To the surprise of approximately no one, the Boise State Broncos and San Diego State Aztecs emerged as the Mountain West's preseason favorites, according to the media poll released Tuesday morning. For Rocky Long's team, however, the good news didn't stop there.
The Aztecs were a unanimous choice in the West, and the defending conference champions also swept the selections for preseason players of the year. Running back Donnel Pumphrey was named the conference's preseason offensive player of the year, while senior cornerback Damontae Kazee and kick returner Rashaad Penny earned defensive player of the year and special teams player of the year, respectively.
Pumphrey hopes to cap off a stellar college career by helping SDSU run to the Group of 5 New Year's Day berth, after racking up 1,653 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 2015. Kazee, meanwhile, finished tied for second in the FBS with eight interceptions, and Penny averaged 33.5 yards per kick return while scoring three touchdowns.
In the Mountain division, the bulls-eye is squarely on Boise State once more. They received 27 of 29 first-place votes and figure to have their work cut out for them in the conference's toughest division.
The primary challengers to the conference crown are Air Force, last year's division winner, and Nevada, which must put a little more pressure on head coach Bill Polian to have a big year.
Further down the projected standings, a couple of last year's surprises seem to have met with some skepticism. The New Mexico Lobos broke through and nearly won the Mountain last year, and the UNLV Rebels exceeded expectations in being surprisingly competitive, but both teams are projected to finish just fifth in their divisions.
|San Diego State (29 first-place votes)||Boise State (27)|
|Nevada||Air Force (2)|
|San Jose State||Utah State|
|Fresno State||Colorado State|