2014 CFN Mountain West Preview
Nevada QB Cody Fajardo
Preview 2014 - If the Power 5 won't give, it's now up to the Mountain West to take.
Mountain West Preview
By Pete Fiutak
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“I say to all of you, I have been treated this day, with no respect. I've earned you all money. I've made you rich, and I asked for little. Good. You will not give, I'll take.” – Joey Zasa
Mountain West, as the best of the conferences outside of the new Power 5, it’s up to you to stand up to the bullies.
The Mountain West not only survived the expansion and realignment boom of a few years ago, it managed to solidity its league and its potential. However, now it has to figure out the next step and the way to position itself. Now it has to try to grow and improve in the new world, and to do it, it has to be settled on the field.
First, it all starts with the power programs to push their way through the door that that the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are trying so hard to slam shut.
This version of the Mountain West needs its own superstar moment, and it needs to show the 13 members of the College Football Playoff committee that there’s still room for everyone else.
For all of Boise State’s greatness and success, most of the monster moments – like the 2010 Fiesta Bowl win over TCU and the epic 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma – came as a member of the WAC. Nevada’s 13-1 Colin Kaepernick season of 2010 came as a WAC team, as did Colt Brennan’s Hawaii run to the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
Of course, Utah went 13-0 and beat Alabama in 2008 as a member of the Mountain West, and the Andy Dalton-led TCU team of 2010 that went undefeated and shocked Wisconsin came as a Mountain Wester, but those two programs used their great seasons as springboards to move on to the Pac-12 and Big 12, respectively.
The chances will be there this year, Mountain West. Go and take advantage of them.
This year, Boise State has a great shot at showing the college football world that it’s back to its elite form. If the Broncos beat Ole Miss in Atlanta, and can handle BYU in late October on the way to an unbeaten season, can they be left out of the party in the new system?
How about if Fresno State tags USC to kick off the season and follows it up with wins over Utah and Nebraska? What if Utah State shocks Tennessee in Knoxville and/or San Diego State comes up with a win at North Carolina or Oregon State early on? Will that be enough for the league to get the respect needed to push out a second SEC team or a one-loss Big 12 champion?
It’s up to the Mountain West to put the pressure on everyone else. Win some of the big non-conference showdowns, hope one team goes on an unbeaten run, and then make the college football world debate the merits of a spot in the CFP four.
- Derek Carr finished up the season with 5,083 passing yards and 50 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. With no defense to help the cause, he still bombed his way into a Mountain West championship. Did that get him any Heisman respect? He finished eighth. Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton might be fantastic, and he may have the skills to pull off a splashy win over Tennessee or Wake Forest, but it’s really, really, really, really, REALLY hard to get to New York as a Heisman finalist. If Chuckie and the Aggies don’t beat the Vols, no matter what, the Heisman campaign is over before September starts.
- Tennessee won’t come close to sniffing 100 yards rushing against the Aggie defense.
- Fresno State is going to throw a massive scare into USC, and it’ll be because of an improved defense.
- However, it won’t improve enough to overcome the loss of Derek Carr and Davante Adams.
- Boise State’s Jay Ajayi will be the league’s best running back, but Hawaii’s Joey Iosefa will be the most valuable back – and the most fun to watch.
- Nevada will be the league’s bounceback team. Cody Fajardo won’t beat out Chuckie Keeton for First Team All-MW honors, but he’ll have to settle for taking his Wolf Pack to the Mountain West title game.
- No way the Nevada defense can be that bad again. No way.
- UNLV was never going to go into the tank like many predicted just because it didn’t have a bowl game to play for. Now it’s eligible to the play for the post-season, and it’ll come down to the regular-season ender against rival Nevada.
- Rebel WR Devante Davis will be off-the-charts entertaining with big bomber Nick Sherry pushing the ball down the field.
- If it’s not Blake Decker taking over the Rebel quarterback gig, Sherry will throw a bazillion interceptions, but he’ll also come up with at least two 400-yard passing days.
- Travis Raciti will bounce back to 2012 form. The San Jose State defensive tackle, along with rising star linebacker Christian Tago, will make up for the loss of QB David Fales – the D will pick up the slack.
- San Diego State will look like a typical Rocky Long team more than ever. With a great backfield, and a decent line, expect this to be one a meat grinder of an offense to deal with.
- Air Force will look like Air Force again, and then it’ll lose its last four games to miss out on a bowl game.
- The Colorado State offense won’t slow down a lick. If converted safety Jasen Oden is the real deal at running back – even if he’s not Kapri Bibbs – the Rams will have an unstoppable group of skill players. QB Garrett Grayson will put up massive numbers.
- New Mexico won’t win a lot of games, but QB Cole Gautsche will make the offense a ton of fun to watch. The Lobos will run wild on everyone, but the defense won’t have improved enough to make a significant difference.
- Not this year, but eventually Craig Bohl will turn Wyoming into a Mountain West powerhouse. The new head coach was a huge, huge get for the Cowboy program.
- Boise State will lose to Ole Miss in a heartbreaking battle, but it’ll bounce back to run the table and go 12-1 with a Mountain West title on the way to one of the big money bowls.
- But not the College Football Playoff.
Team That'll Surprise
Nevada - The defense couldn't stop anyone's running game, and the offense wasn't
up to its normal Wolf Pack pistol-attack snuff. That's about to change. Year Two
under Brian Polian will see at least a four game turnaround on the way to a West
title and a spot in the championship game. Having Fresno State and San Diego
State at home will help.
Team That'll Disappoint
Fresno State - It'll still be a really, really good team, and it'll be fun and
exciting despite the loss of key offensive weapons, but it'll start out 0-3
losing at USC, at Utah and at home to Nebraska. Throw in losses at Boise State
and at Nevada, and the Buldogs won't be able to build off of their phenomenal
Game of the Year …
Utah State at Boise State, November 29. It's all setting up nicely for a
showdown for the East title. The Boise State date at Nevada will be huge on
October 4th, and Fresno State's trip to the screaming blue turf on October 17th
will be fun, but the Aggies and Broncos will put on a show that might end up
playing a big role in the rankings and national discussion.
5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...
1. QB Garrett Grayson, Sr. Colorado State
2. RB Joey Iosefa, Sr. Hawaii
3. DE Eddie Yarbrough, Jr. Wyoming
4. C Michael Husar, Sr. Air Force
5. DE Brock Hekking, Sr. Nevada
Coach on the Hot Seat
Norm Chow, Hawaii - Bob Davie is fine, but his New Mexico team can’t go into the tank. Troy Calhoun is also fine, but Air Force can’t do that again. Chow is a legend, and he’ll forever be known as an offensive guru, but after going 4-20 in his first two seasons, his Rainbow Warriors have to show some signs of life.
5 Non-Conference Games the Mountain West opponents had better take very, very seriously
1. Utah State at Tennessee, Aug. 30
2. San Diego State at North Carolina, Sept. 6
3. San Jose State at Minnesota, Sept. 20
4. Nevada at Arizona, Sept. 13
5. Nebraska at Fresno State, Sept. 13
5 Best Pro Prospects
1. S Derron Smith, Sr. Fresno State
1. WR Josh Harper, Sr. Fresno State
3. LB Christian Tago, Soph. San Jose State
4. DE/DT Tyeler Davison, Sr. Fresno State
5. OT Ty Sambrailo, Sr. Colorado State
5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. QB Brandon Connette or Brian Burrell for Derek Carr, Fresno State
2. RB Jasen Oden for Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State
3. QB Joe Gray or Blake Jurich for David Fales, San Jose State
4. QB Colby Kirkegaard for Brett Smith, Wyoming
5. DE Gabe Perez for Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State