Mountain West Eastern Division Preview

BOISE STATE AND UTAH STATE SET TO BATTLE FOR EASTERN HALF OF THE MOUNTAIN WEST

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.

Wyoming
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

As we said yesterday…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!

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