes over after a highly successful tenure at Montana. Hauck will have plenty of talent to work with in his first year with the Rebels.

Things To Like About UNLV: It starts with a Hauck who was a great hire for the Rebels. Though two year starter Omar Clayton must learn a new system and take snaps under center he can adjust. There is talent at the skill positions and the offensive line returns four starters. The linebackers Starr Fuimaono and Ronnie Paulo are the anchors of a defense that might benefit from a change in philosophy.

Things Not To Like About UNLV: The defense has underachieved the last two years and their biggest problem has been not creating turnovers. While the defensive line returns two starters is hasn’t consistently put pressure on the quarterback. The schedule is brutal. Road trips to Utah, West Virginia and BYU are on the 2010 agenda.

OSG’s Take: The Rebels will be better but it probably won’t reflect in their won-loss record. Opening the season hosting Wisconsin and then road games at Utah and at Idaho isn’t the best start for the Hauck era. Get UNLV then because you don’t want to play the Rebels in November.

Wilkie: I knew Bobby Hauck back when he was a assistant coach at Northern Arizona so under full disclosure I am openly rooting for UNLV. The Rebels will struggle at the beginning but I wouldn’t be surprised if UNLV closes the season winning four in a row. They won’t be bowl eligible this year but the future in bright on the strip. 5-8 is the number.

Nelson: The defense only returns four, they're playing 13 games and you think five wins...??? Dude... The defense was 115th nationally and they're only bringing back four...

Four... that might be the number of wins...

Phil: They will struggle. Things will get better, but not this year. 3-10

New Mexico Lobos
2009 Record 1-11

The Lobos were dogs last year. Mike Locksley changed the entire scheme at New Mexico with very disappointing results. To add insult to injury he punched one of his assistant coaches and was suspended for 10 days. No place to go but up in Albuquerque.

Things To Like About New Mexico: There’s not much here to like about the Lobos. There quarterback might be true freshman Tarean Austin so that’s a concern. The defense gave up a ton of points and yards. New Mexico can boast and pretty decent defensive line with Illinois transfer Reggie Ellis joining the Lobos and landing four star recruit Calvin Smith, who chose New Mexico over Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame.

Things Not To Like About New Mexico: Too many to list.

OSG’s Take: New Mexico is years away from a winning season and a long way from contending in the MWC.

Wilkie: If New Mexico wins a game I will be amazed.

Nelson: Locksley should have been fired. Maybe after another one-win season, he'll get fired anyway...

Phil: If Locksley survived last season, he can't survive this. Bottom of the Barrel contender. 1-11

Mountain West Champion:

Wilkie: TCU
Nelson: TCU
Phil: TCU

Offensive Player Of The Year:

Wilkie: Andy Dalton – TCU
Nelson: The name's "Dalton..."
Phil: Vincent Brown- SDSU

Defensive Player Of The Year

Wilkie: Tank Carder - TCU
Nelson: Carder... this is easy...
Phil: Carder in a landslide

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