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2009 MWC Football Preview
A Look at the Mountain West with BYU TCU and Utah Leading the Way
The Mountain West Conference certainly earned some respect last season. With Utah going 13-0 and knocking of Alabama, TCU going 11-2 and BYU going 10-3. It will be interesting to see what happens this year in the MWC as all of these top teams are losing key players while teams like Wyoming, UNLV and San Diego State keep most of theirs. Will we see another MWC team with a shot at going undefeated? We shall see. For now, let's take a team by team look at the MWC teams.
We currently don't see any odds to win this conference posted but keep checking the Top Sportsbooks as they will likely be posted closer to the start of the season.
Utah Utes - It’s a shame the Utes weren’t given a chance at the national title after finishing 13-0 and winning the Sugar Bowl last year, but such is the nature of the BCS. Courbin Louks will take over for an offense that returns 4 starters. He has a reliable RB in Matt Asiata who rushed for 707 yards last year despite being the #2 back. The defense lost 2nd round draft pick Paul Kruger at DE and would’ve been dominate had he stayed at Utah. Despite his absence they will be more than stellar. They must play conference rival TCU on the road. That game will be a must win if they wish to repeat as the Mountain West champions. I like their chances.
TCU Horned Frogs - These guys seem to be the consensus pick to win the MWC. They put together a very strong season in 2008, finishing 11-2 and becoming the only team to beat Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl by a score of 17-16. The offense looks strong with QB Andy Dalton returning with two of his best receivers Jimmy Young and Bart Johnson. The Horned Frogs won’t have a problem getting points on the board. The defense is led by All-American Jerry Hughes. The senior DE will anchor the line. Road games against Virginia and Clemson are must wins. A home showdown against Utah will probably decide their fate once again.
BYU Cougars - Alumnus Steve Young would be proud of the way the Cougars played last year. They put together a record of 10-3 and earned a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. If they wish to improve this year they MUST take down either Utah or TCU. The offense will be led by star QB Max Hall. He finished in the top 15 nationally for most passing categories as a junior and is projected to be the best passer in the MWC as a senior. HE will be aided by the return of HB Harvey Unga. His favorite target, TE Dennis Pitta, is also back for a swan song. The offensive line will take a step backward and is in rebuilding mode. The defense returns a good chunk of its 3-4 core. Jan Jorgesen will shine at DE. The Cougars have a brutal schedule playing Oklahoma and Florida State in September. If they can make it to MWC with their pride intact they will have a fighting chance at the championship.
UNLV Rebels - With 6 starters back on offense and 8 returning on defense, the Rebels look poised to improve on their 5-7 record from last year. QB Omar Clayton played great football until succumbing to an injury in November. He will be back in full force this year. WR Ryan Wolfe leads the school in career receptions and yards. Clayton and Wolfe will do significant damage together. The defense is solid on the whole, but the secondary needs improvement. If that happens the Rebels will be one of the prime candidates to penetrate the MWC’s top three teams.
Air Force Falcons - Coach Troy Calhoun has done a bang up job with our future Airmen, leading them to a record of 17-9 over two seasons. Tim Jefferson will start his second year at QB and he should show tremendous improvement. He completed 44 of 80 passes for 655 yards and 5 TDs during his 8 starts last year. The defense has LB Ken Lamendola. He is one of the most athletic players in the history of the Air Force program. You can expect the Falcons to have another good season and stay among the top teams in the MWC.
Colorado State Rams - This team came very close to beating MWC rival TCU while finishing 7-6 and winning the New Mexico Bowl over Fresno State. Coach Steve Fairchild will be in his second year and he expects improvement. Most critics think otherwise, but it’s not out of question. The Rams returns 7 starters on offense and 5 on defense. They essential learned how to win again last year which was their first winning season since 2003. Grant Stucker will lead the team at QB. The fifth year senior doesn’t have Fairchild’s full confidence yet, but he seems like a solid passer. Mychal Sisson will be strong at LB. The Rams are tough, but probably not good enough to take down the MWC’s three best schools.
San Diego State Aztects - For a school that prides itself on athletics, this program sure has fallen behind. They finished 2008 with a dismal 2-10 record. On the bright side they return a total of 16 starters and new coach Brady Hoke should breathe life into the program. He comes to SDSU after leading Ball State to a 12-2 record last year. Sophomore QB Ryan Lindley should continue to have success throwing the ball. The defense must improve overall, but particularly against the run. Expect a marked improvement thanks to Coach Brady Hoke.
Wyoming Cowboys - Dave Christensen starts his first year as head coach for the Cowboys who finished 4-8 last year. They will be aided by a strong defense this year. Second team All-MWC DT John Fletcher had 6.5 sacks last yer and will anchor the line. The secondary looks strong with brothers Marcell Gipson and Tashaun Gipson playing CB. The offense looks horrid at best. They must work to prevent turning the ball over this year. If you’re a Cowboys fan, cross your fingers and hope for six wins.
New Mexico Lobos - Spanish for “Wolf” the Lobos didn’t show many of the great traits of that animal in 2008. Finishing 4-8 and winning only a single game on the road, they probably won’t do much better this time around. The offense will be working with a no huddle under new coach Mike Locksley. The defense will move from a 3-3-5 to a 4-3 for new coordinator Doug Mallory who comes in from LSU. Don’t expect much from the New Mexico Lobos.
As mentioned in our opening paragraph, the top three from a year ago are losing several key players. However, a look at the last few years shows us that the big 3 in the Mountain West from a year ago, are good every year. BYU has had 3 consecutive 10+ win seasons while TCU has won 11 games in two of the last 3 years. Utah has won 9+ games in 4 of the last 6 years. So, more of the same for these three, with perhaps a challenge from Air Force. Keep an eye on the teams that we're mediocre and return a decent number of starters, such as UNLV, maybe even Wyoming. But look for the conference winner to be Utah, BYU or TCU....again.
Check out all of our 2009 College Football Conference Previews!