Last year the Mountain West jumped on the scene with three teams with 10 or more wins. Utah went undefeated and shocked the world, beating Alabama in a bowl game and making a case for a share of the title. This year the Mountain West Conference will be looking to make even greater strides.
1. TCU Horned Frogs—Gary Patterson led the Horned Frogs to a fantastic season culminating with a win over Boise St in the Poinsettia Bowl. They win with defense and have to replace a few names this year but bring back Jerry Hughes and his 15 sacks from a year ago. On offense they remain stable with Andy Dalton calling the signals. The Horned Frogs are the class of this conference and they will get revenge against Utah for a loss last year that ruined their season.
2. BYU Cougars—the Cougars were not impressive on defense but they return almost all of the starters from last year so they will have experience on their side. Max Hall returns at the helm and will be able to lead this team to a post season berth and a bowl game. After failing in last years big game this senior laden team will be ready for the fight. The schedule could be their biggest problem with big games against Oklahoma and Florida St outside of the conference.
3. Air Force Falcons—Air Force was not expected to play as well as they did last year and they will look for similar success in 2009. The strength of this Falcon team is on the ground and they will continue to run on the opposition. Asher Clark amassed over 500 yards as a freshman and should be even better this year. The Falcons have three returning starters on the offensive line back to help the running attack. The Falcons will win the commander’s trophy and be a threat in the MWC!
4. Utah Utes—this team was on top of the world last year as they went undefeated. Defeating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl may have just been the biggest win the history of the school. Don’t look for a similar year this season. The Utes have lost plenty of players in key positions and will have to replace the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. The offensive line has plenty of holes as well. Look for a dramatic drop in wins from last year and a rebuilding season for Utah.
5. San Diego St Aztecs—Coach Brady Hoke performed nicely at Ball St and was awarded with a head coaching job with the Aztecs. He is known as an offensive genius and the results will be seen immediately as the Aztecs return plenty of starters. Ryan Lindley performed well in his first year as quarterback and will bloom under the guidance of Hoke. If you’re looking for a dark horse in the Mountain West it has to be the Aztecs.
6. UNLV Running Rebels—The running rebels are looking forward to a great year and just may get it since they have Omar Clayton under center again this year. They will miss the ground game of Frank “The Tank” Summers but have some younger kids that will get a chance to replace them. UNLV pulled off some surprising upsets last year and if they can do it again they will be bowl eligible. This could be a make or break year for Mike Sanford as head coach of the Rebels.
7. New Mexico Lobos—Mike Locksley steps in for his first year as the Lobo head coach. He will have to do it without Rodney Ferguson who ran for over 1,000 yards last year but the good news is he keeps most of the offensive line in tact that made the holes for him. They have three very tough road games in Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and TCU that are surely to be losses. If they can keep close or even win one of those games the Lobos may be bowling, but that is a tall order.
8. Wyoming Cowboys –The Cowboys have a long way to go especially on offense. Last year they ranked dead last in the country in points scored but head coach Dave Christensen is going to implement a spread offense that he had success with in Missouri. They must settle a QB controversy and implement some younger talent to have a decent year. Dax Crum should be the signal caller when the season opens but it may not last. It will be another building year for the Cowboys.
8. Colorado St. Rams—the Rams are headed for a very tough season this year. The goal will be to just get some wins and experience under their belt for a team that loses almost every key player. The strength lies in the offensive line where they return four starters from a year ago, but there is not much talent outside of that. The secondary could keep them in a few games if the talent develops otherwise it is a rebuilding season for the Rams.
Mountain West Conference Winner: TCU Horned Frogs