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2011 CFN Mountain West Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 30, 2011


The Mountain West got a new addition in Boise State, and the infusion of WAC teams are coming, but it'll lose TCU. Can the league have one last hurrah? Check out the unit rankings, All-Mountain West Team and top 30 players, thoughts on the season, predictions, breakdowns, and more in the 2011 CFN Mountain West Preview.


Preview 2011

Mountain West Preview


- 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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By Pete Fiutak

It doesn’t do any good to lament what might have been, but it’s hard not to think about what might have been.

Had the Mountain West been able to keep Utah and BYU around, and if TCU wasn’t about to bolt for the Big East, and if it had been able to still bring aboard Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada from the WAC, the league would’ve been a serious challenger to the Big East and the ACC when it came to the league rankings. But of course, that’s not going to happen.

So the Mountain West is now the WAC on steroids, and it’s still going to be strong, and for one season, it’s going to be a whole bunch of fun with Boise State and TCU about to wage a serious war for a BCS appearance and a possible national title run. But now it’s about the rest of the conference.

The WAC additions next year will be strong, and will help offset the loss of TCU, and it’ll help beef up the floor until programs like New Mexico, Colorado State, UNLV, and Wyoming can get better. They’ve all had their moments over the last decade, even though it’s been a long while for the Rebels, and they all have the ability and the potential to improve. The faster they do, the faster the Mountain West can get back in the discussion to be at the level of the other BCS conferences. As long as there’s such a great divide between the haves and the have-nots, the same problems Boise State had getting respect in the WAC are the same problems all the top teams will have in the Mountain West.

But for the league’s profile, for now, all that matters is once again having a team in the national title discussion. Utah took its turn at bat in 2008 and 2004, and TCU came within a whisker of playing for the whole ball of wax in each of the last two seasons, and for the fifth time in eight years, the conference could come close again.

It hasn’t been played up enough; in the four BCS games the Mountain West has been in, it has gone 3-1 with the lone loss coming to Boise State. Argue all you want to about how it’s not the same to go unbeaten in the Mountain West as it is to do it in the Big Ten or SEC, but when the league has had its chance to take its cuts, it has come up with hits. It has taken a while, but there’s more respect now for the league, and again, it has to take advantage of the momentum that was building and building, and then gained even more steam when TCU batted down Wisconsin’s two-point conversion attempt in the Rose Bowl.

It’s not getting the play of Nebraska joining the Big Ten or Utah and Colorado coming into the Pac-12, but Boise State could be the one to finally bring the league to the promised land. It was more than worthy to be in the fight to play for the national championship last year before the loss to Nevada, and now, if it can get by the season opener against Georgia, and if it can survive firefights against Toledo and Tulsa, it’ll be Game On with Nevada and TCU coming to the blue turf and the toughest remaining road games at Fresno State and San Diego State.

TCU starts out the season with nasty tests on the road against Baylor and Air Force, but any team worthy of playing for the national title should win those games, and then it’s smooth sailing until a great matchup against BYU. Get by that, and if the Broncos really can beat Georgia, and then November 12th might be for a shot at the BCS Championship.

Air Force is as strong as it’s been under Troy Calhoun, and it won’t be a pushover. San Diego State might be weakened with Brady Hoke now coaching at Michigan, but it’s still solid, while Colorado State looks like it could be far better. New Mexico, UNLV, and Wyoming are all better than last year, but they’re still going to struggle against the big boys.

No, the league might be ticked off that it came so close to being special, and it didn’t happen, but it’s still in a pretty good spot. For this year, it could be in a very good spot.

Team That'll Surprise

Colorado State – The Rams fell off the map last season, finished 114th in the nation in scoring offense, 104th in the nation in total defense, and with a brutal 3-9 record. However, led by QB Pete Thomas and with a decent core of starters back on both sides of the ball, the veterans are in place to make a night-and-day difference in overall production. The lines have to be better, Thomas has to play like the star he’s supposed to become, and the schedule is just light enough to come up with a winning season.

Team That'll Disappoint

Boise State – It’s all relative. At this point, it’ll be a shocker and a disappointment if the Broncos don’t come up with a double-digit win season and isn’t making noise on a national scale. No matter what happens in the opener, they still might be in the race for big things, including a BCS game, but they’ll have to win the Georgia game. This isn’t the Boise State team of last year, and Georgia is going to be jacked up to make a big statement. Yes, 11-1 would be a disappointment for the program and the Mountain West, considering the national title will be off the table with a loss to the Bulldogs.

Game of the Year

TCU at Boise State, Nov. 12 - You'll have to forgive the Horned Frogs if they aren't exactly going to hand over the Mountain West title to Boise State just because the showdown is on the road, and you'll have to forgive the Mountain West bigwigs if they want Boise State to beat the future Big Easter. TCU had to go on the road to play Utah in last year's Mountain West game of games, and it came up with a 47-7 thumping. Don't expect that this time around.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight

1. LB Jordan Waiwaiole, Sr. Air Force
2. QB Pete Thomas, Soph. Colorado State
3. CB Quinton Pointer, Sr. UNLV
4. DE Josh Biezuns, Sr. Wyoming
5. LB Tanner Brock, Jr. TCU

Coach on the Hot Seat

Mike Locksley, New Mexico - He's still there? After a disastrous first season, helped by an ugly fighting incident with an assistant coach, Locksley didn't exactly turn things around in his second year going 1-11. In 2007, New Mexico finished 9-4 and blew out Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. Over the last two seasons under Locksley, the Lobos have gone 2-22 with the two victories coming by a combined five points.

5 Non-Conference Games the Mountain West had better take very, very seriously

1. Boise State at Toledo, Sept. 17
2. San Diego State at Army, Sept. 10
3. Tulsa at Boise State, Sept. 24
4. SMU at TCU, Oct. 1
5. Colorado State at Utah State, Sept. 24

Bold Predictions …
Air Force will beat either TCU or Boise State, but not both. ... Boise State will lose to Georgia and then will run the table. ... Colorado State QB Pete Thomas will have a better year than Boise State's Kellen Moore. ... New Mexico will lose at least eight games by double digits. ... San Diego State will go 8-4 in the regular season for the second year in a row. ... TCU QB Casey Pachall will be more than fine in place of Andy Dalton. ... UNLV's defense will be night-and-day better after finishing 109th in total defense and 116th in scoring. ... Wyoming will be better, possibly a lot better, and will go 3-9 again.

5 Best Pro Prospects

1. OT Nate Potter, Sr. Boise State
2. LB Tank Carder, Sr. TCU
3. S George Iloka, Sr. Boise State
4. QB Pete Thomas, Soph. Colorado State
5. QB Ryan Lindley, Sr. San Diego State

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill

1. QB Casey Pachall for Andy Dalton, TCU
2. Head coach Rocky Long for Brady Hoke, San Diego State
3. WR Dominique Sandifer for Vincent Brown, San Diego State
4. WR Tyler Shoemaker & Geraldo Hiwat for Austin Pettis & Titus Young, Boise State
5. C James Fry for Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU

- 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