Mountain West Preview by CFN

Here is the whole preview from CFN and it is pretty favorable for the league, but fair.  The site has Utah finishing with a 10-2 record along with BYU, but with BYU winning the conference title.  Then comes in TCU, New Mexico, Air Force, Wyoming, Colorado State, San Diego State, and UNLV.  The way the prediction of schedules has the MWC with 6 bowl eligible teams with 4 bowl spots available to the league. 

The surprise team that CFN has is the Colorado State Rams and then has the Air Force Falcons is his team most likely to disappoint. 

The big bold prediction from CFN is that Utah will ruin BYU’s dream season, but the Cougars will still win the Mountain West title. Bronco Mendenhall’s club has everything in place to not just get to the BCS, but to go unbeaten. The offense is loaded, the defense has plenty of playmakers, and the schedule works out well with UCLA and New Mexico coming to Provo. The regular-season ender is at Utah where the Utes will get payback for the two straight soul-crushing losses in the fiery rivalry.

The league this year seems very balanced this year after the top 3 teams and even those top teams can stumble in league play with tough road games ahead.

Here is the top 30 players list from the CFN

Top 30 Mountain West Players
1. DE Jan Jorgensen, Jr., BYU
2. CB DeAndre Wright, Sr., New Mexico
3. QB Max Hall, Jr., BYU
4. DT John Fletcher, Jr., Wyoming
5. LB Russell Allen, Sr., SDSU
6. QB Brian Johnson, Sr., Utah
7. LB Jason Phillips, Sr., TCU
8. P/K Louie Sakoda, Sr., Utah
9. DT Mitch Unrein, Jr., Wyoming
10. RB Aaron Brown, Sr., TCU
Here is the rest of the list which also includes all conference selections.

Rivals.com Preview: Wyoming #83

This seems low for Wyoming, but can you blame Rivals for this ranking since the Pokes started 4-1 and then did not even go to a bowl game?

83. WYOMING 2008 Schedule

COACH: Joe Glenn (26-33 in five seasons; 184-92-1 in 23 seasons overall).
LAST SEASON: 5-7 overall, 2-6 in Mountain West (tied for seventh)
FINAL 2007 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 82nd.

Fletcher

KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Weston Johnson showed signs of breaking out last season as a sophomore, when he had 26 tackles. The staff feels his time is now. Johnson is a talented athlete with speed, which should translate into playmaking ability from his spot on the strongside. He’s also a bright kid who rarely is out of position. Senior offensive tackle Kyle Howard has great size (6-7/312) and has started 28 games in a row. Howard is the best player on a line that returns all five starters.
STAR POWER: Junior defensive tackle John Fletcher already is being mentioned as an Outland Trophy contender – and with good reason. Fletcher, a 6-6, 280-pounder, is a wrecking ball vs. the run. He also can bring the heat in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme. Witness his 10.5 sacks in 2007, which ranked 11th in the nation.
STRENGTHS: Tailbacks Wynel Seldon and Devin Moore rushed for a combined 1,519 yards last season. Even better: Every line starter is back for what could be a punishing ground game. Junior quarterback Karsten Sween is a veteran hand, but he has had to fight off competition and could lose his job to junior college transfer Dax Crum or senior Ian Hetrick. The front seven on defense looks stout, led by Fletcher up front. The linebackers look stellar. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman linebacker Gabe Knapton, who looks headed for a good career. Linebacker Ward Dobbs is a veteran who must steady the ship.
WEAKNESSES: The offense is in transition after ranking last in the conference in 2007 and flopping numerous times late in games. Glenn canned coordinator Bill Cockhill and hired Bob Cole, who had spent the past three seasons at Division I-AA Florida A&M. The plan is to simplify the scheme, emphasizing the ground game and a precise, short-passing attack. But if foes crowd the line to snuff the run, does Wyoming have a deep threat to stretch the field? Will the quarterback spot become a jumbled mess, killing any chance at continuity? The secondary is being retooled, so it’s vital a strong front seven excels. There also is hand-wringing over the kicking and punting with standout Billy Vinnedge gone.
THE BUZZ: The consensus in Laramie is that this is a make-or-break season for Glenn. His move to fire his offensive coordinator was criticized by some and smacks of a coach on the edge. But even an improved offense that looks capable of wearing down foes with the ground game won’t matter if Wyoming can’t pass consistently. The Cowboys also need to eliminate many of the MWC-high 31 turnovers they committed in 2007. The postseason looks like a long shot as the winds of change whip up on the Wyoming plains.

– TOM DIENHART

BYU top 5 finish? Utah in the BCS?

Those are some predictions floating around from local talk radio in Salt Lake and on Rivals.com. Green Bay Packer Brady Poppinga, who is a former BYU linebacker was on a radio station in Salt Lake saying that BYU will finish in the top five. Then there was a juvenile bet between one of the hosts who said Brady could take a full shot in pads if BYU makes the top five by years end. Top five is a lofty goal for a team that was not won a road non conference game since 2002 when they defeated Utah State, but that should change this year partly because they play Utah State on the road this year, and a subpar Washington. If BYU were to get a top 20 ranking a top 5 finish could be a reality if they go undefeated, but the team has been ranked as high as 13th in an ESPN preseason poll and in the Athlon college magazine.

Here is the audio from former BYU Cougar Brady Poppinga and also an interview from former BYU Quarterback and current Miami Dolphin QB John Beck.

John Beck

Brady Poppinga

Brian Johnson, UtahAs for Utah there is an article at Rivals that talks about how the Utes could be a sleeper pick in the BCS race, and that ill hinges upon the team staying healthy. The health starts with QB Brian Johnson who should be 100% healthy this year, and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will be able to finally run the spread with a quarterback who is capable. Other players who were injured last year were star JUCO transfer Matt Asiata as well as H-back Brent Casteel who went down as well.

Back in 2005 before Brian Johnson tore his ACL he had better numbers through ten games compared to what Alex Smith did in 2004 during the Utes Fiesta Bowl run, so we know he can play. Quietly, the Utes could, possibly, maybe sneak into a BCS bowl game or if you read Phil Steele he has the Utes ranked top 15 in his preseason poll. This Utah team should be the closest to the 2004 team and the best of the Kyle Wittingham era. This team has a chance to make a national splash in the Big House when the Utes play Michigan.

Utah Preview from CFN

Will Brian Johson get a full year of healthy football as a full time starter?  If Johnson does the Utes have real chance to challenge BYU for the Mountain West crown, and depending how the team comes together and outside shot of a BCS bid, but the latter might be asking too much.

BYU, BYU, BYU. It’s all about BYU and it’s “Quest For Perfection,” but shhhhhh, here’s the little secret that’ll quickly get out: Utah might be every bit as good.

While the Cougars are being hailed as possible BCS busters, if that term even really applies anymore, Utah actually got into the big show in 2004, has won five straight bowl games, and with wins over teams like Louisville, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Cal, Texas A&M, Pitt, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, is a fantastic 10-4 against BCS league teams over the last five seasons. So why doesn’t the team get any respect?

 

 

 

All the Utes did was overcome a 1-3 start, with the one win coming over UCLA 44-6, to finish 9-4. Despite losing QB Brian Johnson for a stretch with a broken collarbone, and starting RB Matt Asiata for the season in the opening day loss to Oregon State, the team didn’t give up on the years, picked up the pieces and reeled off seven straight wins. And then there way BYU.

For the second straight season, the Utes had the Cougars beaten needing one stop on a final drive, and for the second year in a row a miracle play saved BYU’s day. This year, the Cougars come to Salt Lake City, and if everyone stays healthy for Utah, the focus could be just as much on the red side of the field as it likely will be on on the white.

Even with question marks on the defensive front seven, this is head coach Kyle Whittingham’s best team in his four years at the helm. The offense is loaded, the secondary is peerless, and the kicking game, thanks to the all-around talents of Louie Sakoda, is among the best in America.

Now the team has to play up to the talent level and get to November 22nd with a chance to win the Mountain West title … and maybe more.

What to watch for on offense: The ground game should be even stronger. The Utes were great at pounding the ball with Darrell Mack, and now Asiata is back to provide a dangerous 1-2 power punch. Each can carry the offense and each can produce big-time numbers, and now they have to show they can form a steady rotation.

What to watch for on defense: Plenty of attention to the interior. The Utah run defense was fine, but it wasn’t anything special. To improve and be good enough to win the Mountain West, tackles Aaron Tonga, Lei Talamaivao, and Kenape Eliapo have to be special. They have the upside and the skill to form a brick wall of an interior, and they have enough overall athleticism to get into the backfield.

The team will be far better if … Johnson becomes Johnson again. Is he ready and able to come out and let it rip? A rising star a few years ago, now this is his last chance to live up to his immense potential, but it’ll only happen if he’s finally healthy. If everything is right, he has the talent and the experience to be the Mountain West’s best quarterback, and possibly the best player, but he can’t be the tentative leader he had to be last year when he was trying to play through his healing collarbone injury.

The Schedule: If Utah is as good as expected, it should relished its chance to prove itself in the opener at Michigan, who should be still trying to put the Rich Rodriguez puzzle together. Easing into the Mountain West schedule against UNLV is nice, and TCU and BYU have to come to Salt Lake City. The off-week comes at a perfect time in late October just before the vital finishing kick at New Mexico, TCU, at San Diego State and BYU. The non-conference schedule has yawners against Utah State and Weber State to go along with dates against the Wolverines and Oregon State.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Brian Johnson. Even though he was fighting through injuries, he still had a nice year throwing for 1,847 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he was good for an interception a game and wasn’t the same runner he was back in 2005. A great leader and a smart decision maker, he has to show that he can be 100% by the start of the season for the offense to explode.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Brice McCain. While he’s not all that big, the 5-9, 189-pounder is tough as nails as a tackler and one of the Mountain West’s best pure cover corner. If he’s not the league’s fastest corner, he’s close, and he’ll be the won the fantastic secondary works around. It’ll be McCain’s job to man up on everyone’s top receiving option in key situations.

Continue reading here

 

NBA Draft Review for the Mountain West

JR GiddensIn yesterdays NBA Draft two players from the Mountain West Conference. The first was J.R. Giddens from the University of New Mexico and was selected by the world champion Boston Celtics. Giddens has the talent who could have been a lottery pick, but with all of his off the court issues is stock dropped all the way to the 30th pick. Being teamed up with a talented and older team perhaps Giddens will learn from the experience of Paul Pierece, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. If Giddens can stay focused on the court then look for this to be a steal of a pick for the Celtics.  Giddens is a scorer and could be an impact off the bench in year one.

The next pick came from BYU with Center Trent Plaisted being drafted at pick 46 by the Seattle Super Sonics, but they were picking for Detroit in the trade which is where Plaisted will end up, pending league approval.Trent Plaised, BYU

In my opinion Plaisted would have been better off waiting one more to enter the draft, because this years Freshman class was one of the best in the last 15 years and a slew of big men.  Plaisted might have been a first rounder if he did stay next year, not because he would improve all that much but as of now it looks to be a weaker Freshman class and less quality big men.   If the trade goes through to Detroit, Plaisted could help soon with his size and defensive presence.  Offensively Plaisted had problems going against players with size, but by going against Rasheed Wallace, Theo Ratliff, and Antonio McDyess in practice should toughen him up.

Faces of the Program: BYU

BYU has the tradition from the 70’s to the the late 90’s thanks to the Coach LaVell Edwards.  Even though there were great players from Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Robbie Bosco, Jim McMahon, and other QB’s they were partly great due to the legendary coach.

LaVell Edwards

 

Lavell Edwards

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
As college football became more pass-oriented, Edwards was well ahead of the curve. He coached BYU from 1972 to 2000, making the Mormon institution a football powerhouse and a quarterback factory. The Cougars had 26 consecutive winning seasons before going 6-6 in his final year. Before Edwards’ arrival, BYU had just one conference championship, but then captured 10 straight from 1976 to ’85. In 1984, Edwards guided BYU to the national championship and was named National Coach of the Year. He coached Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer and 11 consensus All-Americans. Edwards retired after the 2000 season with a record of 257-101-3, and before his last game, BYU’s stadium was named in his honor. ESPN.com’s Signature Quote
“He may not be at the head of the class, but whatever class he is in, it doesn’t take long to call the roll.” — Coach Bum Phillips on Edwards’ contributions to college football  
 Others who were considered are these players below, the one other ‘thing’ that could be considered would be to choose the Quarterback position, because  of the great passers who have came through the system but that goes back to the coach LaVell Edwards who also has the stadium named after him.

Robbie Bosco Led BYU to 1984 national title, topped nation in passing and finished third in Heisman. Finished with 24-3 record as starter.

 

Ty Detmer Only BYU player to win Heisman (1990); broke 59 NCAA records including passing yards (15,031); won two Davey O’Brien Awards.
Jim McMahon Set 71 NCAA marks; twice led nation in passing; won Sammy Baugh and Davey O’Brien awards in 1981, third and fifth in Heisman.

 

Steve Young Broke 13 NCAA records as nation’s top QB in 1983; Heisman runner-up; member of College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.