Here are five stories to watch in the Mountain West Conference this upcoming college football season?
The Buzz: Change has to be the buzzword surrounding both the Utah State and San Jose State programs. Both schools are making the jump from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West this offseason and both are doing so with new head football coaches. After four seasons of putting Utah State on the college football map, Gary Andersen left to take the head coaching job at Wisconsin leaving Matt Wells in charge. The same could be said for SJSU, which lost Mike MacIntyre to the Colorado job. His replacement, Ron Caragher, must now continue the progress made under MacIntyre. Wells’ familiarity with the program – he was the Aggies offensive coordinator last season – along with 18 returning starters from a team that finished 11-2 gives Utah State the slight edge heading into 2013.
Who wins the inaugural Mountain and West Divisions this season?
The Buzz: The additions of Utah State and San Jose State brought the league’s membership up to 12 and opened the door for the creations of two divisions and a championship game. Winners of the aptly named Mountain and West Divisions will compete at the site of the team ranked highest in the BCS rankings. Boise State, which shared the conference crown last season with Fresno State and San Diego State last season, should be the favorite to capture the Mountain Division. The Broncos are 28-4 all-time versus teams in their own division with Utah State presenting the biggest challenge. Out West, Fresno State, Nevada and San Diego State finished last season ranked 1-2-3 in scoring offense in the league. However with Derek Carr, the MWC offensive MVP last season, Fresno State has a slight edge in this race.
Who has the best shot of winning it all?
The Buzz: If it does come down to Boise State and Fresno State, the Broncos have the slight edge. Boise State coach Chris Petersen has owned the Bulldogs in this series, winning the past seven straight including last season’s game 20-10. Fresno State had the top scoring team in the conference in 2012 while Boise State led the league in defense. Although, the Broncos only return five starters from that defensive squad led by defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. The key to this game will come down to if Boise State can contain Derek Carr and Fresno State’s offense.
Should we expect to see Boise State back in the BCS Buster discussions?
The Buzz: It seems every season we are talking about Boise State making a strong run in the BCS rankings. Last season, the Broncos only returned seven starters from a team that finished 12-1 and many, including myself, thought Boise State’s chances of another BCS run were slim. Yet there they were finishing 19th in the final BCS poll, just a mere five spots shy of qualifying for a BCS bowl game. This season, Boise State returns 10 starters from last year, but losses key pieces at running back, offensive line, linebacker and the secondary. Chris Petersen always surprises his critics, but another strong BCS showing would be perhaps one of his greatest coaching jobs to date.
Who should we keep an eye out for this season?
The Buzz: Every conference has key players that fans should keep an eye on each season. The Mountain West is no different. Some of them we’ve already mentioned like Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, who passed for 4,105 yards and 37 touchdowns on his way to earning the league’s offensive MVP honors or his teammate Davante Adams, who set records for receptions (102), receiving yards (1,312) and touchdowns (14) as a freshman. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo led the league in total offense (325.6 per game) and could once again see big numbers. On the defensive side of the ball, Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence led the league in sacks (9.5) in 2012 and was tied for first in tackles for loss (13.5).
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