Mountain West Preseason Media Poll
Preseason All-MWC Team
The computer sees a repeat of 2008 with Utah, BYU and TCU duking it out for the conference title. Last year, Utah took top honors, followed by TCU and BYU. Utah then upended Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and TCU edged Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl, but BYU was upset by Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl. Air Force and Colorado State gave the conference five bowl teams in '08.
This year, only four schools are projected by the computer (about the computer) to post winning records which could leave it two games shy of fulfilling its' bowl obligations. The conference has automatic bids to five games - the Armed Forces, Humanitarian, Las Vegas, New Mexico and Poinsettia Bowls. It is also guaranteed a BCS slot if its' champion finishes in the Top 14 of the BCS Standings and is the highest ranked champion among those from Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West,
Sun Belt, and the WAC.
The computer's projection of an undefeated season for Utah, and number 5 national ranking, would almost surely put the Utes back in a BCS game. But once again, they could be left out of the BCS title game.
Utah enters the 2009 campaign on a 14-game winning streak, longest in the nation. That streak would stretch to 26 games by the end of the regular season, if the computer's forecast proves to be prophetic.
BYU and TCU will do their best to make certain that Utah's path is not unobstructed, but the Utes begin the season more than 8 power points in front of either challenger. So, even though Utah must visit both conference rivals in the final three weeks of November, it is still favored by 5.08 points over the Cougars, and by 4.55 points over the Horned Frogs.
BYU and TCU go head-to-head in Salt Lake City on October 24 with the homestanding Cougars listed as mere 2.47-point favorites.
There is a dramatic drop-off behind the conference's top three teams. The predicted 4th-place finisher, Air Force, checks in with a power rating over 8 points behind TCU and BYU, and more than 16 points behind Utah. The battle for 5th place will be waged between four treams that trail Utah by over 22 points - Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming.
San Diego State is relegated to the basement with a beginning power rating of just 48.48, the third-lowest among all 120 FBS teams rated by the computer, and a whopping 35-and-a-half points out of the top spot.
The Aztecs enter 2009 with their fourth head coach in nine years. Ted Tollner was there in 2001; Tom Craft from 2002-2005; and Chuck Long from 2006-2008. No wonder San Diego State hasn't been to a bowl game since 1998. The Aztecs hope the hiring of Brady Hoke will improve their chances for a better result. Last season, Hoke advanced Ball State to the cusp of its' first MAC championship since 1996, where it lost to Buffalo in his final game with the school. He resigned 10 days later to fill the vacancy at SDSU.
New Mexico and Wyoming also changed head coaches in the offseason. Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley replaces Rocky Long for the Lobos, and Dave Christensen takes over the reins for the Cowboys after serving as an assistant to Gary Pinkel for 16 years at Missouri and Toledo. Christensen had been Pinkel's Offensive Coordinator since 1997.