2013 MW Preview - Mountain Team Breakdown
Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton
Preview 2013 - CFN Mountain West Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
MW Mountain Team By Team
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Note: Predictions based on team talent and
1. Boise State
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 MW Prediction: 7-1
Offense: It always seems like Boise State's offense is rebuilding in some way, but it's always effective. Overall it took a step back last season, lacking the pop and explosion it enjoyed with Kellen Moore, Doug Martin, Titus Young and Austin Pettis around, but it did its job. Now the pressure is on offensive coordinator Robert Prince to keep the production rolling. It might not have been pretty, but quarterback Joe Southwick and his serviceable group of veteran receivers kept the mistakes to a minimum and came up with an effective year. The running back situation isn't deep, and the line has to replace three starters, but the ground game should be solid with Jay Ajayi and Derrick Thomas a good twosome to take over for D.J. Harper, and the blocking up front will be fantastic – especially in pass protection – led by all-stars Matt Paradis at center and Charles Leno, Jr. at left tackle.
Defense: The whole is going to be better than the sum – again. The Boise State D always seems to find production from several surprising areas, and it always reloads in a big hurry. The pass rush should be fantastic again with Demarcus Lawrence leading the way on the outside, but there's a big, gaping hole at linebacker where options need to step up in the 4-2-5 attack. The secondary loses star corner Jamar Taylor, but Jeremy Ioane and the safeties are going to be terrific. The D had to replace nine starters last season and finished 12th in the nation in total defense, eight in scoring defense and fifth against the pass. This year's defense doesn't have nearly as much work to do.
2. Utah State
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 MW Prediction: 5-3
Offense: Offensive coordinator Kevin McGiven isn't going to change things up too much, and why would he? The Aggies were terrific throughout last season with a nasty running game and one of the nation's most efficient passing attacks. It all starts up front with a strong line that gets back all five starters including All-America candidate Tyler Larsen at center. Quarterback Chuckie Keeton will be in the hunt for Mountain West Player of the Year honors with pinpoint passing ability and good rushing skills, but he's going to have to be even better with a shaky receiving corps to work with and the loss of speedy running back Kerwynn Williams. There's potential with Joe Hill and the rest of the backs, but the short-to-midrange passing attack will carry the offense.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has plenty of talent to work with, but he's going to have a tough time repeating the production of last year's defense. The Aggies came up with a brilliant campaign, finishing 14th in the nation in total defense and seventh in scoring D helped by a pass rush that brought the heat from all sides and was dominant against the run. The linebacking corps should be among the best in the Mountain West with Zach Vigil and Jake Doughty a devastating twosome. The front three is big and active with Connor Williams an elite pass rusher, while corner Nevin Lawson will be one of the league's better all-around corners. The depth is a bit lacking and a few parts are missing, but it should be business as usual.
3. Air Force
2013 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2013 MW Prediction: 4-4
Offense: As always, Air Force will average over 300 rushing yards per game, will finish near the bottom nationally in passing, and will be tough at times when the running game is humming. The receiving corps should be decent – in relative Air Force terms – and the line should be fine in time with a slew of undersized interchangeable parts who know how to make this style of offense work. There's enough speed in the backfield to turn the corner, but the key will be the emergence of quarterback Kale Pearson, who has to prove he can be a consistent decision maker while hitting the deep pass on a regular basis.
Defense: The defense that was such a disaster at times throughout last season has to find something it can do well. The Falcons haven't been able to get to the quarterback in years, but there's experience and quickness on the woefully undersize front three to hope for a little more pop. At the very least, there are enough options to form a decent rotation. The linebacking corps is more of an issue with a wholesale change needing to replace all four starters, but the secondary should make up for the problems and pick up the slack with three returning starters led by tough-hitting safety Christian Spears and senior corners Steffon Batts and Chris Miller. However, if there's no pass rush again, the veteran defensive backs will struggle.
T4. Colorado State
2013 CFN Prediction: 5-8
2013 MW Prediction: 3-5
Offense: The offense needs to start being more consistent. The production wasn't bad against the mediocre to bad teams, but it failed against the decent Mountain West defenses with a good pass rush. The line gets back four starters but has to be far, far better at keeping linemen out of the backfield while generating a better push for the deep group of backs. The 1-2 punch of Donnell Alexander and Chris Nwoke could be the among the best in the league if they get a little bit of room to move, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if the passing game was more consistent. Conner Smith is a big passer with great upside, but Garrett Grayson is more mobile with good playmaking potential. The tight end situation is great, but the wideouts have to be more dangerous.
Defense: Ram fans have to be sick of the word potential, especially when it comes to a defense that hasn't stopped anyone with a pulse in years, but the pieces are coming into place with a terrific young group of defensive backs to build around and a veteran linebacking corps that does a little of everything. The line is the big concern after not generating any pass rush and struggling to hold up against the run against the stronger ground games. Depending on the situation, the Rams will shift around using linebacker Shaquil Barrett as a defensive end in a modified 4-3, even though he's at his best as an outside defender in a 3-4. Either way, the defense has to be more disruptive and far more consistent against the better Mountain West attacks.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 MW Prediction: 3-5
Offense: The offense might not have gotten enough out of the running game, and the line was a bit rocky, but quarterback Brett Smith took his game to another level and the receiving corps was phenomenal. Top target Chris McNeill is gone, but everyone else of not is back for a passing attack that finished second in the Mountain West and should be even more efficient. Both starting tackles have to be replaced, but the JUCO transfers from last year – 6-9 Walker Madden and 6-7 Connor Rains – are massive replacements. The backs are quick and experienced, but they need to be more effective.
Defense: It was a struggle. The defensive front didn't do nearly enough to get to the quarterback, and everything trickled down from there with the secondary getting roasted on a regular basis and few key stops to change games around. With all the starting defensive backs returning, and with some good new prospects coming in, it should be a tighter group, but only if the front seven does its job. The lack of side in the linebacking corps is a problem, and the consistent pass rush has to be there for everything else to work. With a slew of JUCO transfers coming in, there's an influx of talent to help upgrade several spots, but overall, the Cowboys need defensive playmakers to emerge.
6. New Mexico
2013 CFN Prediction: 4-8
2013 MW Prediction: 1-7
Offense: The offense desperately needed an identity, and it found one with a dangerous ground game that averaged over 300 yards per game and finished with close to 4,000 yards. Offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse is looking to make a committed effort to create some semblance of a passing game, but that could be a major problem with a mediocre receiving corps – to be kind – and with Cole Gautsche a running quarterback. There could be a rotation of quarterbacks to get the most production out of the spot, but no matter who's under center, the offense will revolve around running back Kasey Carrier and a terrific line that should be among the best in the Mountain West.
Defense: It's a good news, bad news situation. On the bad side, this was one of the nation's worst defenses with next to nothing working well. The secondary was ripped to shreds, there wasn't much of a pass rush and the run defense was way too soft. However, most of the players who couldn't get the job done are gone with a mere three starters returning. Defensive coordinator Jeff Mills has a ton of work to do, but things might not be that dire with a Dallas Bollema and a potentially solid linebacking corps to work around, and a decent front three that could be far better if someone can emerge on the nose. The secondary is a concern, but there's enough versatility to juggle around the lineup.