Mountain West Preseason Media Poll
Preseason All-MWC Team
TCU won last season's conference title and defeated Wisconsin 21-19 in the prestigious Rose Bowl to finish 13-0 and ranked No. 1 in CollegeFootballPoll.com's final Congrove Computer Rankings, ahead of BCS Champion Auburn.
The Mountain West was on the verge of becoming an even more powerful football conference when Boise State announced it was leaving the WAC to join the likes of TCU, Utah and BYU. But shortly afterward, Utah accepted an invitation to the PAC-10 (now PAC-12) and BYU left to join Army, Navy and Notre Dame as an independent. More bad news arrived when TCU agreed to join the Big East in 2012.
In return, the MWC relieved the WAC of three more of its top teams - Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada - which will make the switch next season.
Boise State (12-1) was in the national championship mix last year until it lost 34-31 in overtime to Nevada (13-1) in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
The computer expects the Broncos to make another run at the national title this season with expectations of a perfect campaign. But it doesn't extend the same outlook to TCU, saddling the Horned Frogs with an 8-4 forecast.
In fact, TCU is projected to fall behind Air Force and upstart San Diego State, even though the Aztecs lost head coach Brady Hoke to Michigan. (All of the other conference head coaches return).
The Aztecs were the nation's most under-rated team entering the 2010 campaign, according to the Congrove Computer Rankings as they gained 13.47 power points over the course of the season and improved from a 4-8 mark in 2009 to 9-4 a year ago. San Diego State capped the 2010 season with a resounding 35-14 win over Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl in its first bowl appearance since 1998.
San Diego State promoted defensive coordinator Rocky Long to replace Hoke. Long, who served as the head coach at New Mexico from 1998-2008, benefits from the return of two of the nation's most prolific offensive players in 2010. Ryan Lindley threw for almost 4,000 yards and Ronnie Hillman ran for 1,532 yards and 17 TD's as a freshman.
The computer's 9-3 forecast for SDSU includes a slim 4.96-point loss to its old coach in Ann Arbor on September 24.
Air Force is coming off a 9-4 season that saw it reclaim the Commader-In-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 2002. The trophy goes to the winner of the military academy round-robin competition between the AFA, Army and Navy.
TCU's slippage is credited largely to the fact that the team returns just 8 starters while counting QB Andy Dalton and DL Wayne Daniels among the key missing elements. Still, the computer's spread for two of the four projected losses are by less than a point (Baylor and San Diego State), and a third is by less than a TD (Air Force).
Gary Patterson's defense has ranked No. 1 nationally each of the last three seasons
Boise State's run to the top of the conference looks to be largely uncontested with double-digit victories forecasted in every game except, somewhat suprisingly, its visit to Toledo. That game takes place on Friday, September 16 and follows a week off for Boise State after its opener against Georgia in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
It was an opening week 33-30 win over Virginia Tech on a neutral site (Landover, MD) that gave Boise State credibility for a national title run last season. Boise State and Georgia have played once before with the Bulldogs routing the Broncos 48-13 in Athens in the 2005 season opener.
This time around, the Broncos, with 4th-year starting QB Kellen Moore under center, are a huge 15.97-point pick over the Bulldogs. Moore has career numbers of 10,883 passing yards with 99 TD's and only 19 interceptions. However, Moore loses his top two targets in Austin Petis and Titus Young who combined for 2,166 receiving yards and 19 TD's a year ago.
In the bottom half of the conference, Wyoming is expected to double its win total by jumping from 3-9 to 6-6. But New Mexico, Colorado State and UNLV will post the same number of victories (6) that they had as a group last season.