2012 NCAA Football Preview: Mountain West Conference

August 27, 2012

I’ve changed my mind…I’m actually not sure whether or not all of my previews will be done before the season kicks off on Thursday. I will do my best to get all of the conference previews done by then, so that the only thing left is the “Final Thoughts” post.

Here is the Mountain West Conference preview.


TCU is no longer in the conference. Kellen Moore is no longer the quarterback of Boise State, and the Broncos will leave the conference after this season. Ryan Lindley and Ronnie Hillman are no longer the leaders at San Diego State. Where will the excitement come from in the Mountain West?

The answer lies in the unpredictability. Boise State appears to be a bit better than everyone else, but we don’t know that for sure. Can junior quarterback Joe Southwick step right in for the Broncos and lead them to a final Mountain West title? Or does Chris Ault and Nevada have enough talent to give Boise State fits as they did back when the two schools were WAC rivals just a few years ago? It is entirely possible that a complete surprise takes the conference by storm and ends up with the championship hardware at the end of the year.

Like other smaller conferences, don’t neglect the Mountain West simply because they don’t have five or six teams in the Top 25. The teams in this league play just as hard and will produce just as exciting battles.

Team(s) With the Best Shot at a National Championship Bid


Sorry, Boise State fans. With a new quarterback, almost entirely new defensive corps, the loss of a stud running back and a fairly difficult non-conference schedule, it seems unlikely that the Broncos will be able to make it through the year unscathed. However, the boys from the blue turf have made believers out of skeptics before, so don’t put anything completely past them.

On the same hand, the Broncos are really the only team that has even a remote chance of making it to the big game if they remain undefeated through the regular season. No other school in the conference has gained the amount of national respect necessary to be a true threat, even if it does finish without a blemish on the record.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)

Fresno State

The Bulldogs will be starting over with new head coach Tim DeRuyter, a much needed change for a team that used to strike fear in many of the big boys out West. Fresno State has a solid core of talent on offense, including a quarterback whose last name is pretty familiar on campus. Derek Carr, younger brother of Bulldogs great David Carr, will manage the offense for the team. Like his older brother, Carr has a strong arm but is able to use his legs to move the chains as well. If things go as planned, however, Carr will show off his cannon more than his speed in DeRuyter’s system.

The downfall of the team last season was its defense, which was awful. DeRuyter has switched to a 3-4 scheme and consequently will have a lot of inexperienced players starting games this fall. While this might result in some growing pains in September, it has the potential to pay dividends when it counts in November. If the defense comes together, this is a team with enough talent to break up Boise State and Nevada at the top of the Mountain West standings.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

Chris Nwoke (Jr.), Colorado State running back

Nwoke was a bright spot on a Colorado State team that did not have very many of them last season. In addition to breaking the 1,000 yard rushing barrier (he had 1,130 total on the season), he also had two separate games in which he rushed for more than 200 yards. Nwoke will be expected to continue the success in 2012 if the Rams want to have a successful campaign, especially since there is a new face at quarterback.

Nwoke won’t have to do everything by himself, though. Colorado State has an experienced offensive line that will make his job easier, which is good because Nwoke is a power back that gets his work done between the tackles. In addition to his size, Nwoke is an extremely hard worker, so don’t expect his numbers to dip from last year unless he gets injured.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

Boise State vs. Michigan State (August 31st)

Considering that there are only five games on this particular Friday night, this is without a doubt the most interesting game of the bunch. Boise State will continue its recent trend of playing a ranked team out of conference in the early season when it takes on Michigan State, but this time the Broncos won’t be the favorite. Michigan State appears to be the Broncos toughest out of conference regular season test since Oregon back in 2009.

Michigan State will no doubt be looking to rattle Boise State’s new starting quarterback Joe Southwick, who will take the reins after the Kellen Moore era. Southwick is accurate, but is still relatively green. Thus, the challenge will be for the offensive line to open gaps for running back D.J. Harper, who has the speed to burn the Spartans. If the O-line can get a push and the defense is serviceable, this has the potential to be a very good game.

In-Conference Game To Watch

Boise State vs. Nevada (November 24th)

Forget college basketball’s Feast Week; the Boise State-Nevada rivalry that developed in the WAC has been one of the most entertaining sporting events during the Thanksgiving holiday for a few years now. Unfortunately, the rivalry will become dormant after this season, as Boise State heads off to the Big East in 2013. However, this last matchup for the foreseeable future may very well decide who wins the Mountain West Conference this season.

Chris Ault’s pistol offense has seemingly been a thorn in Chris Petersen’s side ever since Petersen took over as Boise State’s head coach in 2006. In the 2012 edition, Ault will have another quarterback, Cody Fajardo, who runs the offense to near perfection to try and spoil Boise State’s season. Fajardo will have a huge impact on whether or not the Wolfpack beat the Broncos in this game. If we’re lucky, this game will be just as entertaining as the last several meetings between these two teams have been.

Conference Predictions

1. Boise State (11-1, [8-0])

2. Nevada (9-3, [7-1])

3. Fresno State (8-4, [6-2])

4. Wyoming (7-5, [5-3])

5. Air Force (6-6, [4-4])

6. San Diego State (6-6, [3-5])

7. Hawaii (5-7, [3-5])

8. Colorado State (7-5, [3-5])

9. UNLV (2-11, [1-7])

10. New Mexico (3-10, [0-8])

Questions from the Readers

There are no questions from the readers for the Mountain West Conference. Remember, if you have a question that you want to see answered, send me it on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, by tweeting me at @KBecks_ATC or emailing me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. We’re in the home stretch here, with only the Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt, WAC and Independents left to preview. I intend to post the Pac-12 and SEC previews tomorrow, so if you have a question pertaining to those conferences, please submit it by tomorrow morning. Thanks everyone.

– K. Becks

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