Mountain West Football Preview
Can someone else crash the BCS party?
What can the Mountain West do for an encore? They can grab another at-large berth, and the three teams who finished atop the conference standings in 2008 have more than enough ammunition to make a run. The defending champion Utes will have a new quarterback among seven new starters on offense. Three of those starters are on the offensive line with senior left tackle Zane Beadles leading the way. Quarterbacks Terrance Cain and Jordan Wynn will compete for snaps and both could very well see action this season. Matt Asiata is back at running back, but expect many players to get quality touches both in the backfield and at receiver.
TCU was the other Mountain West team ranked in the Top 10 at season’s end, and they could find themselves back in that realm due to a team that returns seven offensive starters. Senior QB Andy Dalton is a dependable option who can make plays with his arm or with his legs. Running back Joseph Turner also returns, and he was the team’s leading rusher in 2008. Gary Patterson’s team tends to look to a variety of options on offense instead of leaning upon a few choice stars.
And while the defense returns just four starters they do welcome back DE Jerry Hughes. Hughes was a headache for opposing offensive coordinators, racking up fifteen sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2008. TCU lost their top three tacklers from a season ago, but they do return four starters in the secondary. Add to this a schedule that lends itself to an undefeated run (Virginia and Clemson are both beatable) and it isn’t difficult to picture the Horned Frogs making a run at the BCS.
BYU has the toughest schedule of the three, opening with
Defensively the Cougars will be very good with eight
starters back. Senior DE Jan Jorgensen leads the way up front and middle
linebacker Matt Bauman also returns after leading the team with 108 tackles.
The talent is there for BYU to make a run at the Mountain West title, and they
host both TCU and
There’s a clear separation between the top three teams and the rest of the Mountain West, which should make for entertaining matchups between teams in the middle of the league. Mike Sanford enters an important year at UNLV, and with fourteen returning starters the Rebels could surpass five wins for the first time since 2003. QB Omar Clayton had eighteen touchdown passes and just four interceptions last season, and backup Mike Clausen also saw time under center. More production will be needed from the passing game, especially with RB Frank Summers off to the NFL. Defensively, first team All-MWC LB Jason Beauchamp leads a unit that returns seven starters.
Air Force has had a solid two-year run under Troy Calhoun,
winning seventeen games over that span. Tim Jefferson takes over full-time
under center in their option attack, and the backfield has more than a few
options with tailbacks Asher Clark and Kyle Lumpkin being among the returnees.
Seven starters return to a Falcon defense that will look to improve upon its
standing of fifth in the conference in total defense. Optimism abounds in
The Rams will have seven starters back on offense, led by All-Mountain West receivers Rashaun Greer (first team) and Dion Morton (second team). But they’ll need to replace the production of running back Gartrell Johnson and quarterback Kyle Farris if they want to entertain any thought of finishing in the top half of the conference. The defense returns just five starters but leading tacklers Mychal Sisson and Ricky Brewer will both be back. Expect CSU to once again flirt with bowl eligibility, hoping for back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-03.
The Aztecs have long been described as a sleeping giant due
to the recruiting resources at their disposal. Well, they’ve fallen into a
virtual coma in recent seasons, and the fans hope that Brady Hoke is the
answer. Hoke led
As for a winner, look for the Horned Frogs to edge out BYU,
despite the fact that they have to visit
any of the top three teams make a run at the BCS? BYU has the schedule best
suited to make national waves (
Players of the Year: QB Max Hall (BYU) and DE Jerry Hughes (TCU)
How they’ll finish
5. Air Force
Next: Mountain West Ultimate Schedule