2012 Mountain West Football Preview, Predictions
But unfortunately for them, they also have to replace key players at crucial positions and will likely still be playing catch up to the Broncos.
The Mountain West will be losing two of its flagship programs to the Big East beginning in 2013, with both Boise State and San Diego State choosing to leave for a better chance to receive BCS votes. San Jose State and Utah State will join in place of the two schools.
This could be the last year of prominence for the mid-major conference, at least for a little while. Here is a preview of the 2012 Mountain West season with predictions.
Boise State Broncos: 8-4 (7-1)
Coach Chris Petersen is being forced to replace the winningest college quarterback of all-time in Kellen Moore, first-round running back Doug Martin, his No. 1 receiver and tight end (Tyler Shoemaker and Kyle Efaw), all-conference linemen Nate Potter and Thomas Byrd, first-round DE/OLB Shea McClellin, third-round DE Tyrone Crawford, sixth-round selection Billy Winn, leading tackler Byron Hout and his top four tacklers in the secondary. Boise State will undoubtedly be fielding an entirely new team, and likely its worst one since 2007. But is it the favorite to win a watered down Mountain West? Yes.
Wyoming Cowboys: 9-3 (6-2)
The Cowboys finished 4-0 in games that resulted in a one-possession lead, ending the year 8-5 overall with a ridiculously young team. They return a playmaking sophomore quarterback, an incredible receiver corps, the entire starting offensive line, and nearly the whole two-deep defensive roster. Wyoming football will be relevant in 2012 and should contend with Boise State for the Mountain West title.
Nevada Wolf Pack: 7-5 (5-3)
In its first season as a member of the Mountain West, Nevada has a good chance to make some noise for the championship. It returns an exciting sophomore quarterback along with some good offensive weapons, a strong secondary and a Hall-of-Fame coach. The Wolf Pack will need to win some tough road games (at Hawaii, at Air Force), but if they do, the season finale vs. Boise State may mean something.
Fresno State Bulldogs: 6-6 (4-4)
Former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter takes over a Fresno State football program that has gone just 27-25 in its last four seasons, but still carries extremely high expectations. He will try to get his high-tempo offense and 3-4 defense to work in year one, but statistics show that it usually takes more than one season for new installments to make the full transition.
Hawaii Warriors: 6-6 (4-4)
66-year-old Norm Chow was hired as Hawaii's new head coach after its third seven-loss season in the last four years. He takes over a team that has no face on offense and loses seven starters on the defensive side of the ball. Chow brings experiences to the Warriors, but it will take more than that to get them back to their Colt Brennan years.
Air Force Falcons: 5-7 (3-5)
In five seasons leading the helm, coach Troy Calhoun has never won less than seven games and has appeared in a bowl every year. This streak is in major jeopardy, however, as his team returns just six starters with absolutely no experience on the bench. Air Force will need a great deal of luck to overcome its brutal schedule: at Michigan, vs. Navy, at Wyoming, vs. Nevada, at Fresno State.
San Diego State Aztecs: 5-7 (2-6)
Now that Brady Hoke's standouts are in the NFL, we'll see what second-year coach Rocky Long is made of. He'll have to replace longtime quarterback Ryan Lindley, an elite running back in Ronnie Hillman, the majority of the offensive line, all three starting defensive linemen, his leading tackler at linebacker, his leading tackler in the secondary, and even the punter. Injuries have been the storylines for SDSU's spring, which doesn't help its cause.
UNLV Rebels: 4-8 (2-6)
UNLV has finished with a winning record just four times over the last 25 seasons, it's last being in 2000. That's just a 16 percent chance of posting at least seven wins--8 percent since the new millenium. I'll take the odds.
Colorado State Rams: 1-11 (1-7)
I feel bad for CSU coach Jim McElwain. I really do. His former 4-star quarterback--who started as a true freshman and sophomore the last two seasons--has transferred to N.C. State. His best defensive lineman and primary reason for a good pass rush was expelled in May for fighting, along with two others in the front seven rotation. The Rams have lost everything they were looking forward to in what was once expected to be a bowl-bound campaign.
New Mexico Lobos: 1-11 (0-8)
What do you do as an athletic director when your school's football program has won just three games in as many years? You hire a coach that hasn't been on the field in over 10 years. That's exactly what New Mexico did as it hired former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie, last seen in 2001. He doesn't have anywhere to go but up, but even that has proved to be difficult for the Lobos lately.