*This post is part of a week long series being sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.*
The game will be released at midnight tonight which out west in the mountain time zone that is t-minus 12 hours to get the game. The Mountain West is largely considered the best non-BCS conference (never really going to say non-AQ) with three participants in the BCS since 2004 and one in each of the past two season. This year the league maybe slightly down from the past two years of having three teams ranked in the final top 25, and unless either BYU or Air Force exceed expectations this year two looks to be the limit.
TCU looks to be the flag bearer this year with nearly ever starter back with nine on offense and seven on defense, and will be in prime position to make a BCS bowl bid if they go undefeated. TCU's schedule is not uber difficult with no non conference game that takes them outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. TCU looks to be the class of the league and it would be more of a surprise that they do not go undefeated then if they do go undefeated. With the new rules TCU could go to the Rose Bowl if the Big 10 or Pac-10 champion is in the title game.Utah has a lot to replace on defense, and the fact that everyone will be giving Utah their best shot in conference since they are leaving for the Pac-10 in 2010. Even with that it is hard to imagine Utah having more then four loses and five if the team falls apart. The only conceivable loses are Pitt, at Notre Dame, TCU, at Air Force, at Iowa State, and maybe at San Diego State. A nine win season and a berth to the Vegas bowl would be acceptable for Utah fans, with loses to TCU and either Pitt or Notre Dame.
I am predicting Air Force to be third and surpass BYU for at least this year with an experienced quarterback and multiple running backs. Their defense is a solid as it was just around the top 10, but they also have a tough non-conference schedule with games against Oklahoma and Navy.
BYU in a rare position would be fourth this year by my super early predictions. They play a toss up game with Washington, and most likely loses at Florida State, at TCU, at Utah, and possibly at Air Force. This is the year to see what Bronco Mendenhall can do as a coach since in all the big games he will be outmanned. Bronco and his staff is known for not making adjustments, but this is the year to start.
Lets go with San Diego State mainly because their schedule is much, much easier then Wyoming's even though the Pokes may better and win the head to head matchup. The Aztecs may have the best pass-catch combo with Ryan Lindley to Vincent Brown, and if Brown is fully back from his injury. Aztecs really do scare me with their passing game, and if they get an type of running game then they could seriously knock off a top MWC team.
The Pokes fall in here because their schedule is brutal, and last year they won so many close games that it may catch up with them this year. Austyn Carta-Samuels is going to be a star quarterback in the making but year three will be when he gets his due.
UNLV and new coach Bobby Hauck brings in some optimism with his success at the FCS level, but his offensive system is a pro style and not a spread that former coach Mike Sanford installed. Even though Hauk has said he will keep part of the system to give the team the best chance to win; the Rebels will not be that good.
Colorado State is riding a nine game losing streak and is going to be starting one of two freshman quarterbacks, and that is never a good sign for teams to over achieve. However, they do have a stable of backs which include a few transfers from FBS schools and should help them improve.
Bringing up the rear is New Mexico who by default must get better since last year they were one of the worst ten teams in college football last year. Not much more to say there.