As the season quickly approaches, I thought I would look at the Mountain West and predict how things will ultimately shake out for each program.
The Falcons won't surprise, but they'll be solid once again. They should take a step back from last year's 9-wins, especially since they replace so much on offense, but when the season ends, Air Force will be in the bowl mix and own a fairly impressive victory over one of the top-3 (BYU, TCU and Utah).
The Cougars will lose at least two games leading into their match against the Utes. Yes, BYU is the popular pick to crash the BCS, however, I foresee a loss against Washington and TCU early in the season. The loss at Washington will be especially devastating, since the Cougars almost certainly have more talent than the Huskies.
Even though this is a major rebuilding project for the Rams, they will surprise. Colorado State won't have a winning season, but they could push 5-wins, an impressive step in the right direction for new head coach Steve Fairchild. The Rams will also play Colorado extremely close, while netting a victory against Houston at home.
The Lobos will start the season 0-4, after a brutal first month and a half of play. That rough start could play throughout the rest of the season, possibly giving New Mexico their first losing season since 2000.
San Diego State
The Aztecs will be the surprise Mountain West team this year, contending for an above .500 record and doing just enough to guarantee Chuck Long a fourth year. Propelled by their solid defense, San Diego State could be playing for a winning season against UNLV to end the year.
The Frogs will once again return to a 10-win season, only losing to Oklahoma and Utah on the year. They will also tie for the Mountain West Championship.
The Rebels will only manage 2-wins again this year, defeating Utah State in the opener and then Wyoming at the end of the season. With his third straight 2-win season, Mike Sanford will be fired from the Rebels and they'll make a play for former Auburn coach Terry Bowden. Ultimately, though, he shuns their offer and the Rebels are forced to hire a positions coach from a BCS program.
The Utes will enter the Holy War at 9-2 and fighting for the Mountain West Championship. One loss will have come in out of conference play, the other on the road in conference. The winner of the BYU-Utah game shares the Mountain West with TCU.
After starting the season 3-0, Wyoming will wilt, losing 7 of their next 9 games. They finish the season 5-7 and Joe Glenn gets the Cowboy Boot out of Laramie.
Utah/BYU share the conference with TCU, some coaching changes are made and no Mountain West team crashes the BCS, or goes undefeated.