Mountain West Football Week One Preview

FINALLY college football is here, and here is the week one preview. Just a quick note all game times are local times of the opponent and new this year is a link to the MWC’s teams home radio station if you want to listen to the games.

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War Memorial Stadium 12PM MST TV: Radio: 1240 KFBC

Joe Glenn is firmly on the hot seat while entering his 6th season as head coach, and a win here will help get this season off to the right start.  This is a return game that Wyoming won in a turnover riddled game that featured 11 total turnovers, a side note for Wyoming is that they have won their last five home openers.

This is a new year with some changes on the Wyoming side of the ball which starts at quarterback where juco transfer Dax Crum who beat out Karsteen Sweed who was previously the two year starter for Wyoming.  Ohio will definetly need to key on Wyoming runnig back Devin Moore who is a small and speedy back who is a dynamic playmaker for the Pokes.  Moore did average an astounding 4.9 yards per carry last season, and he will be the key offensively for Wyoming to be able to defeat Ohio.  Especially with a new quarterback and breaking in new receivers the running game and turnover free ball will be the key to a Wyoming win.

Ohio University on offense loses their starting quarterback from a year ago, and star running back Kalvin McRae who ran for over 1,400 yards last season.  The offensive line does return three starters up front, so the running game should be solid.  The starting quarterback for Ohio will be Junior Theo Scott who had 109 attempts last year and threw five touchdown passes, so he does have some experience.  The cupboard is not dry on the receiving end with one returning receiver in Taylor Price who averaged 14.5 yards per reception and then the best target could be tight end Andrew Mooney nine touchdowns and just under 1,000 yards.  Those are the key players that Wyoming needs to stop.

Defensively Wyoming should be able to stop or slow down the Ohio running game, because last year Wyoming only allowed three opponents to have 100 yards or more rushing yards.  They did lose some defensive line players but the linebackers will be strong to help out up front.

Ohio’s defense returns only four starters back, and none of those were star play makers last year.  They did give up 30 points per game last year, and this year might be worst with the inexperience of returning talent.

Prediction for the game has Wyoming winning a game where they control ball and just pound away against this Ohio defense.   This will be fairly close but Wyoming will win.

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Falcon Stadium 12PM MST TV: NONE Radio: 740 KVOR

This game really has no interest because last year Southern Utah went 0-11 last year in the I-AA division.  This is the perfect game for Air Force to break in their new quarterback, receivers, and running backs.  The new quarterback will be wither Shea Smith or Eric Horbert, both will see time at quarterback which will give Coach Troy Calhoun a good chance to see who plays better in real game situations.  Air Force should have no problem scorng against this SUU defense who gave up more then 30 points per game last year.  This game is not on television so there will not be a way to see how Air Force will do with the new talent.

Air Force should be fine in this game and win easily.

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The Big House Michigan Stadium 3:30PM EST TV: or Radio: KALL 700 Sports

This may not be the most important game of the week, but it is the most high profile game of the week.  This game will be available either on ABC OR ESPN2 depending on where you live.  This game has national attention because of new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez and his spread offense he ran at West Virgina.   Most of the ‘experts’ are split on this game on who will win.

Utah has the edge on offense with quarterback Brian Johnson leading the way who will be healthy after separating his shoulder last year in the opener and never was really healthy until their Poinsettia bowl win.  If Johnson is healthy then the Ute offense will be all right.   The running back position will be interesting to see how the split between last years surprise star Darrell Mack and Matt Asiata who was to be the starter before he broke his leg.  Look for both backs to get an equal share, and look for them to be on the field at the same time.  Both players are power runners, but Mack has a little more lateral speed then Asiata but this one-two punch should be able to attack the Michigan front line.  Ute fans know about play maker Brent Casteel at wide receiver who is the other returning player who injured his knee and missed nearly all of last season.

Michigan’s defense was not effective when they played teams with spread, such as Appalachian State and Illinois.  If Utah can stretch the field with their plethora of receivers and backs then Utah will be successful.  The running game will struggle if Utah runs up the gut without any misdirection plays.

The offense lost the majority of the talent from last year.  The list is long starting by losing a pair of four year starters in quarterback Chad Henne and running back Mike Hart.  Then there is the lost of four of the five starting offensive lineman which includes the top offensive lineman chosen in the 2008 draft Jake Long, oh and their best receiver Mario Manningham.  It is safe to say the offense might struggle in game one.

Michigan still has not announced publicly who the starting quarterback will be, but Coach Rodriguez has told the player who will start.   Both players Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan will get time which is what Rodriguez has said, and by rotating players this could be trouble for Michigan with the swapping in and out.  Neither quarterback is highly touted to run the spread and will struggle.  Offensively look for MIchigan to run a lot of dive plays and just run up the middle against a Utah defensive line that is young and probaby the weakest point on the Ute defense.

The difference in the game could come down to special teams, Utah has the edge their with All-American kicker Louis Sakoda who also punts for Utah.  This will be a close game and lower scoring, but look for Utah to win 21-17.

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University Stadium 4PM MST TV: Radio: 770 KKOB

This is a huge game for both teams and could be the best game of the weekend.  Both teams have a legitimate shot to win the league crown, and the winner here has the inside track.  TCU will finally have just one quarterback, Andy Dalton and with a year of experience and not looking over his shoulder the Horned Frog offense should be better.   Runnig back Aaron Brown is the key for a TCU victory, last year Brown missed a lot of time with injury and was a shell of himself.  Now that Brown is healthy look for TCU to run the ball a lot which should be their strength on offense.

The same can be said with New Mexico with star running back Rodney Ferguson who is on pace to become the schools all time leading rusher by years end.  New Mexico will run and run Ferguson and then look for a play action from the experienced quarterback Donovan Porterie who was on the All-American team as a freshman. New Mexico did lose its top two receivers from a year ago, but the poise will allow Porterie to direct the offense.

Defense will favor TCU and even with the loss of Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz this defense has the chance to be better then last year, and during the 2007 season TCU was top 15 nationally in all defensive major categories.   Defense has been what TCU has been known for during the past few years and they could have the best defesne in the Mountai West.

As for New Mexico the defense was their weaker point last year by allowing 21points per game, not bad but the defense was unable to create turnovers last year.  They will have their hands full in stopping the run, and stopping the run will be Lobos main focus.

Predicting this is tough, New Mexico is good at home and they have the more seasoned quarterback, but the defensive edge goes to TCU.  My gut says New Mexico because they are at home,  but it will be close.

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LaVell Edwards Stadium 4PM MST TV: Radio: 1160 KSL

Northern Iowas is ranked in the top 5 of the FCS polls, and Sports Illustrated had labeled Northern Iowa the next team to take out a top FBS team.   That posting was more along the hype machine working rather then fact.  While Northern Iowas is a very, very good FCS team and can score they do not have the defense to stop BYU.  With BYU going with its ‘Quest for Perfection’ BYU will need to crush Northern Iowa to keep up in the polls.

Things to look for in this game could be BYU offensive line, becasue they did lose one starter to injury, the defense is a huge issue and it will be interesting to see if Northern Iowa’s offense can make a dent in the Cougar defense, then the most interesting thing could be wide receiver Austin Collie playing quarterback.  Collie has been practicing the position and while Coach Mendenhall says that he is grooming Collie to be the primary back up to Max Hall, and not just used for a change of pace.  Do not believe that, look for Collie to take direct snaps and run the option if or when he gets in at quarterback.

BYU should take care of business in the first half and win by three touchdowns.

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Qualcomm Stadium 6:30PM PST TV: Radio: XTRA Sports 1360

Cal Poly has a legitimate chance to defeat San Diego State. again.   The Mustangas defeated San Diego State in 2006 16-14.  San Diego State will be reminded by head coach Chuck Long about the disappointment in losing to this team a few years back.  The reasoning is that the Aztecs can lose is that they are breaking in a new quarterback who was drafted in the NFL.  The Aztecs have Redshirt freshman Ryan Lindley for quarterback who was ranked 34th by Rivals.com, but the offense only returns four starters which last year struggled to move the ball and score points.  Cal Poly did not have a great defense and gave up 25 per game, which gives the Aztecs young offense hope against the Mustangs.

Cal Poly is ranked 14th in the FCS polls, and has a very good offense who last year scored 35 points last year and should be just as explosive this year.  San Diego State does retutn eight starters back, but it was from a defense that was poor last year.   Cal Poly will score points against this defense, but San Diego State will pull this game out but will be a close one.

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Sam Boyd Stadium 7PM PST TV: NONE Radio: ESPN 1100 AM

The pillow fight of the week will be taken place in Las Vegas.   UNLV actually has a chance to be competitive aganist other teams in the league.  UNLV will finally have their man starting at quarterback who is Omar Clayton, and after a rocky first year in MIke Sanford’s system he should be better.  Clayton is the clear number one and is the first quarterback Sanford has had who is capable of running and throwing which is a necessaity in the spread.

The Rebels have other players who are very good and one of those is Frank Summers who is a star running back that runs hard up the middle.  Summers is a Doak Walker Award watch list, and last year he came on strong with only 928 yards but averaged 4.6 yards per carry.  His yards would have been higher, but last year UNLV was not in many games.

Then the Rebels also have two very good receivers in Casey Flair and Ryan Wolfe, both who are all conference candidates.  This is possible the best receiving duo in the league, and if the quarterback is stable like it should be then look for the Rebels to be able to score points.

Utah State is in the same tier as UNLV in division one football.  The Aggies may finally have a quarterback in Senior Sean Setzer who has been with the team for all four years, and he is comfortable in the system thus making him a smart choice.   Setzer has had limited playing time for Utah State which is a concern for coach Brent Guy.  The rest of the offense is unsure as well, at running back it will be a committee affair and they hope to find someone who wille emerge as the leader.

Then there is the receiver where the Aggies lost Koren Robinson who was their main play maker at wideout and at returning as well.   That position will have to be made up by multiple players, and no one player has the ability of Robinson.

This is a pillow fight game, but UNLV should win this game becasue of being at home and that UNLV has more experience coming back.

Sunday August 31, 2008

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INVESCO Field at Mile High Stadium 5:30PM MT TV: Radio: KCOL 600

This game will be interesting, becasue this is a rivalry game and the last few years have been decided by seven poins or less.  This being Colorado’s Dan Hawkins third year one would expect large improvements from last year.

Colorado State has the running attack to play ball control game with Kyle Bell and Gattrell Johnson III.  The running game is the key to beat the Buffalos, for one the running game is very good and the other is to keep the ball away from Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins.

The other stars player on the Rams is tight end Korry Sperry who is recovering from a knee injury he suffered last year in game two.   If healthy Sporry should be the best receiver for the Rams, but the concern is at the quarterback position where the Rams are replacing Caleb Hanie.  The new quarterback is Senior Billy Farris and last year he only had 20 attempts, so inexperience is the key year.  Having the new quarterback means that the running game must be effective to help break in Farris, just so he can ease into the game.

Colorado has the chance to surprise the Big XII North this season, but this game is different being a rivalry game.  The quarterback positionis held by Cody Hawkins who is starting his second year as the starting quarterback, and last year he passed for 3,000 yards as a redshirt freshman.  Hawkins is the key for Colorado, but he does have help in 1,000 yard rusher Hugh Charles returning for his senior year.

Colorado should have a balanced attack to keep the Rams off balanance on defense.  Speaking of defense neither team was impressive with both giving up more then 25 per game last year, the competition was at different levels but neith was very good.

The edge has to go to Colorado because of their quarterback play which is solid, but do not count out the Rams who have the ability to run the ball and control the clock.   Plus this is a rivalry game and they are always close.

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