Monday, August 30, 2010

Mountain West Conference

The MWC is right on the cusp of becoming a BCS conference. Well more accurately it was right on the cusp. With Utah leaving for the PAC 10, any hope of being recognized by the BCS may (or may not be) be out the window. Some of the more powerful WAC teams will bolt for the MWC which may help their case. This will all get pretty confusing and interesting before it is all said and done. Oh yes, BYU may or may not leave the conference for the WAC (in all sports but football) and play on the gridiron as an independent. I have not seen a report on that in the last day or two. For this year, at any rate, the conference remains intact and the top three teams are pretty easy to predict although in which order is not so easy a task. The remainder of the schools, with the exception of New Mexico, will be shuffling for the fourth spot. Air Force looks to be the team that will fill that billet and go to a decent bowl game.  On to the predictions.

1. TCU: There is no real reason that TCU should not again take the first spot. They return a lot of starters from a team that was fully BCS ready a year ago. The non conference schedule is pretty light with only two BCS schools to face and one from IAA. They must watch the exceptional QB play QB at Baylor and be careful that a up and coming SMU squad does not sneak up on them. If they do they should go 4-0 in non conference play. In conference play they of course face the Utes, Falcons, and Cougars. One of these squads may have a good day and trip them up but I doubt it.

2. Utah: The Utes are another team that is BCS caliber. Their non conference schedule, while somewhat tougher than that of TCU, is manageable. They will need to watch out for a very good Pittsburgh Panther squad in the opener. The Panthers are capable of taking this game, but other than that they should run through the remaining non conference games. The do meet Notre Dame on Nov 13, but unless the Irish are hands down better than the past few years, the Utes should prevail. They return a good many starters on offense, but the defense may need some work. It would be better if they had a tune up game or two before meeting the Panthers in the opener. Utah may not have what it takes to knock off TCU, but should be able to handle BYU, Air Force and the rest of the conference.

3.BYU: The Cougars look like they will finish in the third slot. I think it would be difficult to knock off either Utah or TCU. They apparently have a Freshman phenom QB in Jake Heaps, but will he be the starter and if so, will he be ready for major college play? The non conference schedule is pretty manageable with only Florida State and perhaps Nevada causing any difficulty. They will probably go 3-1 in non conference play with Florida State again taking them down. They will finish third here and go to a solid bowl game.

4.Air Force: The Falcons are well coached and have had some success of late. The Air Force Academy usually fields good, but not great teams. They are certainly good enough to go bowling rather consistently. The non conference schedule includes the service schools, of course, and they do meet Oklahoma. Additionally they host IAA Northwestern State of the Southland Conference. The Oklahoma game will likely result in a loss as well as the contest with the Naval Academy. The return a decent amount of starters on both offense and defense including Tim Jefferson but do not have the power to challenge for the top spot in this league.

5. San Diego State: I will go out on a limb here and pick the Aztecs to take the fifth spot in conference. This school should field competitive teams year in and year out but for some reason it just does not happen. This could be the year that they finish at least fifth and perhaps sneak into the fourth spot and play in the post season. The climate and the "niceness" of the city dictate that they should be better able to attract quality players and at least play on the same level as the other powerful non BCS school in the state; Fresno. It can hardly be argued that San Diego is much nicer than Fresno. The area is much nicer than the monstrosity just up the road and it is hard to see why they are not able to snag some BCS level blue chippers. Oh well, what is is what is. This year the Aztecs will be challenged by a home date with the Missouri Tigers but should be able to handle the remaining non conference slate. If the cards fall right perhaps they can challenge for the fourth spot. Any thing above that would be unlikely.

6. Wyoming: The Cowboys are not a team that anyone in conference should overlook. That means even the top three. The reason I have picked them for the sixth spot is that their non conference slate is brutal with a trip to Austin and hosting Boise State. Both of those games will be losses. They should be able to handle Toledo and IAA Southern Utah. They do return a bunch of starters and probably should have been considered for the fourth or certainly fifth spot, but I have my doubts about HC Dave Christensen. If every thing fall right these guys may end up bowling again but as of now I will pick them to play below their potential and finish no better than 6-6.

7. UNLV: It is rather hard whether the Rebs or CSU should be picked here. The two squads appear to be fairly even. CSU has fallen off tremendously since Sonny L. left but the Rebs very rarely have any real success. This year CSU returns a decent number of starters but the non conference slate is tough. Wisconsin is a sure loss and Nevada, Hawaii, and a surprisingly good Idaho squad are certainly not easy games. UNLV will probably take at least one game from the WAC but will likely end up 1-3 in non conference play. This team is probably in no danger in finding themselves in the cellar, but have no hope of challenging the top teams either.

8. Colorado State: This school used to be a team that was dangerous for any opponent. No more. They do not appear to retain enough starters on offense. The non conference schedule is pretty difficult with the the Rams opening with the Buffs. They will not beat them this year.  The Buffs should not be taken seriously by a good team, but the Rams are not very good. They also meet Idaho and Nevada along with Miami of Ohio. Like UNLV I predict they will take one non conference game and wind up 1-3.  Bet they miss Coach Sonny.

9. New Mexico: Another very hard place to win. The Lobos are a hard luck team that returns a number of starters. The very same starters that went 1-11 last year. They have a rather tough non conference schedule with the only possible wins being against UTEP (doubtful) and NMSU (possible). If they won these two they would double their winning record of 2009. Likely they will go 0-4 in non conference play, or at best 1-3. In conference play they may be able to take CSU  and possibly UNLV on a good day but that is probably about it. This team is light years away from even competing at mid level in conference. They may have trouble being competitive in a fair IAA league.

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