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Blue Ribbon Previews The Mountain West

The Blue Ribbon previews are out ($) and are being released on ESPN, however they are all insider content with only Air Force being the freebie.  So, I will only pull a small sample  from each, and each team link will take you to the Blue Ribbon page.

First off below is their prediction of how the season will turn out, and I have to disagree with UNLV being at the bottom.  They won five games last year with a lame duck coach where as New Mexico did nothing to show they are better then an MWC team.

1. TCU
2. Utah
3. BYU
4. Air Force
5. Wyoming
6. San Diego State
7. Colorado State
8. New Mexico

Blue Ribbons Analysis on TCU:

"For us as a program it used to be if you went 8-4 things were OK. That's not OK anymore," Patterson said. "For us to win nine, 10, 11, 12 or even 13 games is hard, but that's what we're trying to get accomplished. The goal is to still want to win a conference championship, still being ranked high. ... I've been challenging them from the start in that will this team be as hungry as last year's team was? Only time will tell whether that happens."

Based on past history, the Horned Frogs should be hungry to make another move up Patterson's pyramid of goals. The next step: win a BCS bowl game. That certainly is a possibility in 2010.

Blue Ribbons Analysis on Utah:

If Utah can win, the schedule is set up for another run at a BCS bowl.

It opens the season at home against Pittsburgh, and also plays road nonconference games at Notre Dame and Iowa State.

The Utes also get perennial Mountain West powers TCU and BYU at home in November.

"We're excited about the challenge, and right now we feel pretty good about where we're at," Whittingham said.

Blue Ribbons Analysis on BYU:

BYU has finished no lower than third in the MWC under Mendenhall and has won 11 games three of the last four years. One would think having to replace players like Hall, Pitta, Unga, Jorgensen and Clawson that the Cougars might stumble.

Maybe, but all indications are BYU will be fine. Much of this will depend on quarterback play, but as long as the offensive line remains healthy, there are enough weapons around whoever plays quarterback to let them ease into the transition.

Blue Ribbons Analysis on Air Force:

As long as the Falcons can continue to force turnovers defensively and prevent them offensively (Air Force has a +45 turnover margin the last three seasons) they will have a great chance of being no worse than fourth again and knocking on the door of the "Big Three."

The schedule makers didn't do the Falcons any favors. They don't have a bye week, and after an easy opener with Football Championship Subdivision foe Northwestern State at home, their next five games are at home against BYU, at Oklahoma, at Wyoming, home to Navy and home to rival Colorado State. Then, four of the last six are on the road. After a Nov. 13 home game with New Mexico, Air Force must finish the regular-season on a short week at UNLV on a Thursday night.

But if any team is built to handle that load, it's Air Force. The rigors of academy life alone is tough, and throw in football and its demands and there are no tougher student-athletes out there than at service academies. Calhoun fully embraces that, and he and his staff do a marvelous job of balancing the loads of their players.

Look for at least another eight-win season from the Falcons and a fourth straight bowl appearance.

Blue Ribbon Analysis on Wyoming:

Wyoming beat the four teams that finished below it in the Mountain West last year, and lost to the four teams that finished above it by a combined score of 129-20. The Cowboys also were 0-4 against top 20 teams, and played two top four teams in Texas (41-10 loss) and TCU (45-10 loss).

What Christensen did in his first year with the players he inherited and brought in on short notice was nothing short of miraculous. The Cowboys need to avoid injuries, especially at quarterback and also need to continue to take care of the football. Last season its turnover margin was +8, tied for 17th nationally.

Wyoming is a better team talent-wise than the 2009 squad. Does that mean more wins in 2010? Possibly, but it's no guarantee.

But if the Cowboys do a lot of what they did last season and Carta-Samuels avoids a sophomore slump, a middle-of-the-pack finish, or even higher, is well within reach. So is the school's first back-to-back bowl appearances since the 1987-88 seasons.

Blue Ribbons Analysis on San Diego State:

Athleticism normally isn't the problem at San Diego State, nor should it be this season.

Next to TCU, San Diego State will have the best trio of receivers in the league in terms of athleticism and productivity. If Lindley can continue to improve and cut down on the interceptions, those receivers should flourish. He went up from nine as a redshirt freshman to 16 last season. If he can get back closer to single digits, the Aztecs will at least be in a lot more games.

If San Diego State can survive playing five of its first eight games on the road, it gets three of its last four at home. If this team can avoid serious injuries and show steady improvement as the season progresses, it could make a run at its first bowl game as members of the Mountain West, and first one since 1998.

Blue Ribbons Analysis on Colorado State:

The first part of the schedule isn't easy -- the Rams don't play a true home game until Sept. 25 in the fourth game against defending Humanitarian Bowl champion Idaho, a team that beat the Rams 31-29 last season. That game is followed by a visit from TCU, and Colorado State plays just five home games.

The Rams will be better than 3-9, but breaking into the top four or five in the Mountain West standings will be tough.

"There's some inexperience at certain spots still, but I see us taking steps," Fairchild said. "Every time we do something, every time we recruit, every time we go through spring ball, eventually it's going to come together. I hope it's in 2010, but if not, I know we're doing the right things and we will get there."

Blue Ribbons Analysis on New Mexico:

Things should be better for Locksley in year two, but New Mexico is probably at least one or two more years away from being a legitimate contender in the conference.

There are too many uncertainties right now, ranging from quarterback and receiver on offense to linebacker and the secondary on defense. Locksley appears to be upgrading the overall talent level in the program, and that needs to show up for the Lobos not to finish in the bottom-third of the standings.

Blue Ribbons Analysis on UNLV:

The team showed some improvement and progress the last two seasons under Sanford, and many expected the Rebels to be a bowl team in 2009. If any one area has hurt the team the last few years, it's been defense. UNLV has had some good players on that side of the ball, but not nearly enough, and offenses have usually had their way.

That figures to be a problem this season. Paulo, Fuimaono and Pointer are solid, but there isn't that one player or unit that forces teams to attack a different way. Unless some younger and unproven players step up, UNLV figures to struggle defensively again this season. It may have to resort to outscoring teams, but going from a spread to a more conventional offense may not be conducive to winning shootouts.

All-Mountain West Team

WR: David Leonard, Wyoming
WR: Vincent Brown, San Diego State
OL: Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU
OL: Marcus Cannon, TCU
OL: Matt Reynolds, BYU
OL: Zane Taylor, Utah
OL: Caleb Schlauderaff, Utah
QB: Andy Dalton, TCU
RB: Eddie Wide, Utah
RB: Jared Tew, Air Force
TE: Lucas Reed, New Mexico

DL: Wayne Daniels, TCU
DL: Johnathan Rainey, New Mexico
DL: Sealver Siliga, Utah
DL: Cory Grant, TCU
LB: Carmen Messina, New Mexico
LB: Tank Carder, TCU
LB: Brian Hendricks, Wyoming
DB: Reggie Rembert, Air Force
DB: Tejay Johnson, TCU
DB: Andrew Rich, BYU
DB: Chris Prosinski, Wyoming

K: Ross Evans, TCU
KR: Jeremy Kerley, TCU
P: Brian Stahovic, San Diego State
PR: Jeremy Kerley, TCU

Offensive Player of the Year
Andy Dalton, QB, TCU

Defensive Player of the Year
Tank Carder, LB, TCU

Newcomer of the Year
Jake Heaps, QB, BYU

For newcomer of the year look out for New Mexico's DT Calvin Smith to be in the running, especially if Heaps does not start from day one.  Then there is UCLA transfer RB Raymond Carter who is going to be one of many backs to lead the running game in Fort Collins.

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