2012 CFN Mountain West Preview
Nevada CB Khalid Wooten
Nevada CB Khalid Wooten
Posted Aug 1, 2012

Preview 2012 - The CFN Mountain West Preview and Breakdown

Preview 2012

Mountain West Preview

- 2012 Air Force Preview | 2012 Boise State Preview 
- 2012 Colorado State Preview2012 Fresno State Preview
- 2012 Hawaii Preview | 2012 Nevada Preview
- 2012 New Mexico Preview | 2012 San Diego State Preview
- 2012 UNLV Preview | 2012 Wyoming Preview

- 2012 Mountain West Preview
- 2012 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2012 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 Mountain West Preview | 2010 Mountain West Preview 

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By Pete Fiutak

The Mountain West has had a year to lick its wounds after losing Utah, TCU, BYU, and being used as a pit stop by Boise State. It's not the WAC and it's not going to completely go away, but before it combines in some strange blend with Conference USA, there's a chance for one more season in the sun.

Boise State and San Diego State will be gone next year, and while it would've been nice to have seen what the league could have been had everyone stuck around over the last few season, the newly-formed configuration with Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada coming in this year, and with San Jose State and Utah State signing on for 2013, it will still be a relevant conference that will hover just outside of the BCS realm no matter how things work out with Conference USA.

The key will be to find a killer who makes everyone pay attention.

TCU brought home a Rose Bowl title two years ago, and Boise State was in the national title debate for a while again last season. Utah came up with some powerhouses, and BYU was always in the spotlight because it's BYU. The opportunity will be there for some program to rise up and be a new star in a league with just enough doormats to pile up big records, and just enough decent teams to put an undefeated front-runner on the national stage.

Part of the big plus going forward will be the coaches, with a nice mix of legends and new prospects to create a slew of storylines by the week. The conference has had some superstars in Urban Meyer, Brady Hokes, Gary Patterson and Chris Petersen over the years, and now the hope will be for Fresno State's Tim DeRuyter – the 49-year-old former Texas A&M defensive coordinator - and/or Colorado State's Jim McElwain – the 50-year-old former Alabama offensive coordinator – to become be good enough to be wanted by the monster schools.

Nevada's Chris Ault is a College Football Hall of Famer; New Mexico's Bob Davie is an excellent coach who's been out of the mix for far too long; and Hawaii's Norm Chow is a legend who's finally getting his chance. San Diego State's Rocky Long has a terrific track record, too, giving the conference a great baseline of top-flight older coaches who'll bring in more attention.

And then there's the mix between the new bloods and the old timers. No one did more with less last season than Wyoming's Dave Christensen; Air Force's Troy Calhoun is long overdue to generate more interest from the big boys; and despite the record so far, UNLV's Bobby Hauck is the type of coach who would probably be phenomenal if he was at just about any other program. Throw in one more year of Petersen, and all of a sudden, the Mountain West has become a cradle of solid coaches.

The teaching that will come and the great minds running the various programs should give the league one more shot at doing some big things. If Boise State can beat Michigan State to start the season, it might be back in the spotlight again, but for the league, it would be even better if Colorado State, Fresno State, or Nevada started to become bigger national players.

Petersen and Patterson have proved over the years that a home can be made with a Mountain West-caliber program, and as long as the coaches stick around, the league will continue to be on solid ground, even if many of the schools are auditioning for someone else.

Team That'll Surprise
Fresno State – New head coach Tim DeRuyter could be just that good. The former Texas A&M defensive coordinator might be coming off a rough season when his group never, ever seemed able to come up with a clutch stop, but it was an aggressive group that was always camped out in opposing backfields. Fresno State could use a little more nastiness and more big plays on defense, while the offense should be loaded with QB Derek Carr and RB Robbie Rouse two legitimate pro prospects who'll fit in nicely in the new league. It won't take much tweaking to turn a 4-9 2011 into a 6-6 – or better - 2012.

Team That'll Disappoint
Hawaii – The hope will be for the addition of new head man Norm Chow will be the difference for a team that just barely missed out on going bowling last year, but the schedule won't be much help. The offense needs some adjusting and has to find a sure-thing quarterback to rely on. More than anything else, though, the problem will be a schedule with way too many road trips. There aren't any big boy non-conference games in Honolulu making dates at USC, BYU, San Diego State, Fresno State and Air Force all a problem. Nevada and Boise State at home are going to be rough, meaning there won't be any margin for error whatsoever.

Game of the Year
Boise State at Nevada, Nov. 24 – Last year's non-conference matchup was a dud, but Nevada is back to form and Boise State is weaker. The combination should make for a whale of a Mountain West showdown reminiscent of the classics the two came up with from 2007 to 2010 in WAC action. It's the regular season finale for each team, and if Boise State can somehow beat Michigan State in the opener, 11-0 might really be possible before going to Reno. The Wolf Pack will be the underdogs in the opener against Cal, but will probably be favored over the next ten games before hosting the Broncos.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...
1. RB Robbie Rouse, Sr. Fresno State
2. WR Colin Lockett, Jr. San Diego State
1. LB James Skelton, Sr. Colorado State
4. S Luke Anderson, Sr. Wyoming
5. LB John Lotulelei, Sr. UNLV

Coach on the Hot Seat
Bobby Hauck, UNLV – There might have been off-the-field problems with his team, but he was terrific at Montana going 80-17 with three championship appearances in seven seasons. So why aren't things working at UNLV? Instead of having everything in place after two seasons, the Rebels are rebuilding once again and still have way too many question marks. It might be a tough program to win at, and Hauck has the right attitude, but the pressure is on after going 4-21 in two seasons.

5 Non-Conference Games the Mountain West Opponents Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
1. Boise State at Michigan State, Aug. 31
2. Fresno State at Oregon, Sept. 8
3. South Florida at Nevada, Sept. 8
4. Air Force at Michigan, Sept. 8
5. San Diego State at Washington, Sept. 1

Bold Statements
- Name one Boise State player. Even with the highest profile players gone, the assumption is that it'll be business as usual. That's how good Chris Petersen and the coaching staff are. However, replacing Kellen Moore will still be a problem.

- Colorado State isn't exactly getting off to a hot start under Jim McElwain. Losing QB Pete Thomas to NC State was a blow, but the offseason problems that got star defenders Nordly Capi and Mike Orakpo expelled will hurt more. On the plus side, four losses came by a touchdown or less against mediocre teams and could've easily have gone the other way.

- Air Force has to own the turnover margin. The defensive front will never get behind the line and there won't be much of a passing game, but as long as the Falcons can control the clock and hang on to the ball, they'll be okay.

- Cody Fajardo, quarterback, Nevada. He's probably going to be the Mountain West Player of the Year and he's probably going to be one of the nation's biggest statistical superstars. If he's as good as he was when he got hot in his freshman campaign, the Wolf Pack might be back to its 2010 level.

- For everyone ready for reality to set in for Wyoming, don't expect too much of a drop off mainly because the schedule has enough built-in wins to get by. However, there can't be any missteps against teams like Idaho, New Mexico or UNLV on the road, because the Cowboys aren't going to beat Air Force again and have no shot against Boise State at home or Nevada on the road.

- Any hope of UNLV making a big turnaround might die if the first four weeks of the season aren't great. The Rebels don't get a week off and play six straight road games in nine weeks. However, closing out the year at Hawaii isn't a bad way to go.

- Beyond anything else, Bob Davie's first order of business at New Mexico is establishing a positive identity. The team might not have any talent, but it will play hard and the defense will quickly turn things around under his watch. He's the right man to give the program its integrity back.

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. OG Chris Baker, Sr. Nevada
2. C Weston Richburg, Jr. Colorado State
3. QB Derek Carr, Jr. Fresno State
4. TE Gavin Escobar, Sr. San Diego State
5. CB Leon McFadden, Sr. San Diego State

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. Boise State QB Joe Southwick for Kellen Moore
2. San Diego State RB Adam Muema for Ronnie Hillman
3. New Mexico LB Dallas Bollema for Carmen Messina
4. Air Force QB Connor Dietz for Tim Jefferson
5. Colorado State DE Davis Burl for Nordly Capi

- 2012 Air Force Preview | 2012 Boise State Preview 
- 2012 Colorado State Preview2012 Fresno State Preview
- 2012 Hawaii Preview | 2012 Nevada Preview
- 2012 New Mexico Preview | 2012 San Diego State Preview
- 2012 UNLV Preview | 2012 Wyoming Preview

- 2012 Mountain West Preview
- 2012 Mountain West Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN All-Mountain West Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Mountain West Schedules & Picks
- 2012 Mountain West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 Mountain West Preview | 2010 Mountain West Preview