Blog Entry

Picking the Mountain West

Posted on: June 4, 2009 1:05 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2009 1:36 pm
The Mountain West needs to focus, look closer. Capitol Hill's favorite conference spent the offseason pitching its case to Congress and challenging the BCS.  

But let's be clear. It was the coaches poll -- the prove-it-on-the-field guys -- that hit Utah with a lead pipe with its final regular-season poll.

The Utes finished No. 7. Seventh, for what turned out to be the nation's only undefeated major-college team. Utah's chances were dead before it got that Sugar Bowl bid. Great result and all that in New Orleans but let's analyze why the Utes couldn't play for it all.

There's a bias, all right. It comes from the coaches. The Harris poll also voted Utah seventh before the bowls but it almost gets a pass. The Harris voters aren't in the business, lining their pockets with bowl money, at the same time denying two major-college teams (Boise was undefeated in the regular season too) a better bowl fate.

The coaches, dear Mountain West, are the ones who have drawn the line -- and it clearly doesn't include teams from below the BCS level. Is that about to change? We'll see with the Mountain West sporting three possible BCS busters again this season (Utah, BYU, TCU). 

Only the top two teams in the BCS play in the national championship. The winner gets the coaches poll automatic No. 1 vote (or is supposed to). 

Heck, Utah was only able to make it up to No. 4 in the coaches after beating Alabama by two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl.

The BCS might be unfair to the great unwashed non-BCS school but it is unfair mostly because the voting coaches -- by and large -- don't take those schools seriously. (Remember, Utah finished second in the Associated Press media poll. It was fifth among the computers.)

Guess who had the majority of the coaches votes last season? Thirty-seven of the 61 voting coaches came from BCS conferences (61 percent). The power conference schools make up only 55 percent of Division I-A. 

The Mountain West voters were New Mexico's Rocky Long (Utah, No. 7 before the bowls); TCU's Gary Patterson (No. 7) and Utah's Kyle Whittingham (No. 5). Whittingham voted his Utes No. 1 after the Sugar Bowl.

The Mountain West has done its best to make all of this clear.  Unfortunately, it will be another five seasons, at least, before any kind of playoff can be staged.

Until then, there is a hope. Short of a playoff, we learned in January that the Mountain West could gain automatic BCS access by 2012
The noble fight goes on in 2009 with Utah expected to repeat as conference champions. Don't tell TCU and BYU, though.

Picking the Mountain West ... 

1. Utah -- Give Whittingham credit. He didn't mope around after getting shafted. He didn't skip town for a bright, shiny new job. He stuck to the task. Losing quarterback Brian Johnson, kicker/punter Louie Sakoda and defensive end Paul Kruger won't be hard with 24 redshirt freshmen returning, not including three players back from missions. Remember the name Corbin Louks at quarterback. 

2. BYU -- Along the Wasatch Range they're talking about the Cougars the way the rest of the nation is talking about Utah. Coach Bronco Mendenhall has won 32 games the past three seasons while winning two Mountain West titles. This year's team is loaded and gets the Utes at home to finish the regular season. Best sign? The last four times BYU has had a senior quarterback, it has won the league. Senior Max Hall is the Mountain West's best at his position. Defensive end Jan Jorgensen is the league's career sack leader.

3. TCU -- Coach Gary Patterson specializes in taking high school running backs and turning them into defensive terrors. Get ready, then, for All-American defensive end Jerry Hughes to cause more damage. Hughes was handed a defensive number when he got to Fort Worth and went to work. Last year he led the nation with 15 sacks. TCU's unit as a whole led the nation giving up only 47 rushing yards. If the Frogs are going to jump over Utah, they can't get bogged down offensively. Last year's 13-10 loss in Salt Lake City was a killer.

4. Air Force -- It has been a seamless transition from Fisher DeBerry to Troy Calhoun who has won 17 games in his first two seasons in Colorado Springs. The option offense continues to be the great equalizer. The Falcons should win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. Beyond that, we're wondering if Air Force is the team that started 8-2 in '08 or the one that lost its last three.

5. UNLV -- Mike Sanford likely saved his job by winning five games last season. Bowl eligibility is a definite possibility this season. That's saying a lot for a program that has had one winning season in the last 14. Ryan Wolfe is the leading returning receiver in the league (88 catches, six touchdowns).

6. New Mexico -- First-time, first-year coach Mike Locksley has made his share of waves since arriving in the high desert. He injected some energy in what had become a lazy program. He used his recruiting prowess to snatch a few players from the Washington, D.C. area. Above all else, Locksley, the former Illinois OC, needs a Juice Williams-like presence at quarterback. Recruit Emmanuel Yeager left school recently to go back to D.C. That might have set the position back considering incumbent Donovan Porterie was recruited by Rocky Long to run the option. 

7. Colorado State -- Steve Fairchild took the Rams from 3-9 to 7-6 (and a bowl win) in his first season. That tied for the most wins since 2002. The defense must get better after giving up 30 points per game. A veteran offensive line could spring junior tailback John Mosure for a big year.

8. Wyoming -- Dave Christensen, his Hog and his spread offense blew into Laramie from Missouri promising  more appealing football. Christensen was the OC at Missouri for Chase Daniel and the Tigers' record-setting offense. Last season Wyoming's offense averaged less than 13 points per game. There's no one on the roster close to resembling Daniel. Let's hope that Christensen's motorcycle isn't the program's most entertaining feature.

9. San Diego State -- Still trying to figure out why Brady Hoke made this lateral move from Ball State to take this job. Sure, Ball State wouldn't bump up salaries for Hoke's assistants. Is that a reason to go to the worst program in the Mountain West? Brady, your career is at risk here. 

Since: Apr 26, 2007
Posted on: August 12, 2009 5:46 pm

Picking the Mountain West

Utah Prediction

7-4 (losses to Oregon, TCU, San Diego St., and BYU). Clerly behind both BYU and TCU.  Back to where they belong.

Since: Jul 3, 2009
Posted on: July 3, 2009 3:36 pm

Picking the Mountain West

With TCU and Utah in the hunt, 1 conf. loss (as you predict) will leave the Cougars lucky to get a share of the title. Not exactly "running away".

Since: Jul 3, 2009
Posted on: July 3, 2009 3:30 pm

Picking the Mountain West

12-0 is out of reach. I will bet my house on BYU losing to Oklahoma. However, BYU is my pick to get to a BCS game as the first 1 loss BCS Buster. TCU lost to Oklahoma last year and still would have been the BCS Buster if they could kick a field goal at Utah.

Since: Aug 31, 2008
Posted on: July 2, 2009 4:36 pm

Picking the Mountain West

Thanks for the props LonghornsUnite!

But unfortunately, BYU isn't going to be able to handle your nemesis the Sooners.  And then if they are able to run the table in-conference, that will be another blow to the MWC.  Everyone will say, yup, BYU is good for a MWC team, but they lost HUGE to a REAL team on the first game of the season.

After watching OU completely destroy TCU last year, it is obvious that coach Stups will not overlook BYU.  BYU will get pounded unfortunately.  There will be no emotional lag, and the OU players will be licking their chops all summer long waiting to get a hold of my Cougars.
Thanks again, but I worry that my Cougars are going to lose to OU, FSU and then stammer into the conference games and probably lose another game that they should've won.  Then at the end of the season, UTAH will be playing for more, and BYU will fold on it's home turf.

BYU 8-4

Since: Dec 1, 2007
Posted on: June 20, 2009 8:16 pm

Picking the Mountain West

BYU was vulnerable in the secondary last year; any team with a decent passing game picked them apart. If I was a BYU fan, I would be very concerned about the opener against Oklahoma. Oklahoma will attack that secondary all day long and will likely provide some great film for BYU's other apponents to study and duplicate.  

Since: Sep 10, 2006
Posted on: June 20, 2009 3:01 am

Not so fast my friend

I don't think the top 4 will be as clear cut as that. All 4 of those teams can win the conference. Utah lost a lot in their O(Johnson) and K Sakoda. BYU still has Hall but lost a chunk of their receiving corps and a questionable D. TCU has an impenatrable D, but is inconsitent offensivelly. AF didn't lose many of their guys from last year which went 8-5(5-3), but lack speed at most positions.

Since: Jan 17, 2009
Posted on: June 15, 2009 5:38 pm

Picking the Mountain West

Texas is playing at Wyoming

Florida State is playing at BYU

future homes games for BYU include

Arizona State and Washington... PAC Ten will come to provo no problem. 

BYU also did a 2 home 2 away series with Boise State starting around 2011.

But BYU gets large enough crowds and money in to allow it.


Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: June 10, 2009 1:55 pm

Picking the Mountain West

I could see that happening. You guys almost got Utah last year. You guys sure play TCU pretty tough. BYU seems to have you number though.

I have already picked Utah to finish behind you guys  next year. Jefferson, and Asher Clark, I think that is his name, sure are pretty good.

Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: June 10, 2009 1:51 pm

Actually the Michigan game was a one and done

No visit to Utah was included.

Since: Aug 23, 2007
Posted on: June 10, 2009 1:48 pm

Normally I would agree

But there is a reason why BYU has not lost at home since 2005. They just play like a very different team there. Couple that with the fact that Utah is losing a lot on both sides of the ball, and it doesn't bode well for Utah.

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