Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 7:00 AM
We begin our annual summer series of college football conference previews today with the “West” Division in the Mountain West Conference. We wanted to symbolically begin with UNLV’s spot in the college football landscape since so many of our readers have a Las Vegas mindset when it comes to this sport.
We’ll cover the other half of the conference, the “Mountain” Division, Wednesday with a look at Boise State, Utah State, Air Force, and a few others. Note that all information posted regarding returning starters and projected quarterbacks comes from the respected Athlon preseason publication. Be sure to check out the ad for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK on page 173 right across from the Notre Dame preview if you’ve already purchased your copy. If not, what are you waiting for?!
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense
Quarterback: Derek Carr
Head Coach: Tim DeRuyter
Athlon has the Bulldogs as a top 25 team to start the year. That may be a little optimistic. You longtime readers know that we think the best mid-majors get overrated in the polls because of their ability to abuse soft schedules. There’s a lot to like about Fresno State. Just remember that they lost to SMU 43-10 in the Hawaii Bowl last year! We like this coach…this QB by league standards…and the high amount of returning starters. We’ll pick our spots with this team…possibly as early as August 29 in their season opener vs. Rutgers. The Bulldogs get Boise State at home on September 20, which will be the game of the year in this league.
SAN JOSE STATE
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 5 on defense
Quarterback: David Fales
Head Coach: Ron Carragher (new)
Fales impressed a lot of people with his numbers as QB last year, then was getting some good media run as recently as this past weekend for his tools within a discussion of national stars at the position. Athlon only has them as #63 in the nation starting the season. That seems fair. But, there will be spots where they’ll be positioned to perform at a much higher level than that would suggest. Definitely live dog potential in September…and divisional darkhorse potential beyond.
SAN DIEGO STATE
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 10 on defense
Quarterback: Adam Dingwell
Head Coach: Rocky Long
Hard to distinguish San Diego from San Jose in many early estimates in terms of overall quality. SDSU is the lesser team on offense because of the QB position, but returns 10 starters to a defense that had some good outings in league play (including a 21-19 shocker at Boise State). We’ll be looking to take the Aztecs against inexperienced opposing quarterbacks. And, we’re very interested to see how the team performs on the road at Ohio State on September 7. Will they be getting too many points?
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
Quarterback: Cody Fajardo
Head Coach: Brian Polian (new)
Chris Ault retired from college coaching again…but the offense he designed is still positioned to blow and go through another campaign. Fajardo was impressive last season, though he wasn’t quite able to engineer wins over their toughest opponents. A pretty good offense often gets trumped by a horrible defense. If Nevada doesn’t fix its defensive woes…they’re going to have trouble taking any sort of step forward amidst the coaching change. They will play some exciting games. Look for spots to bet the Over…which you hopefully did in last year’s 49-48 bowl loss to Arizona.
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 6 on defense
Quarterback: Nick Sherry
Head Coach: Bobby Hauck
The Rebels went 2-11 last year, and that was considered by some to be better than expectations! This program is in the doldrums, but is afraid to make a coaching change because of budget reasons. They at least have a chance to be better than last year given the amount of experience returning. Athlon doesn’t have them as the worst in the division (#104 compared to #119 for Hawaii), which is a sign of progress in a sense. JIM HURLEY will only back UNLV this year if his sources in Vegas give the go-ahead.
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Quarterback: Taylor Graham (transfer from Ohio State)
Head Coach: Norm Chow
The sport evolved away from Norm Chow several years ago…which is why his teams were consistently disappointments where he was an offensive coordinator. Hawaii made his dream come true with a head coaching position. That only yielded a 3-9 record last year, with the wins coming over Lamar, South Alabama, and UNLV. Assume the worst unless new quarterback Graham impresses vs. USC and Oregon State out of the gate.
That wraps up the “West” Division. We’ll look at the “Mountain” Division with Boise State and Utah State on Wednesday. Thursday’s July 4th, which means a return to baseball for the holiday and some showcase series. We’ll mix football and baseball through the summer, with college conference previews in July, and then NFL divisional breakdowns in August.
If you’d like to learn more about seasonal football packages for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK, details are available here at the website. You can also call the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours if you prefer talking to a liver person.
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