Preview 2012 - M-West Predicted Finishes
The early summer look at where we think each team will finish.
Mountain West Conference Picks
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Preview 2012 - Predicted Conference Finishes
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1. Boise State
2011 Record: 12-1, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 11-1
Is this the year Boise State finally takes a big step back with SO much rebuilding to do? Yeah, a little bit, but it'll still mean a double-digit win season. Ten starters are gone on defense, while the offense has to replace QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin, and too many other key starters to expect a BCS appearance. There's a chance the Broncos lose at Nevada to close out the regular season, and going to Southern Miss won't be a layup, but San Diego State and Fresno State have to come to Boise, as does BYU in non-conference play. An Opening Day loss at Michigan State will end this year's round of discussions about whether or not the team belongs in the national title chase, but that will be a minor slip.
2. Air Force
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
The Falcons should come up with a better season record-wise if they can get steady quarterback play early on from Connor Dietz. Eight starters are gone of the always-great rushing offense, while the defense also has to replace eight key players. Fortunately, the Mountain West is far easier this season with the nastiest league game against Nevada at home. The road trip to Michigan should be the only sure-thing loss on the slate, but the team won't be good enough to roll up double-digit wins with three road games in the final four including dates at San Diego State and Fresno State.
2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
The Wolf Pack gets to make the move to the Mountain West and should be decent right away. The offensive line is in place to get the running game going with QB Cody Fajardo an emerging star. Coming off a great year, the defense should be fine even with several good players gone including most of the key starters on the front seven. Fortunately, the secondary will be a plus and needs to be ready right away with the opening game at California. The league schedule isn't bad with Wyoming, San Diego State, Fresno State, and Boise State all coming to Reno, and while the date at Air Force won't be easy, Hawaii, UNLV and New Mexico are layup road games for a team good enough to potentially win the conference title.
4. Fresno State
2011 Record: 4-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5
Pat Hill took the program about as far as he could, doing wonderful things to put the Bulldogs on the national map, and now it'll be up to Tim DeRuyter to usher in the new era in the Mountain West. First he has has to get more consistency out of an offense that'll work around underappreciated running back Robbie Rouse, while the veteran defense should be terrific under DeRuyter's hand. A run of four road games in six weeks will test the team's mettle in the middle of the season, while going to Boise State and closing out at Nevada and against Air Force could kill any conference title hopes. Even so, the Bulldogs should go bowling again.
5. San Diego State
2011 Record: 8-5, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
The Aztecs should need retooling under Rocky Long after losing QB Ryan Lindley and star RB Ronnie Hillman to the NFL. The passing game will be fine, but the defense needs a ton of work up front in the 3-4. Even so, the schedule is good enough to shoot for at least eight wins again without having to face two road games in a row. Forget about the final season in the Mountain West ending with a title thanks to road games at Fresno State, Nevada, and Boise State to go along with the regular season finale at Wyoming. The home slate is a breeze before finishing up with Air Force - SDSU should be good enough to beat Army, North Dakota, San Jose State, Hawaii, Colorado State, and UNLV.
2011 Record: 6-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6
Can Norm Chow be enough to get the Warriors back to a bowl game? Once a starting quarterback emerges - David Graves appears to be the main man - and the rest of the offense should be good enough to get by. If the defense can be merely competent, six wins shouldn't be an issue with home games against Lamar, New Mexico, UNLV, and South Alabama forming a nice base of wins. It'll take a few upsets to go along with a couple of humbling experiences against USC and Boise State, but the O should be back to Hawaii standards. For this year, that should be good enough.
2011 Record: 8-5, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
Wyoming always seems to regress to the mean following a stunning, out-of-the-blue season. Quarterback Brett Smith is coming off a breakout season, but he can't play defense. The Cowboy line couldn't stop anyone's running game, and it's not going to be any closer to becoming a rock this year. That'll be a big, big problem with Texas, Nevada, Air Force, Fresno State, and Boise State all on the schedule before November. Things ease up a bit late, but the midsection could be just rough enough to keep the program from getting back to a bowl game.
8. Colorado State
2011 Record: 3-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 4-8
It's been a very, very rocky start for new head man Jim McElwain. First his talented quarterback, Pete Thomas, chose to transfer, and then came the ugliness of an alleged beating incident involving top defenders Nordly Capi and linebacker Mike Orakpo. The offense should still be solid thanks to McElwain - he should be that good - but the defense will be a work in progress. The schedule is more than manageable with no back-to-back road games and several relatively easy home dates against UNLV, New Mexico, Hawaii, and North Dakota State. However, this year should be a step back before potentially taking a big leap forward down the road.
9. New Mexico
2011 Record: 1-11, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 3-10
Bob Davie might be able to change things around just a little bit right away. The record might not be anything great, but the team should be far more competitive and it should come up with a solid ground game as the season goes on. The backs are in place to start cranking out yards early in Mountain West play. Yes, 3-3 really and truly is a possibility starting out with Southern and with New Mexico State and Texas State on the slate. There's still a ton of work to do to pull up out of the nosedive of the Mike Locksley era, but the coaching alone should be enough for a few wins and a positive step forward.
2011 Record: 2-11, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 2-11
Bobby Hauck is fighting the good fight to try the impossible to make UNLV relevant, but the program still needs to find more playmakers and has to get much, much better on the lines. There's a good group of running backs to work around, but a steady quarterback has to emerge to get the offense to start moving. The defense that couldn't stop anyone also has to replace several starters, but that might not be a bad thing. Coming up with a win over Northern Arizona early on and take advantage of a stretch of four home games in the first six will be needed with a brutal second half to deal with. The Rebels have to go on the road for six of the final nine games, but home games against New Mexico and Wyoming are winnable. Forget about road games at Utah State, Louisiana Tech, Boise State, or San Diego State.