Complete MWC Preview:
The Mountain West Conference Landscape is constantly changing: literally, ever since the conference’s induction in 1998 5 teams have left or going to leave (BYU in 2011, Utah in 2011, TCU in 2012, Boise State in 2013 and Sand Diego State in 2013) and 5 new teams are going to be arriving in the 2012-13 seasons (Fresno State in 2012, Nevada in 2012, Hawaii in 2012, San Jose State in 2013, and Utah State in 2013). With Boise State being the only team even being ranked close enough to the top 25, they seem like the favorites to win the MWC, though it always seems as if they stumble right before they enter greatness. Who could it be this year?
Boise State Broncos: ever since the 2000’s the Broncos have been a dominant force in the WAC/MWC and are synonymous with being snubbed by the BCS. led by 7th year head coach Chris Petersen the broncos traverse into an uncertain 2012 campaign, losing there 4 year starter Kellen Moore, top rusher Doug Martin and top receiver Tyler Shoemaker, the Broncos look to reload and seek there first, and last, MWC title as they prepare to leave for the Big East in 2013.
Wide Receiver: Despite losing top receiver Tyler Shoemaker (994 yds. 16 TD), the Broncos return their next best 3 Receivers Matt Miller (679 yds. 9 TD), Mitch Burroughs (500 yds. 1 TD) and Geraldo Boldewijn. Plus you return 4 other receivers who hade a combined for 779 yds. and 7 TDs. with plenty of talent and opportunity left in this sector, I see Boise State passing as much as they did last year.
Defense: The last four seasons Boise State has had a top 20 defense in the FBS. This season they leave behind a defense that was ranked 12th overall and 7 players to the Pro Football Leagues. Pete Kwiatkowski has a lot of work to do if he is to get Boise State into a defensive scheme worthy of the BCS Bowls. He has 4 talented starters returning this season, CB Jamar Taylor (26 TOT, 0.5 Sacks, and 1 INT), Ebenezer Makinde (16 TOT), Quaylon Ewing-Burton (26 TOT), and Johnthan Brown (19 TOT and 1 INT). Comparably to the rest of the MWC the Broncos have the best looking defenses going into the next year, but it is up to the offense to supply enough to win.
Running Back: the Broncos are losing their best two running backs this season, Doug Martin who rushed for 1299 yds. and 16 TDs and D.J. Harper who rushed for 557 yds. and 9 TDs. Boise State’s running game has been decimated and may find it difficult to rebuild off losing 1856 yds. of running game offense.
Quarterback: The broncos may have the hardest time replacing their QB, because he was the winningest QB in history. Kellen Moore had a 50-3 record along with a 2012 campaign crested by 3800 yds. and 43 TDs. Joe Southwick has some impossibly big shoes to fill this year, but with a stable full of WR he can do the job
Fresno State: The Bulldogs go into the 2012 season without Pat Hill, the ex-head coach of Fresno State, who coached the bulldogs for 15 years. Money issues underlined a questionable firing that has sent the Bulldogs into a culture shock. Timothy DeRuyter in his first year lead the Bulldogs into a new conference to excel athletically in hopes that this fresh start with new and old foe’s will rejuvenate the football culture in Fresno.
Quarterback: One year in the MWC and the Bulldogs may have the best QB in the league. As of now, that seems to be a highly likely possibility. Derek Carr had a QB Rating of 144.5, the highest of any QB currently in the MWC, and threw for 279 completions, 3544 yds. and 26 TDs. With many WR and TE returning next year, you may want to keep your eye on this Bulldog QB.
Offensive Units: Robbie Rouse contributed the majority of the rushing yards last season with 1549 and had 13 TD. The only concern I have with the running back department is that if Robbie is unable to play, then their Running game is done. Though the bulldogs may be more wise to use all of their snaps on the passing game. Jalen Saunders, the Bulldog’s top receiver, returns to Fresno with 1065 yds. and 12 TDs. The next 5 receivers also return to Fresno and will get even more opportunities to catch the ball, as Derek Carr will try to attempt the impossible: a 4000+ yrd. season.
Defense: there are only so few limitations holding this team back from a MWC title, and the Defense sticks out like a sore thumb. Though the offense was great last year, the defense was more to be desired. To put it into perspective, the Bulldogs let the opponent into the end zone an average of 7 times last year ( 106th in BCS 35.2 points against). They mine as well put out a welcome mat at the front of the end zone because of how frequent an opponent visit is. On the bright side the Dogs return 7 starters from last season, though have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with Boise State.
New Head Coach: Replacing a head coach with a winning record is never easy. Especially when you hire someone with little head coaching experience. Tim DeRuyter has only coached one college football game in his career, and that was a Texas A&M team loaded with talent. With many of the players being seniors this year, if Fresno State doesn’t have a winning season in 2012, it may become a major setback to the program and people (Ticketholders) may begin to lose even more interest. Tim has shown that he can coach talented players, but how he can recruit after the 2012 season is the real question.
Nevada Wolf Pack: the pack went 19-4 in their last 3 seasons in the WAC and intended on taking their first MWC title from a familiar foe. A foe last faced in the WAC in 2010, when they upset them 34-31 in OT. Everyone knows that foe is Boise State and everyone knows that Boise State will certainly want to get a conference win against them. And what fashion playing them in Reno in the last game of the season, though if may be tough for the Wolf Pack due to many losses on the offense.
Quarterback: Cody Fajardo returns for his sophomore season and plans on increasing his passing yards, as he no longer has to share playing time with , the now departing senior QB, Tyler Lantrip. Cody threw for 1707 yds. and 6 TDs during his rookie year. Assuming the growing pains are over, he will have some wide receivers to throw to.
Running Back: ranked 8th in the FBS in rushing last season, the Pack returns 5 of their 7 who rushed for 100 yds. or more. Nevada may be losing their top rusher Lampford Mark (911 yds. 10 TD), but have Mike Ball (704 yds. 3 TD), Cody Fajardo (694 11 TD) and plenty of others to easily replace Lampford. with the garuntee of more touches in the line of scrimmage next season, Cody and Mike should get a lot more yards and TDs next season.
Defense: The Wolf Pack wasn’t known for their stellar defense last year and losing 6 of them doesn’t make your defense seem any better. Nevada ranked 58th in the BCS and gave up 25.2 PPG to the opponent. Though their defense won’t be horrendous next season it may be bad enough to keep them out of the MWC title hunt. Defense Coordinator Mike Bradeson has done an excellent job at cleaning up the defense (Nevada was giving up close to 32 PPG in the last 3 seasons before he got to Nevada) and shouldn’t be doubted, although it is uncertain how the defense will fare next season.
Wide Receiver: Nevada’s top 2 receivers Rishard Matthews (1364 yds. 8 TD) and Shane Anderson (526 yds. 2 TD) are leaving this upcoming season plus Corbin Louks (303 yds. 1 TD) and Tray Session (291 yds.1 TD) are going with them, which leaves Kolby Arendse (340 yds. 2 TD) and Aaron Bradley (336 yds. 3 TD) as the only receivers left that caught for more than 48 yds. QB Cody Farjadrdo is going to need to throw like fire if he is going to replicate the 3369 yards of receiving that the Wolf Pack threw last season.
Others Teams To watch Out For:
Wyoming Cowboys: the Cowboys was a surprise in the MWC last year after going 8-5 (5-2) and getting their first bowl bid since 2009. Sophomore Brett Smith comes back to Wyoming with his 2633 yds. and 20 TDs. Brett will have many options to throw to next season including top WR Chris McNeill (504 yds. 4 TDs) comes back for his Senior Year as the Cowboys are only losing 2 WR in the top 7 that caught for more than 200 yds. The Cowboys will also be rushing more as the Top rusher returns, Brett Smith, the QB, along with Ghaali Muhammad (379 yds.), Brandon Miller (364 yds.) and Kody Sutton (146 yds.) It wouldn’t kill Wyoming to improve on their defense (67th overall 27.8 points against) as 7 starters return. The only reason I don’t see the Cowboys making it higher is that they have a schedule that doesn’t favor them, road games against Fresno State, and Nevada may prove to be the dagger.
San Diego State Aztecs: Rocky Long returns to the MWC with a winning record of 8-5 while at SDSU. The Aztecs are on a 2-bowl appearance streak and intended to keep that streak going, and of course aim for a MWC title though it might prove to be a little bit tough for the Aztecs to say at .500. The Aztecs lose Ryan Lindley to the NFL but reload quickly with Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz. Ryan’s career with Oregon State is highlighted by his 2010 season when he threw for 2401 yds. and 17 TDs and 11 interceptions. Though not much of an upgrade, the QB has many targets to throw to as Colin Lockett returns with his 970 yard performance and 8 TDs. Despite Losing WR Gavin Escobar (780 yds. 7 TDs) the Aztecs still have Dylan Denso (634 yds. 3 TDs) and Walter Kazee (89 yds.) to throw to. The Aztecs running game will take a huge blow as Ronnie Hillman left prematurely to pursue a career in the NFL and will leave questions to be answered about the running game. The Aztecs return 6 starters on a defense that gave up 25 points last season. Like the Cowboys, a tough schedule (road games at Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada) will doom the Aztecs to a minimal season.
Players to watch out for:
WR: Colin Lockett, SDSU
QB: Brett Smith, Wyoming
RB: Chris Nwoke, Colorado State
DE: C.J. James, Colroado State
LB: Alex Means, Air Force Academy
DT: Ben Durbin, Wyoming
DB: Nat Berhe, San Diego State
CB: Blair Burns, Wyoming
DL: Nordly Capi, Colorado State
S: Luke Anderson, Wyoming
Most Important Games of The Season:
1. Boise State @ Nevada
2. Fresno State @ Boise State
3. Boise State @ MSU
4. Fresno State @ Nevada
5. BYU @ Boise State
Final Standings and Bowl Destinations:
1. Boise State (Las Vegas Bowl)
2. Fresno State (Poinsettia Bowl)
3. Nevada (Independence Bowl)
4. Wyoming (Armed Forces Bowl)
5. San Diego State (New Mexico Bowl)
6. Colorado State
7. Air Force
9. New Mexico