Midseason Report - Mountain West

Posted Oct 12, 2006

The best Mountain West players, coaches, surprises of the midseason and more

Offensive Player of the Midseason – John Beck, QB BYU
Defensive Player of the Midseason
– Eric Weddle, CB Utah

Ten best Mountain West players in the first half of the season
1. John Beck, QB BYU
2. Eric Weddle, CB Utah
3. John Wendling, S Wyoming
4. Eric Wright, CB UNLV
5. Curtis Brown, RB BYU
6. Shaun Carney, QB Air Force
7. Drew Fowler, LB Air Force
8. Beau Bell, LB UNLV
9. Tommy Blake, DE TCU
10. Quincy Black, LB New Mexico

Biggest Surprise – Air Force
Thanks to great play from the lines, surprisingly solid defense, and a good season from QB Shaun Carney, the Falcons are in the thick of the Mountain West race. Tennessee might have letdown a bit after opening the year with a big win over Cal, but that still doesn’t diminish Air Force’s performance in a 31-30 loss in Knoxville.

Biggest Disappointment – TCU 
The disappointment is made bigger by the near-perfect performance in a 12-3 win over Texas Tech earlier in the year. After blowing the BCS shot with a home loss to BYU, the Horned Frogs got rolled over at Utah to get knocked out of the Mountain West race.  

The Mountain West Champion will be ... BYU
This is a coldly efficient team that got over early season disappointments at Arizona and Boston College to roll through a tough road trip to TCU and a layup against San Diego State. The defense is solid, the offense is more balanced than the stats might indicate, and QB John Beck is playing lights out. .Games at Air Force and Colorado State won’t be walks in the park, but the Cougars should get through unscathed until the season-ending battle at Utah.

Best Game of the First Half 
Boston College 30 ... BYU 23 2OT, Sept. 16
At both teams missed field goals in the first overtime, Matt Ryan connected with Tony Gonzalez for a 25-yard touchdown and a BC lead in the second overtime, and then the defense came to the rescue as Jamie Silva made a diving interception, which took several minutes to be reviewed, to finally stop the BYU offense. The Cougars rolled up 554 yards of total offense with John Beck running for a score, throwing for another, and bombing away leading the attack to 554 yards. But drive after drive ended up in field goal attempts with Jared McLaughlin hitting three, but missing enough to keep the Eagles in the game. BC turned it over four times, but got two short Brian Toal touchdowns and an 18-yard scoring grab from Gonzales to keep pace.
Second Best Game Syracuse 40 ... Wyoming 34 2OT, Sept. 30
Third Best Game Tennessee 31 ... Air Force 30, Sept. 9

Worst Game of the First Half 
Utah 48 ... Utah State 0, Sept. 16
Utah outgained Utah State 401 yards to 98 with Brett Ratliff throwing three touchdowns passes including two to Derrek Richards. The Utes got up 24-0 starting off with a 21-yard Eric Shyne interception return for a score less than two minutes into the game. Steven Sylvester later added a 45-yard pick six for the Utes late in the third quarter. Louis Sakoda hit field goals from 39 and 27 yards out.

Coach of the Midseason – Sonny Lubick, Colorado State
Colorado State had a miserable run defense last season, but now it’s a tougher, harder nosed D that was 13th in the nation against the run before the Thursday night game against Air Force. There might not have been a more vital injury loss this year than CSU losing RB Kyle Bell just before the start of the year, but the Rams have found a way to go 4-2.

Player who'll step up in the second half – Karsten Sween, QB Wyoming
Is the lefty the face of Wyoming football for the next four years? The former California high school superstar has a next-level arm and great skills, but now he needs time and experience. He took over for Jacob Doss and threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns in his first two games, and he’ll bomb away more over the second half of the year.

Best performance so far -
Utah S Eric Weddle made four tackles, three interceptions, returned two for touchdowns, and ran three times for 11 yards and a score in the 38-7 win over San Diego State.

Top Freshman – Karsten Sween, QB Wyoming
He’s only seen time in two games, but he was impressive completing 38 of 59 passes for 4-5 yards and four scores with three interceptions against Syracuse and New Mexico.

Coach who needs to have a big second half – UNLV’s Mike Sanford  
After coming six points away from going 0-11 last year, Sanford’s team appeared to be ready for a big turnaround thanks to several transfers including a big upgrade at quarterback thanks to former USC Trojan Rocky Hinds. Not quite. Despite a close call at Iowa State, nothing much has gone right since the opening game blowout of D-IAA Idaho State.  

Player who needs to have a big second half – Utah QB Brett Ratliff
Things were so bad after Ratliff completed five of 21 passes for 30 yards and three interceptions the blowout loss to Boise State that there was talk of bringing injured QB Brian Johnson back early to give it a go. Ratliff quickly righted the ship with a good game against TCU, and now he has to shine over the second half of the season to get the offense back at a Utah-like level and be in range for the Mountain West title going into the season-ender against BYU.

Best remaining conference game – BYU at Utah, Nov. 25
How much would Utah love to ruin BYU’s Mountain west title dream with a win? Several other team should be in the mix up until the end, but this bitter rivalry will determine the title one way or another.

Team Mid-Season MVPs & Predictions   
Air Force – QB Shaun Carney
predicted wins: Colorado State, at San Diego State, at Army, Utah, at UNLV
predicted losses: BYU, Notre Dame, at TCU
predicted record: 7-5

BYU – QB John Beck
predicted wins: UNLV, at Air Force, at Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico, at Utah
predicted losses: None
predicted record: 10-2

Colorado State – QB Caleb Hanie
predicted wins: New Mexico, TCU, at San Diego State
predicted losses: at Air Force, at Wyoming, BYU, at Utah
predicted record: 7-5
New Mexico – LB Quincy Black
predicted wins: at UNLV, San Diego State
predicted losses: Utah, at Colorado State, TCU, at BYU
predicted record: 4-8

San Diego State – DB Donny Baker
predicted wins: Cal Poly, UNLV
predicted losses: Air Force, at Wyoming, at TCU, at New Mexico, Colorado State
predicted record: 2-10

TCU – DE Tommy Blake
predicted wins: at Army, Wyoming, at UNLV, at New Mexico, San Diego State
predicted losses: at Colorado State, Air Force
predicted record: 8-4

UNLV – CB Eric Wright
predicted wins: None
predicted losses: New Mexico, at BYU, at Utah, TCU, at San Diego State, Wyoming, Air Force
predicted record: 0-12
Utah – CB Eric Weddle
predicted wins: at New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State, at Air Force
predicted losses: at Wyoming, BYU
predicted record: 8-4

Wyoming – S John Wendling
predicted wins: Utah, Colorado State, San Diego State, at UNLV
predicted losses: at TCU, at BYU
predicted record: 6-6