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MWC Bowl Projections: Broncos are the Las Vegas front-runners as season kicks off

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So what if the season hasn't even started yet? That hasn't stopped college football's top prognosticators (and yours truly) from calling their respective shots.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

College football season is back, and that means a return to zero productivity on Saturdays (and the occasional Friday or Tuesday... basically every day, for some), betting lines and hot seats for some poor coaches.

Oh, yes, and bowl projections!

Last year's projections were highlighted by the BCS conversation which Fresno State played itself into, but don't forget that Mountain West teams like UNLV and San Jose State were also subject to a lot of debate regarding their bowl credentials.  We know now that the Rebels ended up as the only MWC team in a New Year's Day game, while the Spartans stayed home after costing the conference a lot of money in late November.  2014 is a new slate, but the experts have already chipped out a first draft of the bowl picture.

For a quick refresher, here is the list of bowls with which the Mountain West is affiliated, along with the potential opponent.  The bowls have an order in which they are allowed to pick teams, and the Las Vegas Bowl picks first.  The Hawaii, New Mexico and New Orleans will share picks three, four and five, while the Potato Bowl picks sixth.  Also note that the conference has secondary ties with the Armed Forces Bowl and Cactus Bowl.

  1. Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - December 20, 2014 - MWC #1 vs. Pac-12 #6
  2. San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl - December 23, 2014 - MWC #2 vs. Navy (if eliglble, or at-large)
  3. Sheraton Hawaii Bowl - December 24, 2014 - Hawaii (if eligible) or MWC #3-5 vs. C-USA #2-5
  4. Gildan New Mexico Bowl - December 20, 2014 - MWC #3-5 vs. C-USA
  5. R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - December 20, 2014 - MWC #3-5 vs. Sun Belt #1
  6. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - December 20, 2014 - MWC #6 vs. MAC #2
As usual, we begin in-house with SB Nation's Jason Kirk, whose picks were released last week:

Bowl MWC Team Opponent
Las Vegas Bowl Boise State Utah
Poinsettia Bowl San Diego State Navy
Hawaii Bowl Fresno State Middle Tennessee State
New Mexico Bowl Nevada Texas-San Antonio
New Orleans Bowl Utah State Louisiana-Lafayette

The omission that might be considered most surprising is Colorado State, since Kirk has Washington State penciled into the Boise bowl as an at-large.  Rams fans, you know where to direct your vitriol until further notice, but be sure to save some for Dave Miller of the National Football Post, too.

Bowl MWC Team Opponent
Las Vegas Bowl Boise State Washington State
Poinsettia Bowl San Diego State Navy
Hawaii Bowl Fresno State Middle Tennessee State
New Mexico Bowl Nevada Texas-San Antonio
New Orleans Bowl Utah State Louisiana-Lafayette
Potato Bowl Wyoming Texas-San Antonio

The Pokes goin' bowlin' (or "Bohl-in'") in 2014?  Crazier things have happened, but that would assume the Rams are headed for a letdown and would finish no higher than fourth in the Mountain division.  If Jim McElwain is already playing the "nobody believes in us" card, don't be surprised.

Now, turn your attention to Dave Parsons and the Orlando Sentinel.  Try to figure out why the Potato Bowl gets its bid while the New Orleans Bowl does not.  My guess is that one trip to Boise in a year is enough for the Aggies, and that they'd rather spend some time in the Big Easy.

Bowl MWC Team Opponent
Las Vegas Bowl Boise State Arizona
Poinsettia Bowl Fresno State Navy
Hawaii Bowl San Diego State Texas-San Antonio
New Mexico Bowl Colorado State Buffalo
Potato Bowl Utah State Ball State

Phil Steele of the eponymous yearly publication was actually a bit early with his projections when compared to his contemporaries, but the shots he calls include one big surprise.

Bowl MWC Team Opponent
Las Vegas Bowl Boise State Arizona
Poinsettia Bowl Fresno State Navy
Hawaii Bowl San Diego State Middle Tennessee State
New Mexico Bowl Colorado State North Texas
New Orleans Bowl Air Force Louisiana-Lafayette
Potato Bowl Utah State Bowling Green

These next projections come courtesy of the boys from CBS Sports's Jerry Palm.  Broncos fans may have noticed the trend at this point, but just in case:  Everyone seems to like the Broncos to win the conference in 2014.

Bowl MWC Team Opponent
Las Vegas Bowl Boise State Arizona
Poinsettia Bowl Fresno State Navy
Hawaii Bowl Colorado State North Texas
New Mexico Bowl Utah State Rice
New Orleans Bowl San Diego State Louisiana-Lafayette
Potato Bowl Nevada Northern Illinois

NFL.com's Mike Huguenin also decided to take a crack at the bowl picture, posting his picks last weekend.  It remains to be seen whether he'll update his picks at all, but for the moment he's on an island along with all of the Utah State faithful.  In Chuckie Keeton, they trust.

Bowl MWC Team Opponent
Las Vegas Bowl Utah State Arizona
Poinsettia Bowl Boise State Navy
Hawaii Bowl Fresno State Rice
New Mexico Bowl Nevada North Texas
New Orleans Bowl San Diego State Arkansas State
Potato Bowl Colorado State Ohio

Last, but certainly not least, are my initial bowl picks.  Hopefully, that's why you've stuck it out this far, because people want to know where the Rebels will end up once they win eight games.

Bowl MWC Team Opponent
Las Vegas Bowl Utah State Oregon State
Poinsettia Bowl Boise State Navy
Hawaii Bowl Fresno State North Texas
New Mexico Bowl Colorado State Rice
New Orleans Bowl San Diego State Louisiana-Lafayette
Potato Bowl UNLV Toledo

If you have your own thoughts on these bowl predictions or have a set of your own, make sure to leave them in the comments!