The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 20, 2012

2012 Mountain West Conference Preview

The Mountain West Conference is a continuing league in transition.  Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawaii have left the WAC and joined this league.  Boise State joined last year, but the Broncos will leave for the Big East next season, taking San Diego State with them.  Utah State and San Jose State will come in next year.  Also gone this year is perennial MWC champion TCU.

 

While many expect Boise State to dominate this season, the PiRate Ratings and PiRate Vintage Ratings believe there will be an exciting race for first this season with two or possibly three teams in contention.

 

Here is the preseason media poll from MWC Media Days:

 

 

Mountain West

Votes

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

1

Boise State

27

296

2

Nevada

0

244

3

Fresno State

2

231

4

Wyoming

0

213

5

San Diego State

1

173

6

Air Force

0

170

7

Hawaii

0

116

8

Colorado State

0

111

9

U N L V

0

63

10

New Mexico

0

33

 

Note that Boise State received two second place and one third place vote.

 

The PiRate Ratings have cut three touchdowns from Boise State’s beginning rating for 2012.  Still, the Broncos rank first in the preseason.

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

Mountain West

PiRate

1

Boise State

103.1

2

Nevada

97.6

3

San Diego State

92.0

4

Wyoming

91.8

5

Fresno State

91.7

6

Colorado State

86.9

7

Air Force

85.9

8

Hawaii

82.9

9

New Mexico

79.4

10

U N L V

77.5

  The PiRate Vintage Ratings show this race to be much closer.

 

Vintage Ratings

Rank

Mountain West

Vintage

1

Boise State

103

2

Nevada

101

3

Air Force

97

4

Fresno State

95

5

San Diego State

94

6

Colorado State

92

7

Wyoming

89

8

Hawaii

87

9

New Mexico

83

10

U N L V

80

 

 

Team

Air Force Falcons

               
Head Coach

Troy Calhoun

               
Colors

Royal Blue and Silver

               
City

Colorado Springs, CO

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-4

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

85.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

106

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

97

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

74

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

6-6

 

The service academies tend to play a large amount of upperclassmen and frequently graduate more starters than they return.  Air Force has twice in the last four years returned fewer than half of their starters.  This year takes the cake, as only five starters return from 2011, three on both sides of the ball.

 

Tim Jefferson proved to be one of the best passing quarterbacks in the option scheme at the academy.  Connor Dietz is expected to replace him under center, but keep an eye on Kale Pearson, who could emerge as the surprise starter.  Whoever ends up taking the snaps, he will not replicate the production of Jefferson.

 

The Falcons must replace tailback Asher Clark, who rushed for 1,110 yards last year.  Fullback Mike DeWitt is one of the returning starters on this side of the ball.  DeWitt gained 567 yards and scored 12 times.  He is one of the best downhill runners in college football, and he can be counted to pick up a yard when it is needed.

 

The top four receivers must be replaced, and the leading returnee, Drew Coleman, caught just seven passes last year, and he has been held out of practice with an undisclosed injury.

 

The offensive line returns two starters, but in this offense, run blocking can be effective with limited experience.

 

Air Force averaged 35 points and 455 yards per game last year.  Those numbers will not be approached this year.  Expect something in the order of 26 points and 360 yards.

 

The defense has been decimated with graduation losses and additional unexpected losses to four players expected to contribute (three who were expected to start).  Eight of the top nine tacklers are gone.

 

Alex Means is the lone star in the 3-4 defense.  The outside linebacker sacked enemy QBs six times in 2011, and he recorded 77 tackles.  

 

The secondary is hurting at the safety position where both projected starters will not be around in 2012, and the defensive line is undersized to successfully control opposing offensive lines.  The lone returning starter up front is nose tackle Nick Fitzgerald, and at 255 pounds, he is about 45 pounds too light to be effective in the 3-4 defense.

 

Air Force surrendered 28 points and 386 yards per game last year.  Those numbers will head north in 2012.  However, there are six or seven beatable teams on the schedule, and it would not be all that surprising if the Falcons find a way to become bowl eligible.

 

Team

Boise State Broncos

               
Head Coach

Chris Petersen

               
Colors

Dark Blue and Orange

               
City

Boise, ID

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-1

Overall

12-1

               
PiRate Rating

103.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

53

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

51

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

9-3

 

It has been six years since the Broncos lost three or more regular season games.  Since that time, Boise has a cumulative record of 73-6!  We expect Coach Chris Petersen to lose three times this regular season because the Broncos return just five starters from last season.

 

The losses on the defensive side are the greater concern.  Boise gave up less than 19 points and just over 320 yards per game, which was a decline from the year before that.  Nine of the top 10 tacklers are missing from last year.  Only linebacker J. C. Percy, who did not start, returns from among the top 10 tacklers, and he registered just one tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

 

Cornerback Jamar Taylor is the only returning starter on this side of the ball, but fellow cornerback Jerrell Gavins would have been the star of this unit had he not missed 10 games due to injury.  The secondary will be more than adequate.

 

Up front, no starters return, but the four new starters have talent.  Tackles Michael Atkinson and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe saw considerable action as key reserves last year.

 

The first replacement to be made on the offense is the most important position.  Kellen Moore departs as the all-time leading passer in Boise.  Moore put up incredible stats last year that may never be replicated, completing better than 74% of his passes for 3,800 yards and 43 touchdowns!  He averaged 8.7 yards per attempt. 

 

Joe Southwick has withstood a strong challenge from Nick Patti in preseason practice, and Southwick should be named the starter before the Broncos play at Michigan State in the season opener.  Southwick completed 23 of 30 passes for 198 yards over the course of seven mop-up assignments.

 

The Broncos still have some quality talent at receiver.  Matt Miller, Mitch Burroughs, and Geraldo Boldewijn teamed up to catch 130 passes with 12 touchdowns, but Boldewijn is suspended for the first four games.

 

The loss at running back is almost as harmful as the loss at quarterback.  Doug Martin moves on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after leading BSU with almost 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns a season ago.  D. J. Harper has the potential to become the next 1,000 yard rusher at the field of blue, but Harper must find a way to stay healthy.

 

The offensive line returns two starters.  Guard Joe Kellogg is the best on this unit after earning 2nd team All-MWC honors last year.

 

The Broncos face Michigan State in East Lansing to open the season.  They host Miami of Ohio and BYU and venture to Hattiesburg to face Southern Mississippi.  Boise could lose two of those four games.  In conference action, BSU must face Nevada and Wyoming on the road, while Fresno State and San Diego State will be tough outs even at Bronco Stadium.  Look for the Broncos to suffer through a rebuilding season, where they lose as many as three times.

 

Team

Colorado State Rams

               
Head Coach

Jim McElwain

               
Colors

Green and Gold

               
City

Ft. Collins, CO

               
2011 Record              
Conference

1-6

Overall

3-9

               
PiRate Rating

86.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

104

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

92

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

5-7

 

Jim McElwain arrived in Ft. Collins with an impressive resume.  Sure, being the offensive coordinator at Alabama is a bit like being the batting coach of the New York Yankees, but McElwain did an excellent job working for Nick Saban.  His Crimson Tide offenses set records in Tuscaloosa. 

 

McElwain welcomes back 14 starters, seven on offense and seven on defense, from a team that has struggled through three consecutive 3-9 seasons.  The Rams lost four close games last year, and with just a little more offense, they could have been bowl eligible.

 

McElwain should provide a little more offense.  Garrett Grayson will begin the season under center as the starting quarterback.  As a freshman, Grayson proved to be a decent runner and passer in limited action, running for 193 yards and passing for 542 yards in three games played.  Senior M.J. McPeek has never played in a game since transferring from Kansas State, but he has risen to number two on the depth chart.

 

The Rams have depth and experience at receiver with five of their top six pass catchers returning.  Crockett Gilmore and Lou Greenwood teamed up for 74 receptions and six scores.  Deep threat Thomas Coffman is expected to miss the opener against rival Colorado, following emergency abdominal surgery.

 

The Rams have the top running back in the league in Chris Nwoke.  Nwoke rushed for 1,130 yards and nine touchdowns, while catching 23 passes out of the backfield.  He averaged close to six yards per rush.

 

The offensive line is strongest inside where center Weston Richburg and guard Jordan Gragert earned 2nd team All-MWC honors last year.

 

Look for CSU’s offense to improve immediately under McElwain.  We see this team scoring about 25 points and gaining 375-400 yards.

 

How much the defense improves will determine if the Rams can win enough games to play in December.  The Rams proved to be better against the pass than the run last year, but teams found it so easy to run, they didn’t have to throw as often.

 

The Rams will implement a 3-4 defense, and with the loss of their top pass rusher, expect the passing numbers to take a step back.  John Froland and Zach Tiedgen will man the terminal positions, with Curtis Wilson in the middle.  The trio combined for just 2 ½ sacks last year, but only Froland was a starter.

 

The new four-man linebacker crew will have all three returning starters from last season’s 4-3 alignment.  Shaquil Barrett led the team with 99 tackles, and James Skelton was close behind with 91.  Unfortunately, too many of those 190 tackles were far beyond the line of scrimmage.

 

The back line of defense has potential to excel if a decent pass rush can develop up front.  Cornerback Momo Thomas picked off a pair of enemy passes last year, and fellow cornerback Shaq Bell batted away five passes.

 

CSU surrendered more than 31 points and 413 yards per game last year, and the key to a successful season is chopping those numbers down.  With too many questions on this side of the ball, we see them coming up a bit short.

 

Team

Fresno State Bulldogs

               
Head Coach

Tim DeRuyter

               
Colors

Cardinal and Blue

               
City

Fresno, CA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-4 (WAC)

Overall

4-9

               
PiRate Rating

91.7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

91

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

84

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

6-2

Overall

8-4

 

Coach Tim DeRuyter steps into a good situation in Fresno.  The Bulldogs underachieved last year, and a lot of quality talent returns in 2012.

 

The offense will make some major changes, as DeRuyter hired Dave Schramm away from Utah.  The Bulldogs will use a hurry-up spread offense this year.

 

Quarterback Derek Carr (David’s younger brother) has an excellent chance to be the top signal caller in the league.  He averaged close to 300 passing yards per game last year and had an excellent TD/Int ratio of 26/9.

 

Carr’s top receiver is Josh Harper, who has a great pair of hands.  Harper caught 35 passes last year, and he should top 50 this season.

 

The Bulldogs have an excellent, albeit undersized running back in Robbie Rouse.  Rouse led the WAC with 1,549 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, but the MWC has better defenses.  At 5-7 and 185 pounds, he will need relief this year.  Look for Milton Knox and Michael Harris to see more reps this season.

 

Center Richard Helepiko and tackles Austin Wentworth and Cody Wichmann lead an experienced offensive line.  Last year, the Bulldogs’ offensive line allowed 20 sacks protecting Carr in a drop back passing offense.  In the new offense, the sack total could drop into the teens.

 

Fresno State has historically been one of the more balanced teams offensively, and Bulldog fans can expect more of the same this year.

 

Defense was where the Bulldogs dropped the ball last year.  FSU surrendered more than 35 points per game and proved easy to run and pass against.  DeRuyter is a defensive specialist, and you can expect immediate improvement here in the new 3-4 alignment.

 

Linebacker is a team strength.  The Bulldogs have both quality talent and depth in the second line of defense.  It starts with Travis Brown, the team’s leading tackler from 2011.  Brown picked up 8 ½ tackles for loss, and he proved effective in pass defense as well.  Jeremiah Toma and Patrick Su’A are back after starting last season.  Karl Mickelsen and Kyle Wilson are ready to contribute this season, and we expect an immediate overall improvement in the defensive numbers.

 

A couple players that missed last season return to the front line.  Anthony Williams will provide a big presence at the nose, while Nikko Motta has become academically eligible and will provide a strong complement to returning regular Matt Akers at end.  Andy Jennings will supply quality depth both inside and outside.

 

Two potential stars play on the back line.  Cornerback L. J. Jones finished second in the WAC with 16 passes defended.  Safety Phillip Thomas missed last season with an injury, and if he can return to his 2010 form, the Bulldog secondary should be much improved.

 

We tend to believe the new spread offense will be immediately successful in its first year.  How much the defense improves will determine how far the Bulldogs go in their first season in the Mountain West.  If they are slightly improved, then Fresno State will get six wins and be bowl eligible.  If they are considerably improved, the Bulldogs will win eight games and qualify for a better bowl.  If they are greatly improved, then Boise State and Nevada better watch out.  Yes, Fresno State could conceivably be a contender in the MWC race, but alas, the Bulldogs face both heavyweights on the road.  So, we will choose the eight-win option.

 

 

Team

Hawaii Warriors

               
Head Coach

Norm Chow

               
Colors

Green and Black

               
City

Honolulu, HI

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-4 (WAC)

Overall

6-7

               
PiRate Rating

82.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

111

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

4-8

 

After many years as an offensive coordinator at BYU, North Carolina State, Southern Cal, UCLA, Utah, and the Tennessee Titans, Norm Chow finally gets the opportunity to be the CEO of a team.  One of his first moves was to hire Thom Kaumeyer as his defensive coordinator.  Kaumeyer was the DC at Kentucky in 2008 when the Wildcats had their best defense this century.  He helped put together the “Darkside Defense” at San Diego State in the early 2000’s, and in those seasons, the Aztecs had their best defenses prior to the arrival of Rocky Long.

 

The Warriors need to rebuild on defense, as seven starters must be replaced and two others expected to start this year will not be available.  Questions abound with all three defensive units. 

 

Only one starter returns up front.  End Paipai Falemalu tied for second with 4 ½ sacks last year.  In the second line of defense, Art Laurel was the top pass rusher.  He recorded nine sacks and 14 ½ total tackles for loss with an additional five QB hurries.

 

The last line of defense features two reliable pass defenders.  John Hardy-Tuliau and Mike Edwards teamed up for 26 passes defended with four interceptions.

 

Expect a modicum of improvement on this side of the ball in 2012, but there are too many liabilities to call this edition of Warriors tough defensively.

 

Hawaii fans may not recognize the offense when the Warriors take the field this season.  The run and shoot offense used in Honolulu for many years is now a thing of the past.  Chow brings with him the multiple pro-set offense.  Tight ends and fullbacks will be used again, and the play-action pass will return to the playbook.  The old offense had maybe four or five different running plays, and the new offense will have at least double that number.

 

Two graduate transfers from Duke have entered grad school here and earned both scholarships and starting jobs.  Quarterback Sean Schroeder’s knowledge of the multiple pro-set offense and his ability to command respect in the huddle allowed him to leapfrog over the rest of the depth chart.  Former Blue Devil tight end Ryan Hall has become the starter and should give Schroeder a welcome target in the middle of the field.

 

Schroeder will have several quality receivers in addition to Hall.  Billy Ray Stutzmann earned 2nd Team All-WAC honors last year after catching 78 passes.  Jeremiah Ostrowski added 65 receptions.  Former quarterback David Graves moves to wideout and will provide backup.

 

The running game was only a decoy in the run and shoot, but the Warriors will need to develop a ground attack this year.  Joey Iosefa will see time at both fullback and tailback; he can get the tough yards in short yardage situations.

 

The offensive line has some rebuilding to do, but guard David Lefotu is one blocker Chow can rely on.  Utah transfer Kapua Sai should help make this unit better.

 

A difficult schedule includes games at Southern Cal, BYU, San Diego State, Colorado State, Fresno State, and Air Force.  Hawaii is likely to go 0-6 and at best 1-5 on the road.  They face Boise State and Nevada at home, and it isn’t likely they will win either one.  So, another losing season is in the offing for the Warriors.

 

 

Team

Nevada Wolf Pack

               
Head Coach

Chris Ault

               
Colors

Navy and Silver

               
City

Reno, NV

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-2 (WAC)

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

97.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

72

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

7-1

Overall

10-2

 

Two seasons ago, Nevada pulled off a major upset as a two touchdown underdog to Boise State, which made the Wolf Pack the WAC Champions.  Last year, playing on the field of blue, Boise State got their revenge.  2012 is setting up to be a year where the rubber game could be very interesting.

 

Nevada’s first season in the Mountain West Conference comes at a time when Coach Chris Ault has the pieces in place to return to the success of 2010.

 

Quarterback Cody Fajardo had a rough freshman season, but he proved to be more than adequate as Colin Kaepernick’s replacement—until he got injured.  Fajardo threw for 1,707 yards and ran for 694 in eight games, but he was knocked out of five of those games and sat out the Boise State game on his own decision.  He must prove to be more resilient this year.

 

Fajardo’s favorite target is Aaron Bradley.  Bradley caught 28 passes as a freshman, but that number could possibly triple in 2012.  Tight end Zach Sudfeld gives Fajardo a basketball-sized target at 6-7.  He and Kolbe Arendse form the best tight end tandem in the league.

 

Ault plans to pass more out of the pistol offense this year, so the running backs will be seeing fewer chances.  That could be a good thing, because none of the backs on this roster appear to have 1,000-yard potential.  Stefphon Jefferson and Nick Hale should see the bulk of the reps behind Fajardo, while true freshman Chris Solomon could get some immediate playing time.

 

The reason why the offense will move the ball at will again this season is a highly-talented offensive line that will open holes for the running game and protect Fajardo when he passes.  Guard Chris Barker and tackle Jeff Nady both made the All-WAC team last year, and they should do the same in the MWC.

 

Nevada averaged 32 points and more than 500 yards of total offense per game last year.  It is conceivable that the yardage will fall but the points will rise.

 

The defense took a small turn for the worse last year, as the Wolf Pack proved to be easier to run against.  However, they were one of the toughest in the nation to pass against.  Ask Boise State, as the Broncos could only muster 160 yards through the air.

 

UN has the best secondary in the league this year.  Khalid Wooten, Duke Williams, and Marlon Johnson should all receive some form of all-conference recognition.  The trio combined for 19 passes defended in 2011.

 

The three-man linebacker trio includes a tough pass defender in Jeremiah Green, and a tough run-stopper in Albert Rosette.  Up front is where Nevada has some questions.  The Wolf Pack have to find another pass rusher like Brett Roy, who led the WAC as a senior with 10 sacks.  Junior college transfer Cortez Woods should provide immediate help at the end and team with tackles Jack Reynoso and Rykeem Yates to make a formidable run defense.

 

The schedule could not be more beneficial for this team.  UN opens at California, and the Bears should be better this year, but they are beatable.  The Wolf Pack ends the season at home against Boise State on December 1.  Their 10 games in between are all winnable.  There is a slight chance Nevada could run the table this year, and we see them winning at least 10 games.

 

Team

New Mexico Lobos

               
Head Coach

Bob Davie

               
Colors

Cherry and Silver

               
City

Albuquerque, NM

               
2011 Record              
Conference

1-6

Overall

1-11

               
PiRate Rating

79.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

114

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

83

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

117

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-7

Overall

2-11

 

New Mexico had a good thing going for multiple years with Rocky Long.  He suffered one poor season after consistently winning in a state that produces few recruits, and he was shown the door.  The Lobos paid by suffering through three consecutive 1-11 seasons and a lot of turmoil.

 

Former Notre Dame coach and ESPN analyst Bob Davie takes over the helm in Albuquerque.  The Lobos will not be juggernauts in 2012, but they should win more than one game.

 

Davie has an unexpected concern with his expected starting quarterback.  Senior B. R. Holbrook missed several days of practice with shortness of breath and chest pain, something that always has to be taken seriously.  It has been diagnoses as chest inflammation, and for now true freshman Cole Gautsche is taking the bulk of the first-team practice snaps.

 

For a team that averaged a measly 12 points per game last year, the Lobos have depth and value at the receiver positions.  Ty Kirk, Lamaar Thomas, and Quintell Solomon caught 74 passes last year, and the trio should raise that combined total to 125 or more this season.  Tight end Lucas Reed should contribute 30 to 35 receptions as well.

 

Kasey Carrier and Demarcus Rogers will split the duties at running back.  Neither will remind Lobo fans of DonTrell Moore, but they should give Davie more balance on offense this season.  UNM could top 120 yards rushing for the first time since Long was let go.

 

Davie is a defensive-minded coach, and the Lobo defense the last two years has looked like it had no mind at all.  UNM gave up 42 points and close to 500 yards per game last year and more than 44 points per game in 2010.  Davie will shore up the stop troops, but he is no miracle worker.  Expect an improvement of maybe a touchdown per game this year.

 

Davie will use a 3-4 alignment, and the front three will be the most talented unit.  Nose tackle Ugo Uzodinma and ends Reggie Ellis and Jacori Greer.  There is some quality in the backups as well, and true freshmen Gerron Borne, Darian Allen and Paytron Hightower could all immediately contribute this season.

 

A pair of talented linebackers headlines the second line of defense.  Dallas Bollema could challenge for All-MWC honors, while former Maryland linebacker Javarie Johnson should be an immediate upgrade at this position.

 

The secondary can only improve, because it is almost impossible to go the other way after giving up a 72.6% completion rate and 8.8 yards per attempt in 2011.  What’s worse is the Lobos only intercepted three passes, and the players that picked off two of those have departed.  Safety Dante Caro is the lone returnee to have picked off a pass.

 

The journey of 1,000 miles must begin with the first step, and New Mexico has 1,000 miles to go before they are respectable once more.  Davie will take that first step this season, and New Mexico just may double their win total from last year.  Of course, the Lobos get a 13th game this season, so they could lose 11 for the fourth straight season. 

 

 

 

Team

San Diego State Aztecs

               
Head Coach

Rocky Long

               
Colors

Scarlet and Black

               
City

San Diego, CA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-3

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

92.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

94

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-4

Overall

7-5

 

Losing Brady Hoke to Michigan did not prove to be a killer last year, as longtime MWC coach Rocky Long guided the Aztecs to eight wins.  While the Aztecs will not contend with the big two or three, SDSU should be among the best of the rest this season.

 

Long has a reputation for developing strong defenses.  His first team in San Diego took a small step backwards, but he had to replace six starters.  This year, five starters must be replaced, and the Aztecs could be due for a similar outcome—25 points and 390 yards allowed.

 

The star on the stop side is middle linebacker Jake Fely.  Fely can blitz and clobber a quarterback; he can stop a running back for negative yardage; and he can cover receivers like a glove.  He is the only returning starter to this unit, so he will need to improve on his outstanding freshman numbers of last year.

 

The back line of defense in SDSU’s 3-3-5 alignment features a 1st team all-conference cornerback and a potential all-conference “Aztec” (part linebacker/part safety).  Leon McFadden intercepted a couple of passes and broke up 15 others last year and earned 1st team All-MWC awards.  The Aztec is returning leading tackler Nat Berhe.

 

Up front, keep an eye on Sam Meredith at nose tackle.  He’s a bit undersized to be a typical middle man in an odd front defense, but Meredith may be the best pass rusher on the team.

 

The offense suffers some heavy losses this year.  Ronnie Hillman rushed for 1,711 yards and 19 touchdowns, and the Aztecs will try to replace him with a two-headed monster.  Adam Muema and Walter Kazee could team up for about 1,500 rushing yards, but they could average about the same amount of yards per attempt as Hillman.

 

Also gone is career Aztec passing leader Ryan Lindley.  Ryan Katz appears to be the heir apparent.  The senior saw action at Oregon State and has an accumulated full season of starting experience.  Katz has some fine receivers to hook up with.  Colin Lockett led the Aztecs with 58 receptions and 970 yards last year.  Tight end Gavin Escobar added 51 receptions and 780 yards.  Dylan Denso added 49 receptions a year ago, but his status is up in the air as of this writing after he suffered a broken finger in practice.  He will need surgery.  Southern Cal transfer Brice Butler figures to be a key receiver this year.

 

There is some rebuilding to do in the offensive line, where three starters must be replaced.  Center Alex Johnson is among the best in the league.

 

This looks like a slight regression year at State.  Still, the schedule gives Long and company a good shot at bowl eligibility.  Call it a 6-6 or 7-5 season.

 

 

Team

U N L V  Rebels

               
Head Coach

Bobby Hauck

               
Colors

Scarlet and Gray

               
City

Las Vegas, NV

               
2011 Record              
Conference

1-6

Overall

2-10

               
PiRate Rating

77.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

115

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

80

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

121

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

2-6

Overall

3-10

 

Montana has proven to be a Football Championship Series powerhouse, but when its successful coaches have moved up to FBS, their results could not be duplicated.  Joe Glenn never got the Wyoming program moving, and now Bobby Hauck is struggling in Vegas.  After two seasons at the helm, UNLV has just four wins, and last years team was somewhat weaker than Hauck’s first edition.

 

Hauck has enough experienced players returning to avoid a third consecutive two-win season, and if he cannot improve on the record, he may not get a fourth try.

 

There should be an upgrade at quarterback this year.  Caleb Herring started last year, but he will probably be supplanted by redshirt freshman Nick Sherry.  Sherry has been a little inconsistent in August practices, but he has the best arm and the most potential to direct the UNLV offense.  The Rebels could only produce 1,315 passing yards last year, and that number could improve by 50% this season.

 

The Rebels received welcome news when running back Dionza Bradford returned to the team after leaving for personal reasons earlier in the year.  Bradford will back up starter Tim Cornett, after the two split the running duties last year and tallied more than 1,300 yards.

 

The Rebels are a little iffy at receiver, but Sherry should make the new starters’ transition much easier.  Marcus Sullivan and Jake Phillips should emerge as key pass catchers.

 

The defense is not as fortunate as the offense.  The Rebels surrendered more than 40 points per game last year after giving up close to 40 the year before.  There isn’t hope for a lot of improvement here as just four starters return to this side of the ball as well as another player expected to start this season.

 

The one bright spot is at linebacker, where two starters and one promising newcomer look to try to provide a base on which to build upon.  John Lotulelei made 60 tackles last year with three going for losses.  Tani Maka added 54 tackles and three tackles for loss.  Princeton Jackson played at the same junior college as Cam Newton, earning Juco all-American honors.  He will compete against Tim Hasson for the vacant spot.

 

Up front, Tyler Gaston is the only holdover from last year.  Gaston is the only returning defensive player with more than one sack.  He is a tackle that plays like an end.  Joining him up front will be untested but promising junior college transfers James Boyd and Jordan Sparkman, a former tight end. 

 

Sidney Hodge is the only experienced defensive back.  He did not intercept a pass last year, but he did break up eight.  The Rebels’ secondary will be picked apart by the better quarterbacks on the schedule.

 

UNLV has a chance to win five or six games if every break went their way.  They could also lose 11 games if they don’t catch a break.  We can only endorse two games as almost certain wins, which is exactly what this team has won the last two seasons.

 

Team

Wyoming Cowboys

               
Head Coach

Dave Christensen

               
Colors

Brown and Prairie Gold

               
City

Laramie, WY

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-2

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

91.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

105

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-5

Overall

6-6

 

Wyoming is the least populated of the western contiguous states, yet the Wyoming football team always seems to come up with enough talent to compete in the Mountain West Conference.  One reason is that the state is one of the best places to live (coming from a former Coloradan that frequently spent time 90 miles up north).  Fourth year coach Dave Christensen has enjoyed his time in Laramie, and he should continue to do so this season.

 

The Cowboys won eight games last year with a freshman quarterback.  Brett Smith took over as the starter when Austyn Carta-Samuels left.  Smith passed for 2,622 yards and 20 touchdowns, becoming the MWC Freshman Player of the Year as well as a 2nd Team Freshman All-American.  Smith has three talented receivers on hand in Chris McNeill, Robert Herron, and Dominic Rufran.  The trio combined for 129 receptions and nine scores last year, but none of them are true breakaway threats.  Wyoming will move the ball with the passing game equivalent of three yards and a cloud of dust.  Jalen Claiborne could emerge as the deep threat.  Herron should emerge as the top receiver of the four and could top 70 receptions this year.

 

Smith led the Cowboys in rushing last year, and he should do so again this season.  There is no standout running back, and Wyoming could rely on a three-back platoon with Brandon Miller, Shaun Wick, and Zaquoya Parham.

 

The offensive line is average for the MWC, but center Nick Carlson is among the top at his position.

 

On the defensive side, the Cowboys should fare about the same this year as last when they surrendered 28 points and 430 yards per game.  The new star on this side of the ball could be linebacker Korey Jones.  He could emerge as the top tackler on the team after finishing with 59 stops with four sacks and six total tackles for loss last year.  

 

The Cowboys hope to shore up their run defense, but only one starter returns in the trenches.  Tackle Mike Purcell is the only experienced veteran.  The Cowboys have liabilities at end.

 

The secondary has a couple of potential stars.  Cornerback Blair Burns earned Freshman All-American honors as a part-time starter, while safety Luke Ruff made the MWC 2nd Team.

 

The schedule this season is a bit tougher, as the Cowboys make road trips to Texas, Nevada, and Fresno State and face Boise State, Air Force, and San Diego State at home.  We think the Pokes will find a way to become bowl eligible once again, but eight wins is not a reasonable goal this year.

 

Coming Tuesday Afternoon, August 21: A preview of Conference USA.

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1 Comment

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    Comment by bathroom cabinets — October 17, 2013 @ 11:25 pm


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