Mountain West Media Days are behind us, and there were some interesting topics discussed, although not as much as other years. Far and away, the most interesting topic was how the conference is handling their covid protocols this year. See below for a recap of the big discussions from last week, as well as some thoughts about them.
Craig Thompson: “We don’t have to do anything.”
Thompson called conference realignment “the elephant in the room” and knows it comes with the territory of running a conference. He knows teams could leave if a Power 5 offer comes around (and he’s known that forever), but did talk about having a plan in case they need to add. He notes a conference would expand for two reasons: either out of necessity/survival or out of enhanced value. He also noted that for 16 out of 23 years they have had to address losing or adding teams, which is interesting.
However, he said that they are content being reactive rather than proactive, because they have to be, and had the line: “Our options are, right now, we don’t have to do anything.” While he isn’t necessarily wrong, he isn’t doing himself any PR favors by saying it. With an opportunity to give a standard company line, Thompson basically said they are content letting everyone else decide the fate of the conference. This has basically been his public stance for the duration of his tenure, regardless of if it’s different behind the scenes. And that is why he is critiqued.
Thompson adds to this a bit by stating anywhere from 6-12 teams have reached out to the Mountain West to conference saying they would be interested in joining the conference if an opportunity would arise. However, it is unknown who those teams are. Are they PAC schools looking to find a home? An independent like New Mexico State or other Group of 5 schools? Or are they FCS schools hoping to make the jump into better competition?
He also expressed disappointment in not being able to get the college football playoff expansion done, as well as value of a teams to media outlets. From listening to him, it’s clear Thompson puts a lot of thought into what he says and does and isn’t just going to succumb to the pressure of doing something for the sake of doing it. However, whether or not those thoughts are beneficial or not are up for debate.
Predicted Order of Finish
The predictions (as voted by the media) were released first thing on day one. Overall they got things right, but there are a few up for discussion.
The West Division is pretty much spot on. Some SDSU fans may have hoped for a few more votes, but those are without question the top two teams who will fight it out and on paper, the Bulldogs should come out victorious. The Moutain is a bit of a different story. First of all, there is one very optimistic (or very homer-ish) media member who believes in Colorado State. The Rams are undoubtedly building something over there but seem a year or two away from competing for the conference. Utah State figured to have a few votes after last year’s success, but given a number of different factors, third-place with a few first-place votes seems right. Air Force and Boise State getting the majority of first-place votes and being close in the point totals makes sense. However, many expected Air Force to have more votes than Boise State. Either way, the top four teams in the conference were correctly identified.
Nailed it. Haener is the best offensive player in the conference by a wide margin. Truthfully, others are not even in the same conversation. If pressed, his teammate Jalen Cropper or workhorse tailback Brad Roberts are the other names that come to mind while writing this. It’s hard for a wide receiver to win the award. Air Force players are often viewed with an asterisk, which isn’t always fair. Even without this, he is recovering from an injury and reportedly will be eased into the season, so he may not be able to replicate his 2021 stats.
But Haener enters the season with the hype Carson Strong had about him last year. It was an obvious and correct selection.
I can’t remember the last time two people split an award, so this was a bit of a surprise initially. Hall wasn’t someone on our radar. He was the 2020 DOPY and the recognition could not have been more deserving. However, his production tailed off in 2021 and those numbers don’t scream best defender in the conference. While he is certainly capable of a bounceback, it’s far from a sure thing.
McMorris, the other player, was not who I was expecting either. He has a bit stronger case based on 2021 production and is undoubtedly the best defensive back on the team and one of the top DBs in the Mountain West. An argument could be made for his selection.
However, an argument could also be made that McMorris may not be the best defender on his own team. This is not a slight to him but a compliment to the strength of the San Diego State defense. Linebacker Caden McDonald and defensive lineman Jonah Tavai also deserve to be in the conversation. A few more names from around the conference may enter the discussion as well during the season.
Byrd seemed destined to be nominated for this award heading into the season. He was a very good returner last year and has the potential to make a dynamic play every time he touches the ball. A great choice.
This award will be interesting to see at the end of the season. Byrd is the player to beat this year, but kicker Jonah Dalmas could be right behind him. A kicker won’t seem as explosive, but he is consistent and reliable. It’s two players who are very effective in opposite ways (and positions).
I learned this year that teams submit nominated players and then the media votes on those players. That process seems silly, why can’t every player be eligible to be voted in? Due to this, that can lead to some oddities. The one this year is tight end, where Arkin ran unopposed at his position and therefore was a unanimous selection.
Outside of that one, no one pops out as an omission or as if they shouldn’t be on the team. Now some players could be swapped in or out based on preference, because there are more deserving players than spots at certain positions. If Titus Swen replaced Jordan Mims, most neutral fans wouldn’t bat an eye. Same with spots on the offensive line that aren’t named Frost, Cochran, or Uluava.
Looking at the defensive selections and there are deserving names up and down the board. As stated above with DPOY, Cade Hall is getting hype equal to his 2020 production, not his 2021 production. Dom Peterson may have been a better choice. But Hall is certainly one of the best DL players in the conference. It’s a matter of a crowded position. Same with linebacker, where Easton Gibbs should be recognized, but who should be taken off? It’s not that easy. Defensive back listed the consensus top four players, and Byrd’s name appears again.
Your turn: List your thoughts and opinions on selections, media days, and the conference in the comments section below.