The media of the Mountain West Conference got together for their annual two-day Football Media Days and chose who they considered would win each of the two divisions: Mountain and West. The convincing winners were the Boise State Broncos for the Mountain Division and Fresno State Bulldogs for the West Division (source: MWC).
The Broncos earned 40 of the 41 first place votes while the Bulldogs received 39 of 41 first place votes. Boise State will be once again led by head coach Chris Petersen who is the dean of coaches in the Mountain West. Fresno State’s head coach is second-year man Tim DeRuyter.
Schedules differ, results don’t
The schedule isn’t the Broncos’ best friend and they have some early tests, including their first contest at Washington and their first road conference game at Fresno State. They also have road contests at Utah State, who is a program getting better and then in late October, a trip down to Provo, Utah, to play BYU. The other tough game will be in San Diego against the San Diego State Aztecs who beat Boise State last year in Idaho.
For the Bulldogs, their first five gridiron battles should set the tone for the rest of the year. To begin with, Rutgers comes a calling and then after a game with FCS power Cal Poly, Fresno State hits the road to play Colorado from the Pac-12. As mentioned above, Boise State visits Central California and then the Bulldogs head to the islands to play their rival, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Like Boise State, Fresno State has to visit San Diego but other than a season-ending contest versus San Jose State Spartans, truthfully, there aren’t any other tough games.
New is good?
Behind Boise State in the Mountain Division and chosen second while receiving the only other first place vote is Utah State. This is some heady stuff for a program that a few years ago was adrift as a lowly team in the lowly (now defunct) Western Athletic Conference (WAC). 2013 will be the Aggies first season in the tougher Mountain West; plus, they lost their head coach Gary Andersen to the Big Ten and Wisconsin. Still, there are pieces in place to have, at the very least, a winning record. The rest of the Mountain Division has the Air Force Falcons in third, Wyoming Cowboys fourth, Colorado State Rams fifth and the New Mexico Lobos bringing up the rear.
In the runner-up position after Fresno State in the West Division is San Diego State who received one first place vote, with the San Jose State Spartans close behind in third and receiving a first place vote as well. Very similar to Utah State, the Spartans were also a pitiful football program a few years ago in the WAC. They too have lost their coach to the big-time and again, like Utah State, San Jose State has some quality players back that may make their new move into the Mountain West a smoother transition. The Nevada Wolf Pack were chosen fourth, the UNLV Rebels in fifth and Hawaii Rainbow Warriors picked for last.
Is last worse?
The top choices appear correct but if you were to scrutinize the picks at all, there are two areas that come into question. First, expecting the incoming schools of Utah State and San Jose State to hold their weight in the new surroundings after having lost their coaches is at the very least a bit presumptuous. Secondly, the two teams chosen as last – New Mexico and Hawaii – are rebuilding their programs with experienced coaches at the helm and appear to have made significant strides to that end.
In this fans humble opinion, New Mexico could very well be as good as Utah State this year; and, when the two teams meet mid-season in Albuquerque, they could be battling to stay in the hunt for a bowl. Also, watch for Hawaii and San Jose State to be neck-and-neck in the middle of the West pack and their early October game in Honolulu could decide for both teams whether either goes to a postseason game or not. By the way, the Rainbow Warriors are embracing the last place pick (see video: KITV).
Expect the Broncos and Bulldogs to be clearly the leaders of the pack. In fact, a relatively early season Friday night game September 20th in Fresno, matching these top two teams, should go a long way towards deciding who’s best in the Mountain West. Plus the winner just may become a BCS buster this season.
Mountain West in 2014: Who Will Contend?
Mountain West Stays with Same Six Bowl Games … for Now
Top Four college football coaches in the West