Mountain West Preseason Media Poll
Preseason All-MWC Team
Talk about a conference fight, here is race so close that we still can't project a champion after consulting tie-breaker procedures. Bowl seeding would be in the hands of the conference or the BCS.
The situation: The computer (about the computer) says BYU, Utah and New Mexico will tie 7-1 in the conference standings, with all three teams going 1-1 against each other - New Mexico loses at BYU, Utah loses at New Mexico, and BYU loses at Utah.
Expected solution: The computer projects BYU to rank 13th in the BCS Standings at the end of the regular season, and BCS selection guidelines state that:
- "one conference champion from among Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Western Athletic Conferences will automatically qualify to play in a BCS bowl if it is ranked among the top 14 teams in the final BCS standings".
The BCS stipulates it only has to take one such team, and the computer says BYU is the only such team that would qualify. Therefore, we put BYU at the top. Utah gets second by virtue of a better over-all record and ranking, followed by New Mexico.
Result: BYU to the Fiesta Bowl, Utah to the Poinsettia Bowl, New Mexico to the Las Vegas Bowl, and TCU to the Armed Forces Bowl. Of course, if Utah beats BYU in the final game of the regular season (as the computer predicts), logic might dictate that the Utes will rank higher than the Cougars in the final BCS Standings and actually take the BCS bid away from BYU.
Once that issue is straightened out, the conference would still be left with determining who goes to the New Mexico Bowl. Wyoming and Air Force are both forecasted to be next-in-line with 6-6 records. For us, a better conference record tilts that decision in Wyoming's favor. The Cowboys are a 4.41-point home favorite over the Falcons on September 6.
The Back-up Plan: If no conference team gains entry to the BCS, the conference (or bowl committees) would decide where the three tied teams go bowling between the Poinsettia, Las Vegas and Armed Forces games. TCU would go to the New Mexico Bowl. Air Force and Wyoming would likely be left out of the bowl picture as the MWC only has four designated postseason slots.
Analysis: BYU enters the season with a nation's-best 10-game winning streak. The Cougars have also taken 16 consecutive MWC games. If the Cougars continue to ride that momentum, tie-breaking solutions won't be needed at the end of the regular season. The computer lists Brigham Young as a single-digit favorite just once, and that's in the home game with New Mexico (-6.27) on October 11.
Utah, on the other hand, has three swing games with tight winning margins at home - Oregon State (-1.21), TCU (-5.63) and BYU (-2.55). The Utes are also a somewhat surprising favorite by 0.70 points in the opener at Michigan. The only projected loss is at New Mexico by a mere 0.18 points.
New Mexico is a slim home favorite over TCU (-2.81), and Utah (-0.18). The Lobos take underdog road trips to Tulsa (+0.67) and BYU (+6.27).
TCU could also make a run for the top spot in the conference. The Horned Frogs are projected to lose by less than 6 points to all three of the above-mentioned contenders, including a fractional 0.08-point deficit at home against BYU.
Elsewhere, the forecast of a .500 season for Wyoming is far from solid. Four swing games include a trio of projected wins by less than 6 points - Ohio, Air Force, and UNLV. The home win margin over Bowling Green is just 3.16.
Troy Calhoun enters his second season as head coach at Air Force. After a successful debut record of 9-4 in 2007, Calhoun loses nearly 2/3rds of his starters and over half of his lettermen.
Chuck Long begins his third season at San Diego State where the Aztecs will likely suffer through their 10th straight non-winning season.
UNLV has won just two games in each of Mike Sanford's three seasons as head coach. The computer's forecast this year is a not-so-surprising 2-10 mark.
Colorado State is the only Mountain West team with a new head coach. The Rams hired former assistant Steve Fairchild to take over for Sonny Lubick. Fairchild was Sonny Lubick's quarterbacks coach from 1993-1996, and offensive coordinator from 1997-2000.
Lubick was forced out on November 25th after 15 seasons that produced a 108-74 record and 9 bowl appearances. His teams won two outright titles each in the WAC and Mountain West conferences, and shared a title in each. However, the team just was 7-17 in its last two seasons.
The computer predicts that Colorado State's first season under Fairchild will be slightly worse than its final season under Lubick with a mark of 2-10 over-all, and 1-7 in league play.