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Mountain West Preview
by Ben Burns - 07/28/2009
The last time we heard from the Mountain West, Utah was dismantling Alabama as 14-point underdogs in the Sugar Bowl.
The upset capped the Utesâ€™ second undefeated season in the last five years and gave the MWC ammunition to make its case to be included in the BCS.
The BCS pushed aside the Mountain West like it was the WAC.
Donâ€™t make that same mistake by underestimating teams from by far the most underrated conference in college football
The MWC was an impressive 28-13 in on conference games last season, including 6-1 against the Pac-10.
Why will this year be any different?
TCU, BYU and Utah remain at the top of the pack, with Air Force and UNLV a notch below. San Diego State, with new coach Brady Hoke, could be the leagueâ€™s most improved squad. Colorado State lost a lot and should struggle to build off last yearâ€™s success. Wyoming and New Mexico are bringing up the rear. They both could stink.
BYU was a trendy BCS pick last year, but it was Utah, which blossomed into the No. 2 team in the country.
Thatâ€™s probably not going to happen again this year, but, if it does, it could be just the kind of event to finally force the BCS into some change.
(ATS records are from last three seasons)
TCU Horned Frogs
ATS: 22-13-1 (Home: 13-3. Away: 7-9-2)
Thing to remember: The Horned Frogs own the best ATS record in conference play, going 21-9-2 against the number the last four years.
ATS: 19-17-1 (Home: 10-6. Away: 8-9-1)
Thing to remember: The Cougars boast the leagueâ€™s top quarterback in senior Max Hall. But there are question marks about an offensive line with only one returning starter.
ATS: 22-14-1 (Home: 10-5-1. Away: 10-8)
Thing to remember: The Utes head into August with three quarterbacks vying to be the starter. Junior Corbin Louks seems to be the favorite, but it will be hard to keep Terrance Cain, the National JUCO Player of the Year, off the field.
Since Kyle Whittingham has been at Utah, including the two seasons he was Urban Meyerâ€™s top assistant, the Utes are an astounding 50-26 against the spread.
ATS: 16-18-1 (Home: 10-8. Away: 6-11-1)
Thing to remember: UNLV has a favorable schedule with seven home games. The Rebels are 11-5 ATS as home dogs during coach Mike Sanfordâ€™s tenure.
Air Force Falcons
ATS: 20-16 (Home: 9-7. Away: 10-7)
Thing to remember: Coach Troy Calhoun is attempting to jumpstart his offense by moving sophomore Asher Clark to quarterback. Clark played quarterback in high school and was the Falconsâ€™ second leading rusher as a freshman last year.
San Diego State Aztecs
ATS: 17-18 (Home: 9-6. Away: 6-12)
Thing to remember: It took a while for Brady Hoke to turn things around at Ball State. In fact, he suffered losing seasons in his first two years.
But he arrives at San Diego State at a good time. He inherits a team returning 15 starters, including talented quarterback Ryan Lindley.
The Aztecs took their licks last year, including an embarrassing 70-7 loss to New Mexico. So they quickly hired the Lobosâ€™ coach to be their defensive coordinator. New Mexico is at San Diego State on Halloween night. Keep an eye on that game as a possible big blowout.
Colorado State Rams
ATS: 16-18 (Home: 8-6. Away: 6-10)
Thing to remember: The Rams are a much different squad then the one that looked very good in beating Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl. Quarterback Billy Farris and running back Gartrell Johnson are both gone. And second-year coach Steve Fairchild has only five returning starters on defense.
ATS: 10-24-1 (Home: 6-11-1. Away: 4-13.)
Thing to remember: New head coach Dave Christensen is installing an uptempo, no-huddle spread offense. Perfect for the wintery conditions up in Laramie.
This has disaster written all over it. But can it get any worse for the Cowboys, who are 4-18-1 ATS the past two seasons? Theyâ€™ve covered in just 1 of their last 15 conference games.
New Mexico Lobos
ATS: 18-7-1 (Home: 11-7-1. Away: 6-10)
Thing to remember: Longtime coach Rocky Long wouldnâ€™t bolt to become a defensive coordinator at San Diego State if the Lobos had anything coming back.
A conference low nine starters return on a team that could be this yearâ€™s whipping boy in the MWC.