20. Utah 2008 Record: 13-0 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 4
The Utes won’t be anywhere near the powerhouse that was in the national title discussion at the end of last year, but they’ll still be really, really good. The loss of DE Paul Kruger early to the NFL is painful, but the big hole to fill is at quarterback where steady star Brian Johnson is gone; Corbin Louks will get the first look. The three starting receivers and RB Darrell Mack are gone, but there are good players waiting to step up. Nine starters return on defense, led by Sylvester Stevenson and a strong linebacking corps. Louie Sakoda was an all-timer of a kicker who won’t be easily replaced.
25. TCU 2008 Record: 11-2 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 8
All-America DE Jerry Hughes is back, but most of the stars on the tremendous defense of last year are gone. Just four starters return on defense, but there were some decent backups ready to step in and the secondary should be among the best in the Mountain West. The offense might not be a steamroller, but QB Andy Dalton leads a good group with a solid backfield and Jimmy Young back as the best receiver.
49. BYU 2008 Record: 10-3 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 33
The Cougars need to prove once again that they can be considered among the elite of the non-BCS conference teams. They were supposed to be Utah, but melted down against the top teams. QB Max Hall has to carry the attack that loses star WR Austin Collie and almost everyone on the line. DE Jan Jorgensen leads a veteran defense that should be among the best in the Mountain West.
53. Air Force 2008 Record: 8-5 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 46
Troy Calhoun has worked wonders with the Falcons, and now he should reap all the rewards with seven starters coming back on offense. However, three starters are gone off a defensive front from a team that can ill-afford to lose dependable talent up front.
61. Colorado State 2008 Record: 7-6 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 55
Can the Rams build off a strong end of the season? Second year head man, Steve Fairchild, has wonted to be a power running team, but he’ll have to go on without backs Gartrell Johnson and Kyle Bell, and without three starting offensive linemen. This isn’t a Mountain West title team, but it’ll be even more competitive.
95. New Mexico 2008 Record: 4-8 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 80
New head coach Mike Locksley is known for being a master recruiter, but he’ll need time to work his magic to upgrade the talent level. Until then, he’ll need to make due with a young, inexperienced group that needs to find playmakers early on. QB Donovan Porterie has to come back healthy.
97. Wyoming 2008 Record: 4-8 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 103
Former Missouri offensive coordinator Dave Christensen will try to make the Wyoming offense work again. Finding a running back to carry things might be tough with Wynel Seldon and Devin Moore gone, but the focus will be on the quarterback situation with someone needing to take the job by the horns. The defense should be better with the line and secondary returning intact.
98. UNLV 2008 Record: 5-7 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 93
It all starts with the quarterback situation. Is Mike Clausen really going to challenge for the job? Frank “The Tank” Summers isn’t there to carry the running game anymore, and Casey Flair isn’t around to catch passes, but the team won’t be all that bad. Enough talent returns in the defensive back seven to hope for an improvement.
109. San Diego State 2008 Record: 2-10 2008 Final CFN Season Rank: 111
Former Ball State head man Brady Hoke has work to do with the defense before the offense, losing most of the key players in the secondary and Russell Allen from the linebacking corps. Offensively, the one dimensional attack needs to find a running game and needs someone to give QB Ryan Lindley a little bit of help.