Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM
We continue our preview for the Mountain West Conference today, with a look at the “Mountain” Division led by Boise State and Utah State. Boise State hopes to stay in the national spotlight despite dealing with rebuilding issues after a disappointing season (at least by their recent standards). Utah State makes the jump from the WAC, fresh off a 11-2 season where they just missed upsetting Wisconsin in Madison and steamrolled opponents down the stretch.
Remember that we’re using data from the respected Athlon publication in our previews once again this summer. Remember to check out the display ad for JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK on page 173, right across from Notre Dame. It’s never too early to sign up for football!
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 5 on defense
Quarterback: Joe Southwick
Head Coach: Chris Peterson
Boise State has fallen off its prior pace because they couldn’t fully replace the skill position players from a few years ago. Last year’s team opened the season with a very sluggish loss at Michigan State. They couldn’t run the table after that as big favorites, falling at home to San Diego State. Their bowl was a virtual coin flip with Washington of the Pac 12 (a 28-26 win). Boise State shouldn’t be coin-flipping with mid level Pac 12 teams! Athlon has tabbed the Broncos as #11 in the nation entering 2013. To us, that can only be justified if you’re anticipating where pollsters will mis-rank them because of an easy schedule. Running the table is a possibility, with the most dangerous spot this year being a return engagement with Washington (a road game rather than a bowl game though). Not a great team any more…but a team capable of posting a great record against an easy schedule.
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Quarterback: Chuckie Keeton
Head Coach: Matt Wells (new)
The Aggies are definitely poised to make a splash. A lot of veterans return for a team that was seemingly unstoppable down the stretch (by mid major standards). You probably recall their 41-15 bowl blowout of Toledo. Athlon has them at #60 nationally. We wouldn’t be surprised if they outperform that. There’s a chance to make a statement September 21 at USC. And, the Aggies get Boise State in Logan on October 12
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Troy Calhoun
Calhoun has plenty of time to settle on a quarterback…though neither of his options are great. The season opener Aug 31 is against Colgate, which is a virtual scrimmage. Very tough to be optimistic about the 2013 season given the lack of returning starters and the dismal finish last year. Air Force lost four of its last five games…and the only win was over helpless Hawaii. Everything fell apart after a stunning blowout loss to rival Army.
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense
Quarterback: Brett Smith
Head Coach: Dave Christian
Quarterback Smith was injured through much of 2012. They’re a much different (worse) team when he isn’t able to play. Our own numbers have them better than Air Force if Smith is healthy. The shape of their season will be determined by whether or not he can stay on the field. We’ll be watching their season opener at Nebraska on August 31 very closely.
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Jim McElwein
The Rams have some experience at quarterback because two guys split time last year. Neither was terrific once you adjust for the caliber of offenses the team faced. We’re not fond of this coach, or the recent direction of the program. We might consider the Rams for some big dog spots against opposing favorites in flat schedule spots.
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 3 on defense
Quarterback: Cole Gautsche
Head Coach: Bob Davie
The team Lobos have bounced off doormat status under Davie, with four double digit victories last year. Yes, it was a soft schedule…and there were still some bad losses. But, this group is no longer just a glorified high school team. That gives them a chance to at least play spoiler once or twice in league action.
This concludes our two-day look at the Mountain West Conference. We’ll cover baseball Thursday and Friday to get you ready for the July 4 holiday and weekend. Saturday and Sunday we’ll hop back to college football to preview the two divisions from the Mid-American Conference. A mix of baseball and mid majors will continue up to the All-Star Break, when we’ll transition to the power leagues.
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See you Thursday for some JULY FOURTH FIREWORKS!