2010 Mountain West Conference PredictionsThe past two years have been banner years for the Mountain West conference in football. Two years ago Utah finished an undefeated regular season by upsetting Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Last year TCU narrowly lost to fellow undefeated upstart Boise St in the Fiesta Bowl. In fact it could be argued that last year the Mountain West was stronger than the Big East or perhaps even the ACC.
This year could be no different. Both TCU and Utah are expected to be among the elite teams in the nation. Utah has added incentive as they are leaving for the Pac 10 next year, and want to leave the Mountain West on top. The Utes are to be replaced by Boise St, so the Mountain West could be a power conference for years to come.
We will find out about the strength of the conference during the first week of the season as 6 of the 9 teams play tradition BCS conference power teams. Pitt travels to Utah, Colorado and Colorado St play in their traditional Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver, New Mexico travels to Oregon in what should be a tough game for the rebuilding Lobos, Heisman Trophy Candidate QB Jake Locker leads Washington into Provo for a matchup with BYU, Wisconsin comes to the desert to play UNLV in what has become a regular trip, and in the marquee matchup of the day Oregon St and TCU play in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Later on in the season match-ups such as Air Force-Oklahoma, Wyoming-Texas, UNLV-West Virginia, and Utah-Notre Dame dot the schedule. All of those match-ups are on the road, so all MWC teams should be heavy underdogs in those games.
Here is a more in depth look at all the Mountain West teams along with our college football predictions for order of finish barring injury.
TCU – The Horned Frogs return 16 starters from a team that finished with one loss. They finished in the top five in the country in both total offense and total defense. Senior Quarterback Andy Dalton leads the offense and has two talented senior wide receivers Jimmy Young and Jeremy Kerley to throw to. Sophomore Matthew Tucker takes over at tailback from Joseph Turner, but it shouldn’t be a drop off. The defense which only gave up 13 points a game last year expects to be as good if not better this year. The schedule is favorable for a run to possibly another BCS game. After the Oregon St game, home games against BYU and Air Force and a tough road game against Utah are the only potential roadblocks for an undefeated season.
Utah – Though Utah would love to win the conference in their last year, it could be tough sledding. They do get TCU at home, but the Horned Frogs thumped them last year 55-28 in Fort Worth. The Utes only return 4 starters on defense, which could prove to be their undoing. The schedule is tougher than TCU’s as well. After playing Pitt at home on the opening night of the season, they have tough road games at Notre Dame, Iowa St, Air Force, and an improving San Diego St, plus the always tough Holy War against archrival BYU in Salt Lake City. If they can survive those games plus TCU, they could possibly steal a BCS bid, but I don’t see it happening.
Air Force – The Falcons are always tough, as their triple option is difficult to defend against. This year they could contend for the conference title if they get some breaks. Last year they lost narrow games to TCU and Utah and won their bowl game against Houston convincingly 47-20. It will be difficult for the Falcons to go to Fort Worth and win, but you never know. I think a bowl bid is likely, but it could be the Armed Forces Bowl or the Las Vegas Bowl rather than a more prestigious bowl.
BYU – The Cougars have made Las Vegas almost a second home as they have had four straight trips to the Las Vegas Bowl. This year could be a rebuilding year as they have to replace QB Max hall and RB Harvey Unga. They only have 11 returning starters, and could have trouble competing against TCU, Air Force and Utah. They also have tough non conference games against Washington, Nevada, and at Florida St. The Cougars will probably go to a bowl game, but it might be in Albuquerque, Fort Worth or San Diego instead of Vegas.
San Diego State - The Aztecs haven’t really been competitive in football since Marshall Faulk left almost 20 years ago. That could change this year, as they have a favorable schedule and 16 starters returning from last year. They have a chance to upset a rebuilding BYU in Provo. The season-ender vs. UNLV at home could be for a trip for the New Mexico Bowl.
UNLV – The Rebels were a narrow loss against Wyoming last year from their first bowl bid in 10 years. They finished 5-7 which cost Mike Sanford his job as head coach. He is replaced by Bobby Hauck who competed for several FCS championships at Montana. The Rebels have 15 starters returning but need more consistent play from QB Omar Clayton and the defense which was atrocious last year. The schedule is brutal with home games against Wisconsin, TCU, and archrival Nevada and road games at Utah, BYU, San Diego St, West Virginia, and Hawaii.
Wyoming – The Cowboys upset Fresno St in overtime in the New Mexico Bowl last year. They could surprise some teams and are pretty much even with San Diego St and UNLV. Those three will compete for the MWC’s last bowl bid. Wyoming does travel to Texas before getting Boise St at home the next week.
Colorado State - The Rams failed to win a conference game last year, but did upset Colorado in their season opener last year. They only have 12 starters returning, including only 4 on offense. It could be tough for them to compete this year, especially with the schedule which includes games at Nevada, Miami (OH), Air Force and Utah.
New Mexico - The Lobos only won one game last year against Colorado St. this year they are still young with only 7 seniors starting total on both offense and defense. I don’t see much improvement and they will compete with Colorado St for the worst team in the conference. New Mexico has tough nonconference games at Oregon and at home against UTEP and Texas Tech. The Lobos will be better in 2011 but this year could be pretty rough going.
It should be a great season in the Mountain West this year, and I look forward to seeing what happens. We will be providing picks all season long against the college football betting lines so be sure to signup for our football package.