Mountain West Media Preseason Poll
TCU is the favorite to dethrone Brigham Young and reclaim the title they took in their inaugural MWC campaign in 2005. But that projection is tenuous, to say the least, as the Cougars get the Horned Frogs in Provo and the spread favors TCU by less than a point (0.27). If the forecast holds true, their November 8th showdown would determine the Mountain West title and, possibly, a BCS bowl berth.
The Congrove Computer Rankings project TCU finishing the regular season as the 13th-ranked team. BYU ranks 21st. Boise State, from the WAC, is the only team outside of the so-called "big six" conferences that is ranked higher than the Horned Frogs or Cougars.
Utah is expected to repeat its third-place finish of a year ago with an identical 7-5 regular season mark, largely because it faces five teams that are expected to be ranked in the final Top 25. The Utes have to face both front-runners on the road, leaving them as nearly 9-point underdogs to TCU and more than 5-point underdogs to BYU in the season finale. A tough non-conference schedule gives Utah a chance to prove itself against Oregon State (away), UCLA (home) and Louisville (away).
Almost eight power points separate Utah from the forecasted fourth-place team, New Mexico. The Lobos, 20-12 losers at home to San Jose State in the inaugural New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, are picked to improve on last year's 6-6 regular season finish with an 8-4 campaign. But the Lobos underperformed last year, based on the computer's preseason projection of a 9-3 season.
In 2006, Colorado State suffered its second losing season in the past three years after the Rams had reeled off ten straight winning campaigns from 1994 to 2003. Sonny Lubick's teams have fallen short of the computer's forecast four years in-a-row, and six times in the last seven seasons. This year's 6-6 projection is solid on paper as only three games have pointspreads under 7, and none have spreads of fewer than 5 points.
Wyoming finished 2006 with five wins in it last seven games, including victories over bowl-bound Utah and New Mexico. However, when it came to competing with the cream of the conference in road games at TCU and BYU, the Cowboys were drubbed by a combined 81-10. Wyoming gets both of those teams in Laramie this year so the preseason forecast calls for losses by 10 and 14 points, respectively. However, four of the projected Cowboy losses are by spreads of 5.06 points or less, and two of those games havespreads under a single point.
Air Force faces a big change this year as the Falcons take the field without Fisher DeBerry as head coach for the first time since 1983. DeBerry retired as the third longest-tenured head coach in major college football with 23 years at Air Force in which he compiled a record of 169-109-1 while capturing 14 Commander-In-Chief's trophies.
Troy Calhoun, a former Falcons' quarterback and assistant coach, is just the sixth head coach in the Air Force Academy's history and the first graduate of the academy to hold that post. Despite the uncertainty of new leadership, the computer sees the Falcons as a 4-8 team.
UNLV has posted three straight two-win seasons that showed very little difference in offensive output or defensive ability. The 2004 squad under John Robinson was outscored 357-229. The totals were 381-207 for Mike Sanford's first team and 382-238 last year. UNLV hasn't topped the 300-point mark in a season since 2000 when the Rebels went 8-5 and defeated Arkansas in their last postseason appearance as hosts of the Las Vegas Bowl.
This year's UNLV forecast includes an opening-day loss by just 2.99 at lowly Utah State. The projected home loss to San Diego State is by a mere 0.30.
San Diego State's forecast, under second-year head coach Chuck Long, isn't much better than the UNLV outlook. The Aztecs topped the 20-point plateau just three times all of last season en route to a 3-9 campaign. Wins over Air Force and Colorado State were the highlights. A home loss to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, a 1-AA team that went 7-4, was the low point. The only two victory predictions on this season's docket are the home game against 1-AA Portland State and the road trip to UNLV.
The Mountain West seems to be definitively grouped into three sections this year - the upper tier consisting of TCU, BYU and Utah - the middle tier of New Mexico, Colorado State and Wyoming - and the bottom third that contains Air Force, San Diego State and UNLV.