Mountain West Preseason Media Poll
Preseason All-MWC Team
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 and the excitement of the Broncos' entrance to the league went right out the window with the Utes' exit.
So, we get one more year of the heated competition between the Horned Frogs, Utes and Cougars before Boise State takes Utah's place next year. Those three schools have claimed the last seven MWC titles, and nine-of-eleven overall since the league was formed in 1999. The defending champion Horned Frogs are favored to repeat in 2010 (see MWC Champions).
The computer has TCU running the table and competing for a national title shot. Last year, the Horned Frogs came ever-so-close to getting that shot. On the day before bowl selections, Texas beat Nebraska on the last play of the game, and Cincinnati staged a 4th quarter rally from a 14-point deficit at Pitt. Had Texas and CIncinnati both lost, Alabama would have likely played TCU in the BCS Championship game. The Horned Frogs still landed their first-ever BCS bowl bid, but saw a 14-game winning streak and 4-bowl winning streak come to a halt in a 17-10 Fiesta Bowl defeat at the hands of similarly unbeaten Boise State.
TCU begins the 2010 campaign with a power rating advantage of 9.55 points over BYU and 10.87 points over Utah. All three schools are forecasted to win at least 10 games, just as they did a year ago when Mountain West teams concluded the year with a 4-1 record in bowl games to top all conferences for the second time in the last three seasons. The league is 14-5 in bowl games since 2006.
Since 1999, TCU has won or shared five conference titles in three different leagues - WAC (1999, 2000), CUSA (2002) and Mountain West (2005, 2009). This year's group is a double-digit favorite in every game on the schedule, except the journey to Utah where they are favored by 7.87.
The Horned Frogs will open the 2010 season in Cowboys Stadium at Arlington when they take on Oregon State on September 4 as a 10-point computer favorite. That spread is somewhat surprising considering that the Beavers are the projected No. 2 team in the PAC-10. The next-toughest nonconference game comes at predicted CUSA champion SMU on September 24 when TCU is favored by nearly 15 points over its' metroplex rival.
Utah opens as a 3.83-point home favorite against Pitt, the team it rolled 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl in the 2004 season. Later in the year, the Utes travel to Notre Dame as a 7.40-point pick. The conference slate includes road trips to both TCU and BYU with the former providing Utah's only forecasted loss of the season.
BYU begins the season as a heavy home favorite over Washington, then hits the road for two dangerous battles against Air Force and Florida State. The Cougars are favored by 5.21 points over the rival Falcons, and by 5.32 at Florida State. The fact that BYU is favored at all in Tallahassee is shocking after the 'Noles crushed the Cougars 54-28 in Provo last year. Trips to TCU and Utah provide the only losses in BYU's 2010 forecast.
Air Force is favored to take the Commander-In-Chief's trophy with victories over Navy and Army. The Falcons haven't defeated the other two academies in the same season since 2002. Air Force has won four straight over the Black Knights, but dropped seven in-a-row to the Midshipmen.
Predicted 5th-place finisher, Wyoming, faces 11 FBS opponents that won a cumulative 86 games last year, and five of its first 8 opponents won 10 or more. The Cowboys host Boise State, Air Force and Utah and travel to Texas, TCU and BYU.
UNLV looks like the best bet to take 6th, but is favored by just 1.56 at San Diego State, and by 1.16 at Hawaii in the final two games of the season.
All three of San Diego State's projected wins over FBS teams are by less than 5 points.
Colorado State's forecast includes losses to Miami (Ohio), Idaho, UNLV and San Diego State by 6.11 points or less.
New Mexico brings up the rear at more than 5 points behind Colorado State. However, the Lobos' only win a year ago was a 29-27 home squeaker over the Rams. New Mexico has a stretch of three winnable games in the middle of the season when it is less than a 5-point underdog in home clashes with UTEP and San Diego State, and on the road at rival New Mexico State. The Lobos then travel to Colorado State as an 8.82-point underdog.
Will the MWC provide another BCS buster? Utah made it in 'the 04 and '08 seasons, and TCU joined the party last year.
Will BYU get to go somewhere different for the bowl season? The Cougars have played in five consecutive Las Vegas Bowls.
UNLV is one of just two teams in the country that will face 13 FBS opponents. USC is the other.