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2011 Mountain West Preview - CFN Thoughts
Air Force QB Tim Jefferson
Air Force QB Tim Jefferson
Posted Jul 30, 2011

Preview 2011 - Thoughts from the CFNers on the 2011 Mountain West season

Preview 2011

Thoughts on the M-West

- 2011 Air Force Preview | 2011 Boise State Preview 
- 2011 Colorado State Preview2011 New Mexico Preview
- 2011 San Diego State Preview | 2011 TCU Preview
- 2011 UNLV Preview | 2011 Wyoming Preview

- 2011 Mountain West Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Mountain West | 2011 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 Mountain West Preview

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Welcome to the big time, Boise State. Okay, welcome to the bigger time.

Alright, TCU, you’re now big time. You’re not the little engine that could, you’re not David, and you’re not a cute little story. After all the recent success and the win over Wisconsin, you’re behind the velvet rope. It’ll be interesting to see where Gary Patterson goes with this.

Yes, TCU, there was life before Andy Dalton. The Horned Frogs went 11-2 in 2006, 11-1 in 2005, and 11-2 in 2003. Everything will be just fine.

Does any conference have a bigger difference between the top teams and the bottom feeders? Throw Boise State in the mix, and take out Utah and BYU, and the top four new Mountain West teams in total offense finished among the top 28 in the nation. Wyoming finished 116th, UNLV was 118th, and New Mexico was 120th.

You’re not going to watch it, but try anyway. Tulsa at Boise State on September 24th.

TCU finished No. 1 in the nation in total defense last year. Boise State was No. 2. November 12th. November 12th. November 12th.

They might not all be top pro prospects, but I’ll put the tackling skills of TCU’s Tank Carder and Tanner Brock, Air Force’s Jordan Waiwaiole, Colorado State’s Mychael Sisson, New Mexico’s Carmen Messina, and San Diego State’s Miles Burns up against any six linebackers in America.

It’s the topic that people don’t like to talk about at parties; Boise State could’ve, not would’ve, beaten Oregon or Auburn in the BCS Championship. That team really was good enough to play with anyone in America.

The loss of Boise State receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young is as big as the loss of any two players on any team outside of Auburn losing Cam Newton and Nick Fairley.

It doesn’t make sense that San Diego State hasn’t grown into a top 40-level program just by getting the guys who don’t go to USC and some of the other to Pac-12 schools. It’s kind of like USF getting the players that don’t do to the other Florida schools.

I’m also not sure why anyone wouldn’t want to go to school, or coach, or live, in San Diego.

Why is Colorado State SO bad? The lines. Steve Fairchild came to CSU preaching the idea of being more physical on both sides of the ball and running the way the team did at the height of the Sonny Lubick era. The offense hasn’t been close, and the defense has been shoved all over the place.

Pete Thomas, the Colorado State program can be all yours for the taking. The skills are there, the chances to bomb away will be there, and the receiving corps is coming into place. It’s time to be a star.

San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley is a top-shelf talent, but it’ll be interesting to see what he can do without star receivers Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson.

It’ll be more interesting to see what Boise State’s Kellen Moore can do without Austin Pettis and Titus Young.

If Nevada can be good, then so can UNLV. I get it; it’s hard to be a football power when The Strip can be seen out of the dorm rooms, but it could be a niche program. The school won’t ever get the top talents, but if it can come up with the right systems and can start to recruit to a type, rather than just go after the best players possible, it can be a winner.

If you can find a worse two-year start to a head coaching era than Mike Locksley’s first two seasons at New Mexico, I’m all ears.

It’s time to start calling Troy Calhoun one of the best head coaches in America. Air Force has become terrific, sharper, and, very, very good since he took over. Navy and Army get praised up and down for being able to win despite all the rough recruiting restrictions, and Calhoun is doing even more against tougher schedules.

I have no earthly clue how Air Force was second in the nation in pass defense. Granted, it helps to play Navy, Wyoming, Army, New Mexico, and Georgia Tech, but the Falcons stuffed Houston’s Case Keenum two years ago and kept Oklahoma’s Landry Jones to 254 yards on 42 attempts last season.

There will be a whole bunch of ugly at times in Mountain West play, but Boise State, TCU, Air Force, and occasionally San Diego State and Colorado State, should play games as fun and exciting as any in the 2011 season.

By Richard Cirminiello

Although it’s never smart to doubt Chris Petersen, this could be Boise State’s last realistic shot to contend for a national title for a while. Like everyone at this time of year, there are some but holes, but the backfield is among the nation’s best, and the D will be fantastic. With the opener versus Georgia in Atlanta, we’ll know immediately if the Broncos have the chops to contend for a championship.

While Boise State QB Kellen Moore will continue getting most of the pub, RB Doug Martin will be better paid beginning in 2012. NFL scouts are impressed by Martin’s power, quickness and receiving skills in a compact 5-9, 215-frame.

Is this going to be a sandwich year for TCU? Behind the Frogs is a 13-0, Rose Bowl-capped campaign. Ahead is a move to the Big East in 2012. On many levels, this is going to be a challenging year for Gary Patterson and his staff.

Don’t make the mistake of sleeping on Air Force this season. The Academy has experience everywhere, and the backfield tandem of QB Tim Jefferson and RB Asher Clark will be slowed down by few opponents.

Brady Hoke is in Ann Arbor, but that doesn’t mean San Diego State is about to shrink into the shadows of the Mountain West. With QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman leading the offense, and LB Miles Burris and CB Leon McFadden setting the tone on D, the Aztecs remain dangerous for at least one more year.

Oh, and San Diego State’s Sept. 24 trip to the Big House will be one of the sneaky-good non-conference games of the fall. The Aztecs, while appreciative of what Hoke did for the program, would love nothing more than to beat him in front of his new home crowd.

Assuming he can hold off the competition, UNLV QB Caleb Herring is tailor-made for success in his second year of action. He has a much better feel for the Rebel system, and RB Tim Cornett and receivers Phillip Payne and Michael Johnson give him an underrated supporting cast.

Steve Fairchild could have his best team in four years at Colorado State. Most important, Pete Thomas’ return means that for the first time, the coach won’t be breaking in a new starting quarterback.

It could be a very interesting year in Albuquerque if New Mexico fails to locate a pulse. Loose-cannon head coach Mike Locksley is under the gun after just two wins in two years, and will be more prone than ever to emotional outbursts.

By Matt Zemek

Boise State, TCU, Utah, BYU, San Diego State with Brady Hoke, and Air Force. Man, it’s going to be an AWESOME season in the…. oh….. wait a minute….

Why is Mike Locksley still employed? (Commences banging a head against a wall, Gus Frerotte-style.)

With Boise State and TCU in the league for one year before the Horned Frogs pack their bags for the Big East, it’s hard to expect anyone else to crack the top two in the Mountain West. With that said, this is a hugely important season for San Diego State. The team that legitimately scared TCU and allowed Missouri to escape last year will be confronted with a substantial psychological challenge. There’s no question that Hoke changed the culture in San Diego, so now that the program’s architect is sitting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Aztecs need to buck up and prove that they’ve retained the lessons given to them by their Saturday sensei. New head coach Rocky Long doesn’t need to do headstands or anything else to get the attention of his players. He needs to tell them, Anthony Robbins-style, that the power of performance lies within the heart of each and every SDSU player. The confidence and know-how already exist; it’s up to the Aztecs to get out of their own way, to allow their talent to spill out in full flower on the gridiron. The right mentality will enable San Diego State to sustain momentum this season and become the main competitor for Boise State in a post-TCU Mountain West.

In the past half-decade, Wyoming and Colorado State have both defeated an underachieving Fresno State team in the New Mexico Bowl. Where has that shared feat taken the Cowboys and Rams? It raises the question: “If a team beats Fresno State in a bowl game, does it make a sound?” (Does this mean Northern Illinois should be very afraid this year?) The point is plain, though: With Utah and BYU out of the neighborhood, the time is now for other teams to enter the upper half of the Mountain West. Will Wyoming or Colorado State be able to make a tough climb in the Rockies?

The loss of Andy Dalton – whose 2011 season is hard to put into words (it was that inspiring and triumphant) – will hurt TCU a great deal. The loss of Jeremy Kerley might hurt even more. Remember that it was Kerley who saved the Frogs’ bacon against Southern Methodist in that daunting Dallas deathmatch on a midseason Friday night. If Kerley hadn’t busted off a clutch kick return, the Frogs might never have been able to get to – and win – the Rose Bowl.

Remember this about Boise State, just to make sure you haven’t lost track: You wanted the Broncos to upgrade their schedule and their place in the college football world. They did what you wanted. THEN, Utah and BYU and TCU (effective 2012) bolted. Don’t blame Boise State for being idle or unresponsive to the needs and desires of the larger college football world. Boise State can’t control everyone else’s decisions or actions.

And another thing, while we’re at it: Playing games on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays isn’t small-time. Not today. Look at what Larry Scott and the Pac-12 are doing, for instance. Playing non-Saturday games gets you noticed in the modern context of college football. You WERE, after all, setting aside your Tuesday for Louisiana Tech-Boise State last season, correct? You DID, after all, set aside time to watch Boise games that, if played on Saturday afternoon, you wouldn’t have been able to include in your main viewing menu. Say “thank you, sirs” to Boise State for making your lives easier, instead of rubbing the Broncos into the dirt every chance you get.

The key to the 2011 Mountain West season: “Gary Patterson, WATCH THE FAKE!”

Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Boise State will go undefeated and contend for a national title. After the conference championship games, we will be having the debate on whether or not an undefeated Bronco team deserves a spot on the BCS National Championship Game over a one-loss champion of a BCS conference. The Broncos should - and will - lose that debate, but with wins over TCU and Georgia in their back pocket, it will be a little more heated.

- Kellen Moore is the real deal, and will be back in New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

- The loss of Andy Dalton will be too much for TCU to overcome in its Mountain West swan song. But an always-stingy defense will keep the Horned Frogs in the top 10 for the balance of the 2011 season.

- Mike Locksley and the New Mexico Lobos will win ore than one game this season (they've won one in each of Locksley's first two seasons). But a schedule that sees the Lobos travel to Arkansas, Boise State, Nevada, TCU and host Texas Tech will be far too much to overcome, and Locksley will get his walking papers at season's end.

- Don't sleep on Air Force. Troy Calhoun is one of the most underrated coaches in the country. With 14 starters returning, the Falcons could make some noise and spring an upset or two.

- 2011 Air Force Preview | 2011 Boise State Preview 
- 2011 Colorado State Preview2011 New Mexico Preview
- 2011 San Diego State Preview | 2011 TCU Preview
- 2011 UNLV Preview | 2011 Wyoming Preview

- 2011 Mountain West Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Mountain West | 2011 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 Mountain West Preview