Mountain West Preview



We begin our 2014 college football conference previews with the mid-majors. We’ll talk about the two divisions of the Mountain West today and Thursday. Then, this weekend, we’ll do the same in Conference USA. Next week brings the Mid-American Conference (Wednesday and Thursday), followed by the Sun Belt (Saturday) and Independents featuring Notre Dame and BYU (Sunday).

After that…the rest of July will be devoted to the traditional power conferences…running all the way up through the SEC on the final two days of the month. To stay in touch with baseball’s pennant races, we’ll sprinkle in series previews on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.

Going to be a great month! Let’s kick off the previews!

Mountain West: “East” Division

Boise State
2013 Record: 8-5
2013 Rankings: 20 on offense, 75 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Bryan Harsin (first year here as head coach)
Notebook: Bryan Harsin used to be the offensive coordinator here. He moved to Texas, where his tenure under Mack Brown was largely a disappointment (when compared to media hype). His first experience as a head coach came last year at Arkansas State. Is he ready to run the show in Boise? Answer that question and you probably pick the division winner. The Broncos fell far away from their prior pace in 2013…suggesting former coach Chris Petersen left at the right time. Many publications are picking Boise to win the East. We have our eyes on the next team.

Utah State
2013 Record: 9-5
2013 Rankings: 59 on offense, 12 on defense
Returning Starters: 3 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Matt Wells
Notebook: Chuckie Keeton is the most important offensive force in the Mountain West. He returns in 2014 after missing much of 2013 with an injury. If the low volume of returning starters wasn’t such an issue, the Aggies would be a no-brainer pick to repeat as divisional champs. We love what we’ve seen with how this staff coaches defense. And, we love Keeton. We’ll be looking for value spots to bet Utah State in Las Vegas against the likes of Tennessee, Wake Forest, and BYU. Hopefully Keeton will be healthy for the season finale and likely divisional championship game at Boise State on November 29.

Colorado State
2013 Record: 8-6
2013 Rankings: 24 on offense, 80 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Jim McElwain
Notebook: The Rams did a good job last year separating themselves from the also-rans in this league. You may recall that wild and crazy New Mexico Bowl where they stole a win from Washington State in the final moments. Quarterback Garrett Grayson is back, and enough starters return to suggest that CSU will be a value team again vs. teams below them in the Power Ratings or anyone with a bad defense.

2013 Record: 5-7
2013 Rankings: 22 on offense, 111 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Craig Bohl (first year)
Notebook: Tough situation here with a new head coach…installing a new pro-style system…with no experience at quarterback. Last year’s offensive stats rankings misleading, as their then spread offense ran up numbers vs. very bad teams but struggled vs. quality. Transitional year…probably featuring an ugly September with road games at Oregon and Michigan State.

Air Force
2013 Record: 2-10
2013 Rankings: 91 on offense, 114 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Troy Calhoun
Notebook: Stunning how this program has just collapsed under Troy Calhoun. Their stat rankings were horrible last season even against a soft schedule. One of the two wins was over Colgate. Assume the worst, particularly later in the season when the players start to wear down physically in league play.

New Mexico
2013 Record: 3-9
2013 Rankings: 53 on offense, 119 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Bob Davie
Notebook: Very tough to win here because the high school programs are so weak. There may never be a time when the Lobos can truly compete even as a low mid-major. They did crush state rival New Mexico State last year though…and they may finish ahead of Air Force in league action for the second straight season.

Back tomorrow to look at Fresno State, potential darkhorse Nevada, and the rest of the “West” division of the Mountain West.

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Here’s the rest of this week’s NOTEBOOK schedule.

Thursday: College Football: Mountain West “West” Preview (including Fresno State)
Friday: July 4 Baseball Extravaganza
Saturday: College Football: Conference USA “East” Preview
Sunday: College Football: Conference USA “West” Preview

Get your notepads ready and sharpen those pencils! Prepare for 2014 football and enjoy SIZZLING SUMMER PROFITS all through July with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


Today we move West through Nevada, California, and all the way to Hawaii to study the other half.

Fresno State is still heavy favorite to win this group even though they lost star quarterback Derek Carr to graduation. Other teams are also dealing with quarterback issues. And, there’s room for an 11-2 team to fall back to earth and still be the best!

Mountain West “West” Division

Fresno State
2013 Record: 11-2
2013 Rankings: 3 on offense, 95 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Tim DeRuyter
Notebook: The beginning of the 2014 season could be very tough for whoever wins the quarterback job. Fresno opens with a bowl rematch against USC…who crushed them in Las Vegas last December. After that it’s a road game at Utah and a home game against Nebraska. But, after that…it’s smooth sailing until a road game in Boise in late October. Fresno will probably be favored in all Mountain West games not played in Boise unless the new offense just can’t get anything going. That’s unlikely in this system.

2013 Record: 4-8
2013 Rankings: 45 on offense, 117 on defense
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 8 on defense
Head Coach: Brian Polian
Notebook: The Wolfpack of Nevada are the most popular darkhorse pick this summer even though they could only manage a 4-8 record last season. Quarterback Cody Fajardo is the one “sure thing” at quarterback in terms of productivity in the Western half. And, you can see that a lot of starters return on both sides of the ball. Early tests against Washington State and Arizona (both bowl teams from the Pac 12) will give handicappers a much better sense of whether or not this group can dethrone Fresno State.

San Diego State
2013 Record: 8-5
2013 Rankings: 51 on offense, 53 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Rocky Long
Notebook: The Aztecs are a very tough team to figure. They started horribly last season (with a loss to Eastern Illinois!). Then, they managed to be “inconsistent” despite playing a lot of overtime games. Hard to imagine a team that could go overtime with both Boise State and horrible Hawaii…but SDSU did that in consecutive weeks. That 8-5 record in 2013 was really 5-4-4 at the end of regulation. Two of the wins were over poor New Mexico schools. September games at North Carolina and Oregon State may set the tone for a possible Cinderella run.

2013 Record: 7-6
2013 Rankings: 60 on offense, 97 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Bobby Hauck
Notebook: The Rebels stunned the football world last year by reaching a bowl game…but then were promptly squashed by North Texas 36-14 in Dallas. This tells you how bad things had gotten last year in the Mountain West…UNLV went 5-3 in league play! They have some workable options at quarterback (by league standards), and miss both Boise State and Utah State in the cross-divisional schedule rotation. That gives them a shot to matter in what could turn out to be a wide open division.

San Jose State
2013 Record: 6-6
2013 Rankings: 15 on offense, 103 on defense
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Ron Caragher
Notebook: San Jose could only manage a .500 record last year even though they had a quarterback (David Fales) who was getting rave reviews from NFL scouts. He’s graduated…which suggests that the team could really crash and burn this season. The offense is almost starting from scratch. The defense has some experience, but was awful last year. Keep an eye on this group as fade material…though an early-September loss at Auburn may show the world how bleak things are going to be.

2013 Record: 1-11
2013 Rankings: 57 on offense, 115 on defense
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Norm Chow
Notebook: Coach Chow is probably a great guy. But, the game of football passed him by many years ago. He kept proving that as a failure at offensive coordinator in a variety of places. He gets to end his career in the right place…but you REALLY have to be bad to go 1-11 as a Mountain West conference team…and then be projected for a another 11-loss season. Not a major college program any more.

That wraps up the Mountain West…with the survivor in the East between Boise State and Utah State likely to be the betting favorite in the championship game come December. Football season will be here before you know it…so build your bankrolls with daily baseball! You can always purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-800-323-4453.


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