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Predicting the Mountain West

The Mountain West Conference saw a new champion crowned last season, as BYU rolled to an 8-0 finish and became the third consecutive -- and different -- team to go undefeated in conference play. This season however, things might not go as easily for the defending conference champions, while TCU looks to return to the top of the Mountain West after finishing 2nd last season.

Unlike in 2006, there does appear to be a clear cut favorite to win the conference championship. That team is TCU and they're hoping to build off of last year's 11-2 season. It won't be easy though, as they have to face Wyoming and BYU on the road and going undefeated in this years Mountain West Conference might prove to be too difficult. Yet there is a possibility they match their 2005 play, when they entered the conference and stunned the league.

Other than TCU, Utah and BYU look to be the other two teams that should contend for the conference championship. BYU clearly has the easiest schedule of the three, as they play Utah and TCU at home, but also lose the most talent. John Beck, the senior quarterback responsible for the Cougars' potent offense last year, is gone and they also have to replace running back Curtis Brown and tight end Jonny Harline, two integral parts to that offense.

Utah has the most talented offense returning, especially with Brian Johnson coming back from injury. Yet it will be their defense that could prove to be a weak point and might keep them out of contending for the conference championship. The secondary loses Eric Weddle, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, and most of the other positions aren't nearly as proven either.

Outside of those three, New Mexico could make a run for the championship, but the fact Rocky Long has struggled at getting New Mexico to the next level has cast some doubts. After that though, the conference takes a tumble and the rest of the teams will most likely be battling for a .500 record as opposed to a conference championship.

To predict how teams will finish in the conference, I've decided to look at each team's schedule and predict their final overall record and their conference record. I feel breaking it down by schedule will yield the best results, though I admit that the degree of prediction is heavily compromised by the fact I might be a bit biased (especially when it comes to Utah and BYU). That said, I will do my best to not predict a BYU season consisting of 0 wins and 12 losses -- though how sweet would that be?

2007 Conference Predictions:

Air Force Falcons

Air Force brings in a new coach, a new system and renewed hopes that the team can return to its elite status. Yet no matter how good new head coach Troy Calhoun turns out to be, I doubt the Falcons will be good enough to contend for a bowl game. They have a tough out of conference schedule and must play @ Utah, @ BYU, @ Colorado State and @ New Mexico. There should be improvement, especially with Shaun Carney returning at quarterback. But this team has seen a talent hit over the past few years and that won't bode well for Calhoun in his first season.

Opponent Result
South Carlina State Win
at Utah Loss
TCU Loss
at BYU Loss
at Navy Loss
UNLV Win
at Colorado State Loss
Wyoming Win
at New Mexico Loss
Army Win
at Notre Dame Loss
San Diego State Win

Final Record: 5-7
Conference Record: 3-5

The Falcons improve on last year's four win season, however a four game losing streak at the start of the season really cripples their chances.

Brigham Young Cougars

BYU had a fantastic 2006 season, surprising even their biggest supporters. That will be hard to replicate, as they should take a step back. However, the Cougars are still talented and should finish no less than 3rd in the conference.

Opponent Result
Arizona Loss
at UCLA Loss
at Tulsa Win
Air Force Win
at New Mexico Loss
at UNLV Win
Eastern Washington Win
at San Diego State Win
Colorado State Win
TCU Win
at Wyoming Loss
Utah Loss

Final Record: 7-5
Conference Record: 5-3

BYU follows up its 11-2 season with a decent 7-5 campaign. There will be some nice wins in here, but ultimately the Cougars won't have enough fire power to dominate the Mountain West like last year.

Colorado State Rams

The Rams had a terrible year last season without running back Kyle Bell. Luckily for him, he returns. But even Bell won't be enough to right this aready lost ship. The biggest question facing CSU this fall will be whether Sonny Lubick has enough left to return for the 2008 season.

Opponent Result
Colorado Loss
Cal Loss
at Houston Loss
at TCU Loss
San Diego State Win
Air Force Win
at UNLV Win
Utah Loss
at BYU Loss
at New Mexico Loss
Georgia Southern Win
Wyoming Win

Final Record: 5-7
Conference Record: 4-4

The Rams should show some signs of improvement this season, however a brutal September and October will doom them to another losing record.

New Mexico Lobos

Could this be the year Rocky Long finally brings a conference championship to Albuquerque? Probably not, but this is the year New Mexico makes some noise and they should be in the thick of things this conference season.

Opponent Result
at UTEP Win
New Mexico State Win
at Arizona Loss
Sacramento State Win
BYU Win
at Wyoming Loss
at San Diego State Loss
Air Force Win
at TCU Loss
Colorado State Win
at Utah Loss
UNLV Win

Final Record: 7-5
Conference Record: 4-4

The Lobos inevitably lose a game they shouldn't and I'm banking on that being against San Diego State. Since New Mexico can only play in the New Mexico Bowl once every three years, they will most likely get an invite to the Poinsettia Bowl or Fort Worth Bowl..

San Diego State Aztecs

Chuck Long enters his second season with the Aztecs and will need to greatly improve on their 3-win season last year if he's going to create any kind of buzz. Unfortunately for him, the schedule is not kind and could result in a repeat performance.

Opponent Result
at Washington State Loss
at Arizona State Loss
Portland State Win
Cincinnati Loss
at Colorado State Loss
at Utah Loss
New Mexico Win
BYU Loss
Wyoming Loss
at UNLV Win
at Air Force Loss
TCU Loss

Final Record: 3-9
Conference Record: 2-6

Yet another disappointing season for the Aztecs. Chuck Long, after back-to-back 3 win seasons, will quickly find his way onto the coaches hot seat list.

TCU Horned Frogs

The Frogs will look for a return to the top of the conference, but for that to happen they may need to show up on the offensive end. Relying solely on the defense could hurt TCU against Utah and BYU.

Opponent Result
Baylor Win
at Texas Loss
at Air Force Win
SMU Win
Colorado State Win
at Wyoming Win
at Stanford Win
Utah Win
New Mexico Win
at BYU Loss
UNLV Win
at San Diego State Win

Final Record: 10-2
Conference Record: 7-1

TCU should be in fine shape, even if they lose to BYU. The Frogs probably won't see an undefeated conference season, let alone an undefeated season, but they will still finish with 10-wins and prove that they are closing in on becoming an elite college football program.

UNLV Rebels

Mike Sanford is in dire need of a winning season, or at least any sign the program is heading in the right direction. If he doesn't find some progress in 2007, his coaching days might be over in Las Vegas.

Opponent Result
at Utah State Win
Wisconsin Loss
Hawaii Loss
Utah Loss
at Nevada Loss
at Air Force Loss
BYU Loss
Colorado State Loss
at Wyoming Loss
San Diego State Loss
at TCU Loss
at New Mexico Loss

Final Record: 1-11
Conference Record: 0-8

Ouch. If UNLV wins only one game this season, Mike Sanford's career will effectively be done.

Utah Utes

Utah brings back an awesome offense, but it will be the defense that could undermine their season this year. The fact they also play a tough out of conference schedule, along with road games against TCU and BYU, could mean the Utes are in for a very difficult season. Of course if they succeed and win most their out of conference games and run the table in Mountain West play, it could be a special season.

Opponent Result
at Oregon State Loss
Air Force Win
UCLA Loss
at UNLV Win
Utah State Win
at Louisville Loss
San Diego State Win
at TCU Loss
at CSU Win
Wyoming Win
New Mexico Win
at BYU Win

Final Record: 8-4
Conference Record: 7-1

If all goes right, Utah will at least have a share of the conference championship. While they're going to struggle in out of conference play, the key to Utah's season will be in their conference play. If they can finish 2nd or better, the program should be heading in the right direction.

Wyoming Cowboys

The Cowboys came oh so close to finishing above .500 last year and getting a bowl berth. However, close losses to Syracuse and Virginia doomed them. This season the Cowboys have to replace some key weapons, but still should be competitive under fifth year head coach Joe Glenn. I think this season will be pivotal for Glenn, as it will give us an idea as to whether he has what it takes to elevate this program to a Mountain West contender.

Opponent Result
Virginia Loss
Utah State Win
at Boise State Loss
at Ohio Win
TCU Loss
New Mexico Win
at Air Force Loss
UNLV Win
at San Diego State Win
at Utah Loss
BYU Win
at Colorado State Loss
Final Record: 6-6
Conference Record: 4-4

Another 6-6 season for the Cowboys and one that probably isn't going to be good enough to get them into a bowl game. The Virginia game can actually go either way and if the Pokes do win it, they should be set for a decent enough season and earn a spot in the postseason.

Final Mountain West Conference Standings:

Team MWC All
TCU 7-1 10-2
Utah 7-1 8-4
BYU 5-3 7-5
New Mexico 4-4 7-5
Wyoming 4-4 6-6
Colorado State 4-4 5-7
Air Force 3-5 5-7
San Diego State 2-6 3-9
UNLV 0-8 1-10

Las Vegas Bowl: TCU
Armed Forces Bowl: New Mexico
Poinsettia Bowl: Utah
New Mexico Bowl: BYU

Thanks to VegasUte over at Ute Fans for informing me the Lobos can't play in the New Mexico Bowl.

An alternative to the above bowl selection could fill out like this:

Las Vegas Bowl: TCU/Utah/BYU
Armed Forces Bowl: TCU, Utah
Poinsettia Bowl: BYU, New Mexico
New Mexico Bowl: Utah

The Las Vegas Bowl loves BYU and if the Cougars become bowl eligible, they should play there again this season. I think the Armed Forces Bowl would like to have TCU and that means Utah is most likely slotted for the Poinsettia Bowl, which would mean a probable bowl game against Navy.