Now that games are actually going to be played instead of expansion or rumors of expansion. This is the last year that the Mountain West is together as we all know it since Utah is heading to the Pac-10, BYU is going independent, Boise State is joining the league next season, and Fresno State and Nevada are joining in either 2011 or 2012.
So, this is the final year of the Mountain West as we know it, and the team that looks to be on top is TCU who brought back nearly all of their offensive firepower and for the first time in a long time their offense will be vastly superior then the defense.
The league will not be as top heavy as in the past as only TCU and Utah are in the top 25, but a third team is possible if BYU can make the offense click in a two quarterback system or perhaps Air Force who will have a top twenty defense in the nation.
Five story lines to watch:
- Will TCU make it to the BCS title game? This is a real possibility, because half of the teams ahead of TCU play each other such as Virginia Tech and Boise State, Oklahoma and Texas, and neither Florida or Alabama will be undefeated. So, TCU can just wait in the weeds and pounce since all of the pressure will be on Boise State
- Will BYU's two quarterback system work? This never works for any team with the only exception was Chris Leak and Tim Tebow in Florida a few years ago, but Tebow was more of a change of pace rather then a similar quarterback to Leak. BYU needs to make a decision by week three when they travel to Florida State.
- Can Air Force move into the top three? This is interesting and we will probably know by week two since BYU plays at Air Force. The Falcons will have a top twenty defense and their secondary is possibly the best in the Mountain West. Their offense is always tough to defense and QB Tim Jefferson is also a passing quarterback which will make their offense that much better.
- How will Utah and BYU be treated since they are not going to be in the league next year? Prior to BYU's move to independence Utah would be getting everyone's best shot, but now that aggression will go toward BYU. Now, I think Utah will get everyone's best shot, but since most schools in the league feel BYU is their main rival they will all want to beat BYU. Throw in the fact that BYU chose to leave while Utah was invited out to the Pac-10 and BYU might have caused the Mountain West to miss out on a BCS bid>
- Can anyone take out TCU? If any team is going to beat TCU it will be either Utah or Air Force. Utah gets TCU at home and will want some revenge over last year, and Utah's offense is projected by some (not me) to be as good if not better then in 2004. Air Force has a chance because they could easily beat Utah as those games always come down to a touchdown or less. The tough game is beating TCU in Fort Worth, because the Horned Frogs will want to take out the Falcons since last year was too close for comfort. Air Force has a great secondary and could possibly make TCU one dimensional, but their running game is tough.
Five bold predictions
- Air Force finishes in the top three in the Mountain West and finishes in the top 25.
- Wyoming gets back to a bowl game besides having a brutal schedule.
- New Mexico does not finish last in the Mountain West.
- BYU starts the season off 0-4.
- TCU will play Ohio State in the BCS title game.
Not saying those predictions will happen but they are not out of the realm of possibility.
Five Players (under the radar) to watch
- Mike Clausen, QB, UNLV
- Pete Thomas, QB, Colorado State
- Raymond Carter, RB, Colorado State
- Dennis Demond, RB, New Mexico
- John Cullen, OL, Utah
Darkhorse player of the year picks
- Offensive player of the year: Jordan Wynn, QB, Utah
- Defensive player of the year: Anthony Wright, DB, Air Force
- Freshman of the year: Pete Thomas, QB, Colorado State
Actual player of the year picks
- Offensive player of the year: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
- Defensive player of the year: Tank Carder, DE, TCU
- Freshman of the year: Jake Heaps, QB, BYU
Now onto some season predictions.
In the predicting the season series that went on this off season the vote turned out like this:
- TCU 12-0
- Utah 11-1
- Air Force 9-3
- BYU 7-5
- Wyoming 6-6
- San Diego State 5-7
- Colorado State 4-8
- UNLV 3-10
- New Mexico 1-11
The way the staff on the site voted the order of finish was slightly different with Air Force and BYU in different spots. Also, make click the links to see the season preview:
- Rose Bowl: TCU vs. Oregon
- Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs. Cal
- Poinsettia Bowl: BYU vs. Navy
- Independence Bowl: Wyoming vs. Clemson
- Armed Forces Bowl: Air Force vs. Southern Miss
- New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State (if they get to six wins) vs. Fresno State