Mountain West newbies Utah State and San Jose State got a bunch of hugs from their new conference mates this week during the Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas. And both teams earned a place in the higher ranks of the 2013 Mountain West Conference Preseason Poll.
The Utah State Aggies were voted to finish second in the Mountain Division behind Boise State but ahead of division members Air Force, Wyoming, Colorado State and New Mexico. The Aggies also had two players (center Tyler Larsen and linebacker Kyler Fackrell) named to the league's 25-player first team of the 2013 Preseason All-Mountain West Football Team. The San Jose State Spartans were voted to finish third in the West Division behind Fresno State and San Diego State, but ahead of Nevada, UNLV and Hawaii. They also had five players named to the first team of the 2013 Preseason All-Mountain West Football Team: WR Noel Grisgby, DL Travis Raciti, LB Keith Smith, DB Bené Benwikere and PK Austin Lopez.
Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson couldn’t have been more pleased with the vote of confidence for the new schools. "Personally I felt very strong about San Jose State before an 11-win season," he said. "I think San Jose State is just ready to explode."
"I think the teams we've added add great strengths to the conference," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen offered, while San Diego State coach Rocky Long noted that the Spartans have improved the conference overall.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen was a little more open with his praise of his former WAC foes. "We played those guys so often over the years that it kind of feels like they were never out, just like we were never out," he said. "I think it's a good fit. Certainly the programs are on the rise, which helps everybody.”
Petersen's sentiments were echoed in the enthusiasm of Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton. "We're thankful for the second expected pick," Keeton said. "At the same time it's only an expected pick. We still have to go out and perform on Saturdays. We're definitely up for the challenge."