The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 14, 2022

PiRate Picks For September 16-17, 2022

That broken clock finally failed to show the correct time on the PiRate Ship. Last week, our five picks came in at 1-4, dropping our profit for the season to $1,211.77 ($1,311.77 left in the imaginary account).

We’re back to where we normally are in September. Usually, when we have a bad week, our saving grace in the past has been Money Line Parlays playing at +140 or higher odds. We had a tough time finding one really good parlay this week. While we like odds in the range of +140 to +180, we couldn’t find the right number of games to make this range work out. We also don’t like to play more than three games in a parlay, so it came down to going with 3 at more than +200 or go to five bigger favorites to get to +155 and change.

We also tend to like to play an odd number of games to eliminate the .500 record that results in a small loss. Of course, when one of those selections is a parlay that pays different than the straight 11-10 odds, a .500 record could be a winning week if one of those wins is the parlay.

Our selections this week are all about the numbers more than the actual teams playing. Without further adieu, here are our selections for the week. Remember: We never wager real money on our picks, and we highly suggest that you follow our lead.

Selection 1: Wyoming +14 1/2 vs. Air Force

This is a nice rivalry game, and the last time the margin of this game exceeded 14 points was 2013. Wyoming’s schedule has been considerably stronger than Air Force’s, as Illinois and Tulsa are both stronger than Colorado. Craig Bohl teams tend to be stronger against the run than the pass, so this looks like a good play to be on the side where the top four margins by frequency come with it (3, 7, 10, and 14 points represent the final margin in 1/4 of all college football games).

Selection #2: Wyoming & Air Force Under 46 1/2

For the same reasons above, this game appeals to us for the total. We think this game is more like a 20-17 game, which falls well under 46 1/2 points.

Selection #3: Maryland -2 1/2 vs. SMU

The PiRates really prefer to go with underdogs that we believe should be favorites, but there were no short ‘dogs this week that really jumped off the page. We believe that Maryland is better than a touchdown stronger than SMU. Game outcomes of 1 and 2 points occur just 5.9% of the time, and that includes 5.9% of the time that the favorite and the underdog win by 1 or 2.

Selection #4: Northern Illinois -2 1/2 vs. Vanderbilt

Ditto the game above. Except, Vanderbilt exposed itself by showing its real weakness last week against Wake Forest. The Huskies were somewhat shocked by Tulsa in week one, but they should rebound in week two.

Selection #5: Nebraska and Oklahoma Under 66 1/2

What do you get when you combine a defensive genius head coach coaching in his third ever game against a big rival with a coach making his debut when a few days ago, he was an assistant coach? Usually, you get a hard-fought game that tends to be a little more defense-oriented. The Cornhuskers should play their best game of the season for interim coach Mickey Joseph, while the Sooners may play it a bit more conservatively. An OU win similar to last year’s game, which ended with 39 total points scored.

Selection #6: California and Notre Dame Over 40 1/2

Notre Dame last started a season 0-3 in 2007. Before Irish fans jump out of buildings, they were 0-2 in 2011 with a loss to a weak South Florida team and proceeded to win eight of their next nine games. Cal isn’t the best defensive team in the land, even though the Bears are only giving up 13.5 points per game so far. UC-Davis and UNLV are not offensive juggernauts.

If this game ends 21-20, it beats the total by a half-point. Notre Dame and Marshall combined for 47 points, and Cal’s offense is better than Marshall’s.

Selection #7: Money Line Parlay at +204.42

Penn State over Auburn

Texas A&M over Miami (Fla.)

North Carolina St. over Texas Tech

Auburn barely beat a mediocre San Jose State team last week. A weaker Penn State team than this year’s squad defeated a stronger Auburn team than this year’s squad last year.

If Texas A&M loses again this week, Jimbo Fisher might be sharing a beer with Scott Frost the following Saturday somewhere outside of a football stadium.

Texas Tech’s win over Houston is getting a lot more accolades than it probably should have gotten. N.C. State’s narrow escape over East Carolina probably got too much as well. This is still a Wolf Pack team capable of winning the ACC Title.

August 12, 2022

Mountain West Conference Preview

The Mountain West Conference is the only Group of 5 league that didn’t have realignment issues in the past 12 months. Rumors abound that Boise State, Fresno State, and San Diego State could be on the radar screen with either the Pac-12 or Big 12 Conferences, but those are just rumors for now.

The MWC has enjoyed quite a bit of success in the last decade. Last year, eight MWC teams earned bowl bids. Two of the bowl games were cancelled due to Covid, but in the six bowl games played, MWC teams went 5-1. In the history of this league, MWC teams have won 57% of their bowl games. Only the SEC and the Sun Belt have better bowl game winning percentages in that time.

2022 should be another banner year for the league. Three teams have a chance to compete for the lone New Year’s 6 Bowl Bid.

Mountain West PiRate Ratings

Mountain Division
TeamPiRateMeanBiasAverage
Boise St.106.0104.9106.9105.9
Air Force100.9100.8102.3101.3
Utah St.95.495.896.695.9
Colorado St.88.589.889.089.1
Wyoming83.986.685.085.2
New Mexico80.381.079.080.1
West Division
TeamPiRateMeanBiasAverage
Fresno St.103.2102.5104.5103.4
San Diego St.97.497.497.897.6
Nevada87.089.186.887.6
U N L V88.485.988.087.5
San Jose St.86.887.287.987.3
Hawaii78.580.079.379.2
MWC91.491.791.991.7

Mountain West Preseason Media Poll

Votes
#Mountain1st PlaceOverall
1Boise St.14151
2Air Force10136
3Utah St.3122
4Colorado St.190
5Wyoming060
6New Mexico029
#West1st PlaceOverall
1Fresno St.20160
2San Diego St.8148
3San Jose St.0105
4Nevada066
5UNLV058
6Hawaii051

The PiRate Rating are designed to be used for the next week of football games and not meant to be used to predict won-loss records. Nevertheless, here are the projected won-loss records.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

MountainConfOverall
Boise St.8-010-3
Air Force6-210-2
Utah St.6-28-4
Colorado St.3-55-7
Wyoming3-54-8
New Mexico0-82-10
WestConfOverall
Fresno St.7-110-3
San Diego St.6-29-3
San Jose St.4-46-6
UNLV3-55-7
Nevada2-65-7
Hawaii0-81-12

November 11, 2021

PiRate Picks–November 11-13, 2021

We almost made it, but a small miss is as good as a long mile. Last week, with a fourth consecutive winning week looking promising, a couple of fourth quarters went against us, and alas we suffered a tiny loss of 0.9%, or less than $5 on $500 invested in imaginary currency.

For the year, our net profit is now 4.88%, so we are still in the black, just barely. This week, we delayed by a day putting this feature online. The reason is that we did not like the overall numbers and wanted the betting public to help us out by moving the money lines just enough for our program to show the parlays to have an edge by finding the best lines. After looking at 11 different books, we still could only find three wagers to play. Four more were monitored closely and might have eventually moved to make them playable, but we like to publish this before Noon on Thursday, and the movements aren’t moving this morning (Thursday at 9:30 AM EST).

These next two weeks historically have seen monumental upsets in college football when teams that appear to be superior to the opponents they are playing have hidden depth issues. It’s not just players that don’t dress out. By this point in the schedule most college teams have 10-20 players that are playing with minor injuries and are not the same as they were four weeks ago. We look for teams that win consistently through the first week in November but tend to lose power ratings while winning, because instead of producing a statistics box that looks like a 20-point win, they produce a statistics box of 15-17 points, and then 10-14 points. We do not update our ratings by final score. We look at the statistics and make a score adjustment based on the domination or lack thereof and then update. A team that wins by 28 points and is out-gained by 50 yards where the opponent lost fumbles in the Red Zone may actually receive credit for a 14-point “effective win.” A team that wins by 11 points but ends the game at the opponent’s five yard line and chooses to take a knee may receive credit for an 18-point effective win.

You will also notice that since early in the season, we have stopped playing NFL parlays in this feature. The variance in the games is making it impossible for our method to isolate on enough games to make a favorable parlay. We think there are two reasons for this. First, even though there are lousy teams like Detroit, there are no dominant teams that can be counted on to win when they are favored by less than a touchdown. Second, now that many millions more people can legally wager, the odds no longer move by large enough amounts to create favorable odds. There are 60+ college games to find favorable numbers, and the public may not find a Mountain West Conference game worth much, while we do. There are 13-16 NFL games per week, and even Detroit, San Francisco, and Miami get heavy action. We’d like to play three underdogs this week, but the numbers are not favorable according to our program.

Here are our three selections for this week. Remember, we never wager real money on these picks. If we don’t, do you think you should?

Odds:+185
Must WinOpponent
East CarolinaMemphis

Odds:+205.47
Must WinOpponent
Kansas St.West Virginia
Air ForceColorado St.
Oklahoma St.TCU

Odds:+152.71
Must WinOpponent
LouisianaTroy
OklahomaBaylor
OregonWashington St.

September 27, 2020

College PiRate Ratings DELAYED

The Reinstatement of the Pac-12, Mountain West, and Mid-American Conferences, as well as Independent UMass, has caused a somewhat lengthy delay in our college football ratings update for this coming week.

Because the PiRate Ratings use an algorithm with a cumulative par rating of 100.0 for the PiRate, Mean, and Bias ratings, we cannot simply place the original August ratings for the teams that decided in the last week to play football. Doing so would throw the cumulative par well below 100.0.

We cannot simply add the necessary amount needed per team to raise the par values to 100.0 for multiple reasons. First, the amount needed to be added to each of the three ratings would be totally different. Why would a team all of a sudden become .2 points better in the Mean, but .4 points better in the Bias? Actually, some teams might gain points in one rating and lose points in another. That would not be just or accurate.

Second, why would you reward a team with points that is obviously struggling at the present time, while at the same time punish a team that hasn’t played yet by keeping their rating where it was when everybody was 0-0?

When the Big Ten returned, we had to raise some ratings and lower others to keep the overall par at 100.0 for our three different algorithms, and to be quite frank, we had to use some one-time extracurricular data to come to a conclusion.

The need to reincorporate the teams is vital thanks to the Navy-Air Force game this weekend. The Mountain West is looking to return at the end of October, but the Air Force Academy is scheduled to play Navy this Saturday as part of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy series. We cannot issue power ratings for Air Force until we have done the work to reincorporate all the teams that will return to play in 2020.

As of this writing, the Pac-12, Mountain West, and Mid-American Conferences are on board with a late October or early November re-start. UMass plans to attempt to find some teams to play and hopefully get in six games. Old Dominion, New Mexico State, and Connecticut still plan to take off this season, but New Mexico State hopes to play a half-dozen games in the Spring against FCS, Division II, and possibly Connecticut with a remote possibility that they could play UMass.

As an aside to this, keep an eye on New Mexico State basketball coach Chris Jans. The Aggies are not completely sure their basketball team will be able to play in 2020-2021. If the Aggies cancel their basketball season, expect multiple Power Conference schools to move Jans up high on their lists of potential head coaches if they have a vacancy. If you follow our college basketball coverage, you know that we rate coaches by their ability to improve their teams’ offensive efficiency, while weakening their opponents’ offensive efficiencies. In the Winter of 2020, our analysis rated Jans as number one overall among Mid-Major and Low-Major coaches in his ability to improve the talent on his roster above the norm. In 2019, we named Eric Musselman, then of Nevada, as number one and predicted that a Power Conference school would hire him and not regret it. Arkansas was that fortunate school to hire Muss, and Muss has the Razorbacks moving forward toward a top 20 program quickly. It is our opinion that Jans has the competency to do for a Power Conference school what Musselman has done for Arkansas. If NMSU does not play basketball this season, we believe Jans will take another job for 2021-2022.

August 11, 2019

2019 Mountain West Conference Football Preview

In the first decade of the 21st Century, the Mountain West Conference was without a doubt the best of the non power leagues.  Slowly, some of the best programs left the league.  Utah went to the Pac-12; TCU left for the Big 12; Brigham Young copied the Notre Dame formula and went independent in football, while joining the West Coast Conference in other sports.  Boise State joined when BYU left, but the Broncos’ best teams were in the old Western Athletic Conference.

You can see this league beginning to reload.  Boise State has begun to recruit like they did in Chris Peterson’s era at the Field of Blue.  Under former Cal coach Jeff Tedford, Fresno State has returned to prominence.  Utah State, Wyoming, San Diego State, Hawaii, and Nevada have gotten a bit stronger in recent years.  Air Force has been down in the last couple of years, but the Falcons have the experience to rebound this year.

With the new strength in so many locations, the unfortunate reality is that it is highly unlikely that any one team will dominate the others and make a run for the New Year’s Six Bowl that goes to the top-rated Group of Five Conference team.

Both divisions should see competitive races this year, and when November comes,  at least five teams should still have a legitimate chance to make the conference championship game.

 

Here is how the Mountain West Conference media voted in the preseason poll

Mountain West Conference Media Poll
Mountain Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Boise St. 15 120
2 Utah St. 6 108
3 Air Force 0 73
4 Wyoming 0 66
5 Colorado St. 0 52
6 New Mexico 0 22
 

 

West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes Overall Votes
1 Fresno St. 17 122
2 San Diego St. 3 106
3 Nevada 0 74
4 Hawaii 1 67
5 UNLV 0 51
6 San Jose St. 0 21
 

 

Championship Game Winner
None Chosen

The PiRate Ratings offer a little bit of a variation from the Media Poll.

Preseason PiRate Ratings–Mountain West
Mountain Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Utah St. 105.4 104.3 106.8 105.5
Boise St. 105.0 104.3 105.3 104.9
Air Force 96.5 98.0 97.3 97.3
Wyoming 94.4 96.6 95.2 95.4
New Mexico 83.0 86.3 82.4 83.9
Colorado St. 79.2 84.2 79.3 80.9
 

 

West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Fresno St. 99.8 100.2 100.6 100.2
Hawaii 95.5 97.7 94.8 96.0
San Diego St. 94.4 96.2 94.1 94.9
Nevada 92.9 93.9 92.5 93.1
U N L V 85.8 88.9 85.9 86.9
San Jose St. 83.6 86.0 82.7 84.1
 

 

MWC Averages 93.0 94.7 93.1 93.6

 

Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.

 

Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  The Captain then rounded up or down those teams picked to have an average wins that were not whole numbers.

 

PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
Mountain Division
Pos Team Conference Overall
1 Utah St. 7-1 10-3*
2 Boise St. 7-1 9-3
3 Air Force 5-3 7-5
4 Wyoming 4-4 6-6
5 New Mexico 1-7 3-9
6 Colorado St. 0-8 1-11
 

 

West Division
Pos Team Conference Overall
1 Hawaii 6-2 9-5
2 Fresno St. 6-2 8-4
3 San Diego St. 5-3 7-5
4 Nevada 4-4 6-6
5 UNLV 2-6 3-9
6 San Jose St. 1-7 2-10
 

*

 

Utah State picked to win MWC Championship Game

 

Bowl Predictions
Las Vegas Utah St.
Arizona Fresno St.
Armed Forces Boise St.
Idaho Potato Air Force
New Mexico San Diego St.
 

 

Alternate Bowl
Cheez-it Hawaii
 

 

Also Bowl Eligible
Nevada
Wyoming

 

Coaches That Could Move to Power 5 Conferences

Bryan Harsin, Boise St.

Craig Bohl, Wyoming

Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

Jay Norvell, Nevada

 

Coaches On The Hot Seat

Mike Bobo, Colorado St.

Bob Davie, New Mexico

Brent Brennan, San Jose St.

Tony Sanchez, UNLV

 

Top Quarterbacks

Jordan Love, Utah St.

Cole McDonald, Hawaii

Armani Rogers, UNLV

 

Best Offense

Utah St.

Boise St.

Hawaii

 

Best Defense

Utah St.

Boise St.

Fresno St.

 

Coming Tomorrow: The FBS Independents, including Notre Dame and BYU.

 

 

 

 

August 13, 2018

2018 Mountain West Conference Preview

Note: The preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice.

Some of our Group of 5 Conference won-loss predictions were figured before the beginning of August preseason practices. Thus, it could be that a player or players on some teams have already suffered season-ending or multiple game injuries or have left their teams, and these won-loss predictions no longer accurately reflect our ratings. We hope that by the time we preview the Power 5 conferences, we will know who is not going to be available (players and head coaches).

For a few seasons, it looked like there would be a changing of the guard in the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State went from the top of the league to the bottom, which brought former California coach Jeff Tedford on board. Quickly, the Bulldogs returned to the top of the West Division, topping the previous king in San Diego State.
In the Mountain Division, Boise State fell back a notch for a couple seasons, but the Broncos appear to be on the precipice of returning to the same dominance that former head coach Chris Petersen guided the school.
One thing that never changes in the MWC is the wide variation of playing styles. If you go on a caravan to see all 12 teams play during the season, you will see three types of option-style football with UNLV, Air Force, and New Mexico; you will see a standard power-style offense like Alabama and Georgia with Colorado State and San Diego State; you will get a nice sampling of the West Coast offense from Fresno State and Wyoming; you will see the wide-open Air Raid offense with Nevada; and then you will see an all over the map offense in most other places.
While the two historic powers resume their spots as tops in the league, this is a really fun conference from top to bottom. The MWC could very well provide more bowl eligible teams this year than they have bowl agreements, and whoever gets shipped to an alternate site is sure to provide an exciting game for that bowl.

Boise State and Fresno State hooked up in back-to-back weeks last year, with FSU winning the regular season finale 28-17. A week later Boise got revenge by winning the MWC Championship Game 17-14. The win allowed the Broncos to head to sin city, where they topped Oregon 38-28 to finish 11-3. With most of their very good defense returning this year, Boise must be considered a top contender to nab the NY6 Bowl bid. The Broncos return top quarterback in the league Brett Rypien as well as 1,000-yard rusher Alexander Mattison, and BSU might run the table if they can score 30 points every week. A tough opener at Troy in the Alabama heat and another tough game at Oklahoma State may keep the Broncos from going 13-0, and at 12-1, they may have a difficult time finishing ahead of the AAC champion.

Behind the Broncos, Wyoming, Air Force, Colorado State, and Utah State should compete for second place in the division and bowl eligibility. Wyoming returns a lot of quality talent from a team that went 8-5 a year ago. If not for the probability that a freshman will be under center, the Cowboys might be a serious threat to Boise’s potential run this year. Coach Craig Bohl’s Cowboys will succeed because their defense might be the best in the league with a top-flight defensive line returning intact and a linebacking corps that takes a backseat to no other team in the league.

Utah State will have significant experience returning this year from a team that beat the weaker teams on their 2017 schedule and didn’t compete all that well against the better teams. Expect the Aggies to be tougher against the better half of its schedule this year, and USU should make a run at eight or nine wins. The opener at Michigan State could be rough though, and the Aggies close the season on the road against Colorado State and Boise State.

Mike Bobo faces somewhat of a rebuilding job at Colorado State this year. The Rams enjoyed a decent year as they christened their new on-campus stadium. An overtime loss to Boise was all that kept CSU from playing in the conference championship game, but with massive losses on both sides of the ball this year, Bobo will be lucky to get his squad bowl eligible.

Air Force typically plays a lot of seniors, so in most years, it will appear as if they face a rebuilding project, when they have seasoned veterans ready to assume leadership roles. The Falcons’ unique offense always causes trouble for opposing defensive coaches and personnel, as most defensive linemen today are built for pass rushing and stopping the run in their gap or gaps. Having to basically read and react to the quarterback’s reads means these players might be a tad slow making the right choice. Air Force has more than usual defensive experience returning, and Troy Calhoun has won big with about the same amount of returning experience in the past. The key is keeping quarterback Arion Worthman healthy. The Falcons’ schedule gives them a chance to play Boise State in Colorado Springs with first place on the line.

New Mexico is at a crossroads with Coach Bob Davie. The shotgun spread option continues to give the Lobos one of the nation’s top running games, but UNM didn’t score a lot of points last year after the offense clicked in 2016. Don’t expect much improvement from the offense this year, as untested players will start at quarterback and most of the offensive line. The Lobos don’t get to practice against high-quality passers, and it hurts their pass defense. This could be the end of the line for Coach Davie if his team finishes in the basement a second consecutive season.

The West Division race should be a two-team fight between Fresno State and San Diego State. SDSU was the overwhelming pick to win last year, but FSU surprised the nation by beating the Aztecs in San Diego. Jeff Tedford’s Bulldogs combined solid running with excellent short passing, and the defense frequently held opponents to three and out following long Bulldog drives. When a team can score a touchdown on a 10-play drive that consumes more than six minutes and then get their defense off the field three plays later, it is not only demoralizing for the opponent, the ensuing fatigue caused by the short rest can hurt a defense for an entire half. If quarterback Marcus McMaryion improves as much this season as he did last year, he could be looking at a high draft pick selection next Spring.

San Diego State went 2-0 in the Pac-12 last year, but they didn’t win the West Division of their own league. The Aztecs topped Arizona State in Tempe, which signaled the beginning of the end for Todd Graham. More impressively, they knocked off Stanford a week later. SDSU was 6-0 and in the catbird’s seat for the NY6 Bowl bid until back-to-back losses to the eventual two division champions ended all hopes. After holding Air Force’s and New Mexico’s option running attacks in check during the regular season, the Aztecs had no answer for Army’s potent offense in the Armed Forces Bowl. The future of this program is up in the air, as they will be seeking a new stadium on campus. There are no guarantees, and their lease runs out at SDCCU Stadium, which lost the Chargers last year. There will be an issue on the November ballot whether or not to fund an on-campus stadium that can be used for multiple purposes. There even was a remote option that old Balboa Stadium, home to the Chargers in the 1960’s could be remodeled and built into a new football venue for the Aztecs.

Nevada and UNLV should compete for third place in the division plus a bowl bid. Both teams have strong offenses but suspect defenses. Neither is strong enough to go 7-1 in the league, but on any given Saturday both could pull off a big upset that decides who will win the division title.

Nevada punishes opponents with their Air Raid offense led by quarterback Ty Gangi, who is able to pass the ball for more than 300 yards per game this year.  UNLV followed the lead of dual threat QB Armani Rogers and the running acumen of tailback Lexington Thomas, and both return this year behind a capable offensive line. The Rebels couldn’t stop the run last year, which kept UNLV at 6-6 when they could have been 9-3.

Hawaii and San Jose State will compete for fifth in the division. The Rainbow Warriors beat the Spartans last year, but they have the biggest rebuilding job in the conference–on both sides of the ball. SJSU finished last in the league on offense and defense and has a long way to go just to become mediocre. One reason why Hawaii might edge out SJSU is the schedule. Hawaii plays FCS member Duquesne the week before this game, while San Jose has to play at Oregon.

Here is how the MWC media voted in the preseason poll.

Mountain West Conference
Team Votes
Mountain Division 1st Place Total
1. Boise State 22 132
2. Wyoming 0 95
3. Colorado State 0 82
4. Utah State 0 78
5. Air Force 0 52
6. New Mexico 0 23
West Division 1st Place Total
1. Fresno State 16 126
2. San Diego State 6 116
3. UNLV 0 78
4. Nevada 0 72
5. Hawaii 0 45
6. San Jose State 0 25

The PiRate Ratings basically confirm the media’s preseason opinions, differing only in the middle of the pack.

Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division
Team MWC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 0-0 0-0 110.2 109.3 110.9 110.1
Wyoming 0-0 0-0 98.5 98.6 98.8 98.6
Utah St. 0-0 0-0 96.8 98.3 98.1 97.7
Air Force 0-0 0-0 91.7 91.7 90.9 91.4
Colo. State 0-0 0-0 85.6 87.1 86.1 86.3
New Mexico 0-0 0-0 85.7 87.6 85.3 86.2
West Division
Team MWC Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Fresno St. 0-0 0-0 107.0 105.4 106.7 106.4
San Diego St. 0-0 0-0 98.7 99.5 99.8 99.3
Nevada 0-0 0-0 92.4 92.5 92.6 92.5
U N L V 0-0 0-0 89.1 90.8 89.6 89.8
San Jose St. 0-0 0-0 76.6 77.4 74.8 76.3
Hawaii 0-0 0-0 74.4 76.4 72.2 74.3
MWC Averages 92.2 92.9 92.2 92.4

New Coaches

There are no new coaches in the Mountain West this year.  There are a couple of places where coaches need to produce successful seasons this year to keep their jobs next year.  Tony Sanchez needs to get UNLV into a bowl and win at least seven games.  Nick Rolovich needs to show some sign of progress after Hawaii sunk from a bowl team to a 3-9 team.  Matt Wells cannot afford a losing record at Utah State with the talent he has this year.  And, Bob Davie could be forced into retirement if New Mexico plays as weak on offense this year as they did last year.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

Note: We know that our won-loss records do not factor in any upsets.  There predicted records use the average PiRate Rating plus a set home field advantage to pick the winners.  All FBS vs. FCS games are automatically given to the FBS team.  Obviously, the season is not cut and dry like this, but we concentrate our efforts mostly on the next week of scheduled games and do not look forward past one week with our ratings.

Mountain Division
Team Conference Overall
Boise State 8-0 12-1 *
Utah State 6-2 8-4
Wyoming 6-2 8-4
Colorado State 3-5 4-8
Air Force 3-5 4-8
New Mexico 0-8 3-9
West Division
Team Conference Overall
Fresno State 7-1 10-3
San Diego State 6-2 8-4
UNLV 5-3 7-5
Nevada 3-5 5-7
San Jose St. 1-7 2-10
Hawaii 0-8 2-11

Bowl Tie-ins
The MWC sends its champion to the Las Vegas Bowl, if it does not qualify for the Group of 5 Conference’s automatic New Year’s 6 Bowl bid. The remaining bowl bids have no set pecking order. These are the bowls tie-ins for 2018.

1. Las Vegas Bowl in Las Vegas, NV
Arizona Bowl in Tucson, AZ
Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu, HI
Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, ID
New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, NM

The Mountain West Conference has an alternate bowl agreement to send a team to the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, AZ.

Coming Tomorrow–The FBS Independents

September 21, 2017

PiRate Ratings Money Line Parlays for September 21-25, 2017

This Week’s Money Line Parlay Selections
We are going with four different selections, all combining two favorites at better than +130 odds.

#1 @ +161  
Must Win Must Lose
Boise St. Virginia
North Carolina Duke

#2 @ +145  
Must Win Must Lose
Wake Forest Appalachian St.
San Diego St. Air Force

#3 @ +133  
Must Win Must Lose
Miami NY Jets
Atlanta Detroit

#4 @ +164  
Must Win Must Lose
Kansas City LA Chargers
Denver Buffalo

 

Winner Winner but Not Enough Chicken to Call It Dinner
We prefaced last weeks two choices by telling you we were not all that confident with either one, because they both required five teams to win in order to win the two Money Line Parlay selections. As it turned out, we won one of the two, which guaranteed a winning week, but we were not all that happy with the outcome. You see, the other 5-game parlay quickly went 4-0 during Saturday afternoon. The final game of the parlay took place Saturday night in Columbia, South Carolina, where the Gamecocks hosted Kentucky. USC’s offense failed to show up, and Kentucky’s defense played exceptionally well, and poof went our hopes and dreams for a big payday.

With the exception of Kansas City having to hold on to beat Philadelphia, the five NFL games on our parlay were nondescript. All five teams won, and in most cases, their games were never in doubt.

So, for the week with our imaginary bankroll, we invested $200 and received back $376 for a return on investment of 88%. For the year, we are still in the hole, as we have invested $800 and received back $654 for a return on investment of -18%.

This week we double our selections to four, but the four games only require us to play two teams each. That’s the way we usually prefer to go–play two game parlays that return better than +120 odds. We have received multiple inquiries from you concerning how we figure our payout odds. We get this every year, and we realize that some of you are new to this site, so we apologize for not remembering this at the beginning of each season.

Here is the explanation in full so that even the first-time reader can understand.
The Money Line is different from wagering against the spread. In the normal spread wagering, if Team A is favored by 4 1/2 points over Team B, you can take one side over the other. If Team A wins by 5 or more points, that side wins the wager. If Team B wins or loses by less than 5 points, that side wins the wager.

In the Money Line, you only need to select the team that you believe will win the game, be it by 1 or 100 points. The difference here is that if you wager on the favorite, you must give the sports book better odds than you get. If you wager on the underdog, the sports book must give you better odds than they will get. Of course, the odds you get either way will be 10% shy of what the true odds would be, as the book must make its profit.

Let’s say that the Money Line for Team C vs. Team D is: Team C -200 and Team D +170. What this means is that if you wager on Team C, for every $2 you invest, you have the opportunity to win $1 in profit. In easier parlance, you must invest $200 to win $100 in profit. If you place a $100 bet on Team C to win, and they win, you receive back $150 (The $100 you invested + the $50 profit). If you wager on Team D, then for every $1 you invest, if Team D wins in an upset, you would receive $1.70 in profits. Thus, if you wagered $100 on Team D, and they pulled off the upset, you would receive $270 back from the book (The $100 you invested + $170 profit).

The PiRates have had some modicum of success wagering on multiple game Money Line parlays. Rather than wager on favorites and risk losing a lot more than winning when the upset occurs, we like to parlay (combine) games between favorites until the total odds exceed +120. That means that for every parlay we play, our reward for a win would exceed 20% profit. We believe we can find multiple favorites every week that when combined in a parlay, give us these wonderful odds as well as an excellent opportunity to win.

Let’s take a look at how a parlay works. We won’t bore you with the math, because we explained it one year, and it was a snooze fest. You don’t need to know how to calculate the payoff odds, as there are numerous Parlay Calculators available online. We like the one at vegasinsider.com. It is easy to use, and you can reset it and quickly do another game.

There is another key in getting the best odds–shop around. Besides the odds at Vegas Insider, we search Madduxsports.com, Oddsshark.com, and Covers.com among others.

Let’s take a look at how the parlay calculator works and how it applies to what we do. Let’s look at the Vegasinsider.com parlay calculator which you can find at: http://www.vegasinsider.com/parlay-calculator/.

Look at the money line odds for the teams you want to combine into a parlay. Let’s say that you know with close to 100% certainty that Ohio State will beat UNLV and Clemson will beat Boston College this week. Okay, so just about anybody could select this and believe they had it made. Okay, let’s now look at the Money Lines for these two games. As this is written early Thursday morning on the East Coast, we can find a Money Line for Ohio State at -54,000 and for Clemson at -20,825. Plug those two numbers into the calculator, and the result is: 0.67. This means if you wager $100 on this parlay, you stand a chance to win 67 cents back in profit. That’s why you would not play this parlay–it is ridiculous to risk $100 for receiving 67 cents change.

Now, let’s look at something more realistic. Let’s look at a couple of NFL games. Tonight, the LA Rams play at San Francisco. We can find current money line odds of -140 on LA. Now, look at Baltimore at Jacksonville. The Ravens’ money line odds from the identical book (each parlay must be played with just one book obviously), is -190. We plug in -140 and -190 in the calculator, and the result is: 161.65. Now, this is a number we like. We can put down $100 on this parlay, and if both the Rams and Ravens win, we would receive $261.65 back from the book ($100 invested + $161.65 profit). The catch is that both Baltimore and LA must win their games. If one doesn’t, then we are out that $100.

Let’s do just a little math now, because we are numbers’ nerds here on the SS Euclide PiRate Ship. Let’s say the average payout odds of all the games we select for an entire season are +167. What percentage of games must we win to break even for the year? Look at this the easy way. If we lose 5 games, we are out $500. If we win 3 games we make $501 in profit. So, we must win 3 out of every 8 games we select to break even, and that comes to 37.5% accuracy.

The last three seasons, we have exceeded this 37.5% success rate, two of the three years by quite a lot. It is our niche. We believe that we can successfully stay above 40%. At just 42.9%, we can return 14.4% on what we invest. At 44.4%, we can return 18.7% on what we invest. At 50%, we can return 33.5% on what we invest. Last year, we won more than we lost and took an 11% profit for the season. Two years ago was a windfall, as we topped 40%.

You might say that it is unwise to wager this amount for 11% profit, because you can return 11% in an average year by purchasing an S&P 500 ETF through a discount broker. That’s quite true, and we heartily endorse this over wagering on our recommendations. There are a couple of catches. First, the 11% return on your ETF requires 365 days. The 11% through the sports books only takes 5 months. That equates to an annual return of 26.4%, and you don’t have to worry about selling your stock all at once. You get weekly dividends when you win. Then, in January, you can take your winnings and invest them in that ETF, or Dogs of the Dow, or with Warren Buffett or Seth Klarman if you can.

OF COURSE, AND MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS–We do this just for fun and never wager real currency on our selections provided herein.  We suggest you do the same.

August 17, 2017

2017 Mountain West Conference Preview

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 2:37 am

In past years, the Mountain West Conference preview has come several days later.  We preview the conferences in reverse order of their overall power rating, and the MWC starts the 2017 season at its lowest rank in many years.  Part of that reason is that the one power program, Boise State, is not so powerful these days.  The Broncos are still very much a contender to win the Mountain Division and play in the league championship game, but they are not a prohibitive favorite, nor are they the regular favorite.

Last year, five teams competed for the Mountain Division title, while San Diego State cruised to the West Division title with no competition.  It should be more of the same formula this year, as the MWC Championship Game is starting to look like the Aztec Invitational Tournament.

Here is how the MWC Media picked the races in the preseason.

Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Boise St. 21 161
2 Colorado St. 6 135
3 Wyoming 1 114
4 Air Force 0 82
5 New Mexico 0 68
6 Utah St. 0 28
       
West Divsion
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 San Diego St. 28 168
2 Hawaii 0 135
3 UNLV 0 105
4 Nevada 0 79
5 San Jose St. 0 54
6 Fresno St. 0 47

The Preseason PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings agree with SDSU being the clear cut favorite in the West, but they do not agree with the Mountain Division pick.  It looks like a three-team race in this division.

Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Colo. State 101.3 100.5 101.2 101.0
Wyoming 99.0 96.4 97.8 97.7
Boise St. 98.4 96.6 97.6 97.5
New Mexico 92.8 93.3 93.7 93.3
Air Force 91.5 92.2 91.8 91.8
Utah St. 87.7 86.7 86.9 87.1
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 99.7 100.7 101.3 100.6
Hawaii 88.8 90.8 88.6 89.4
U N L V 85.3 88.5 85.7 86.5
San Jose St. 86.2 85.5 85.5 85.7
Fresno St. 85.6 84.2 85.7 85.2
Nevada 83.0 86.9 85.3 85.0
         
MWC Averages 91.6 91.9 91.8 91.7

This is our not-so-scientific look at the projected standings and bowl projections.

Mountain West Conference Projected Standings
       
Mountain Division Conference Overall Bowl
Wyoming 7-1 9-4 Idaho Potato
Colorado St. 7-1 9-3 Hawaii
Boise St. 6-2 8-4 Arizona
New Mexico 4-4 6-6 New Mexico
Air Force 3-5 5-7  
Utah St. 1-7 2-10  
       
West Division Conference Overall Bowl
San Diego St. 6-2 9-4 Las Vegas
Hawaii 3-5 5-7  
UNLV 3-5 4-8  
Nevada 2-6 3-9  
Fresno St. 2-6 3-9  
San Jose St. 2-6 3-10  
       
San Diego St. to Win MWC Championship Game

Coming tomorrow: The Sun Belt Conference had always been the lowest rated league each preseason since its inception, but we thought that had changed this year.  Not only did we believe that the SBC moved out of the basement, they climbed up to second best Group of 5 conference.  At first, we believed it was due to a trio of exceptionally strong teams, but then we realized what happened.  It was our mistake.  We forgot to divide the total rating by 12 and divided by 11.  Coastal Carolina joined the league as a full member, and our people did not change the formula until it was too late to change the order of the previews.  We apologize for the error.

 

To make up for this, here is a fun, two-part trivia question for you.  The answers will come in the following previews.

A. Name the four pairs of FBS football schools that play their home games in stadiums less than 10 miles apart.

B. Name the three pairs of FBS football schools  that play their home games in stadiums less than 15 miles apart and are also conference rivals.

Remember, these are FBS schools only.  One hint–there will be one fewer pair that qualify after this season.

August 17, 2016

2016 Mountain West Conference Football Preview

In our first three previews, the races have projected to be competitive with up to four teams figuring to contend for the divisional titles. In today’s Mountain West Conference preview, there is no such competitiveness. Boise State and San Diego State are prohibitive favorites in the divisional races, so much so that the Broncos received 27 of 29 first place votes in the preseason media poll, while the Aztecs selection as number one in the West was unanimous.

The PiRate Ratings concur–Boise State and San Diego State begin the 2016 season as clear-cut favorites. In the Mountain Division, Air Force is within striking distance, less than a touchdown weaker than BSU to start the season. In the West, SDSU begins the season more than a ten points ahead of the pack.

Our Buccaneers have spotted their first surprise team in this year’s previews. UNLV, picked by the media to finish fifth in the West Division, should better that by a lot this year. The Rebels start the season with the fourth best PiRate Rating in the West, but they benefit by hosting Fresno State, Colorado State, Wyoming, and Nevada, while playing at Hawaii, and this gives second year head coach Tony Sanchez a chance to give UNLV a chance to return to a bowl for the first time in three years. Sanchez lost five games in six years as head coach of Bishop Gorman High School in suburban Las Vegas. In his first season at Sam Boyd Stadium, the Rebels finished 3-9, but it was an almost two touchdown improvement in scoring margin. A defense which figures to improve yet again should allow the Rebels to shed another 7-10 points off their points allowed, and Sanchez will mold a credible offense and guide UNLV to bowl eligibility.

The other surprise team should not be a surprise team at all. New Mexico was selected fifth in the Mountain Division after Coach Bob Davie guided the Lobos to a 7-5 regular season record, the first winning season in Albuquerque since 2007. The Lobos return almost every defensive player that contributed last year, and they also return a competent quarterback in Lamar Jordan. The PiRate believe that UNM will not only return to a bowl game again this season, they will even improve on their won-loss record of last year.

Both San Diego State and Boise State figure to contend for the automatic bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl Game awarded to the top team not from a Power 5 league. The winner of the MWC Championship Game might need to be undefeated this year to take that bid, because there are a couple of teams in the American Athletic Conference capable of going 12-1 this year. Check the PiRate Ratings Friday for a preview of that league.

Here is how the MWC Media Predicted The Race

Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 Boise St. 27 172
2 Air Force 2 126
3 Utah St. 0 111
4 Colorado St. 0 95
5 New Mexico 0 74
6 Wyoming 0 31
       
West Divsion
# Team 1st Pl. Total
1 San Diego St. 29 174
2 Nevada 0 129
3 San Jose St. 0 122
4 Fresno St. 0 76
5 UNLV 0 73
6 Hawaii 0 35

The Media did not select an overall champion.

Here are the PiRate Ratings to begin the season.

Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 104.4 105.7 106.3 105.5
Air Force 99.9 100.2 100.1 100.1
New Mexico 94.3 97.6 95.6 95.9
Utah St. 93.2 97.1 93.0 94.4
Colorado St. 88.2 90.6 89.0 89.3
Wyoming 82.5 82.5 82.6 82.6
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 104.9 102.2 108.2 105.1
Nevada 92.3 95.6 93.6 93.9
San Jose St. 91.0 91.0 91.9 91.3
UNLV 89.0 93.6 89.1 90.6
Fresno St. 82.1 87.1 81.9 83.7
Hawaii 77.0 76.5 75.7 76.4
         
MWC Averages 91.6 93.4 92.3 92.4

The PiRate Ratings are best used just to look forward to the next week game schedule.  These ratings cannot really be used to predict won-loss records, so with that caveat, here are the projected won-loss records based on the ratings alone.

Mountain West Conference Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Mountain Division      
Boise St. 8-0 12-1 * Las Vegas
Air Force 7-1 11-1 Hawaii
New Mexico 5-3 8-4 New Mexico
Utah St. 4-4 6-6 Arizona
Colorado St. 2-6 4-8  
Wyoming 0-8 1-11  
       
West Division      
San Diego St. 8-0 11-2 Poinsettia
UNLV 5-3 7-5 Idaho Potato
Nevada 4-4 6-6 Bowl Eligible
San Jose St. 4-4 5-7  
Fresno St. 1-7 2-10  
Hawaii 0-8 2-11  
       
* Boise St. Projected to Win MWC Championship Game

Coming Tomorrow–The PiRates will release a double feature–The Independents and the American Athletic Conference. Beginning Saturday, we will commence with the Power 5 conference previews.

August 22, 2011

2011 Mountain West Conference Preview

2011 Mountain West Conference Preview

If only…  If only Brigham Young and Utah had chosen to stay in this conference, and TCU would not have announced their departure after 2011-12, this conference would have leap-frogged over at least one and maybe two automatic qualifying BCS leagues.

 

Imagine a league with Boise State, TCU, BYU, Utah, and Air Force as its top tier and with San Diego State and Colorado State frequently displaying enough talent to beat teams from the “Big Six” conferences.  This league would have had the potential to state its case for inclusion in the AQ conferences.  With the Big 12 on the precipice of breaking up, who knows?  Maybe the MWC could have taken in the leftovers from that league and assumed an automatic qualifying position.

 

2011 should still be an interesting season in this conference.  TCU must still play one more year here, and then the top three teams from the WAC (Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State) will join Boise State in this league.

 

Boise State

The Broncos dominated the WAC like no other team has dominated a conference since Alabama dominated the SEC in the 1970’s.  BSU posted a WAC record of 69-3 in their last nine seasons in their old league (Alabama went 64-4 in the SEC from 1971-1980; Oklahoma went 64-6 in the Big 8 in that same time frame).

 

Will Coach Chris Petersen’s Broncos dominate the MWC like they did the WAC?  It looks like they will in 2011.  Boise returns just enough talent to make another run toward an undefeated season.

 

Kellen Moore is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender.  The quarterback is already the leading passer in school history.  Last year, he completed better than 71% of his passes at better than 10 yards per attempt.  His TD/Int ratio was 35/6, and there is no reason to believe he cannot duplicate or improve upon those numbers this year.  He is a bit small for the NFL’s likes, but he should still be a second day draft choice next year.  Backup Joe Southwick is more than capable of running the team should Moore go down with an injury.

 

Moore loses his top two targets from a year ago.  Titus Young and Austin Pettis were gems, as they both grabbed 71 passes and teamed for 19 touchdowns.  Both were high draft picks, so there will be a drop-off in talent at this position.  However, Boise might still have the best receiver in the league.  Tyler Shoemaker proved to be a breakaway threat when he averaged better than 18 yards per reception last year.  Tight end Kyle Efaw should see more balls thrown his way this year after grabbing 24 passes and scoring five times in 2010.

 

Another pass-catching threat is running back Doug Martin.  Martin had 28 receptions last year to go with 1,260 yards rushing and 14 total touchdowns.  He’s always a threat to break open any run or reception.

 

The offensive line returns three starters; foremost among them is tackle Nate Potter.  The former two-time 1st Team All-WAC should become a 1st Team All-MWC and contend for All-American honors as well.  Center Thomas Byrd is likely to join Potter on the all-conference squad.

 

Maybe the biggest loss on this side of the ball is offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.  Harsin is now the OC at Texas.  Former Houston Oiler quarterback Brent Pease is the new OC after serving as the receivers’ coach here for multiple seasons.

 

We look for Boise State to continue dominating with an explosive offense this year, but we seriously doubt the Broncos will match their 2010 numbers of 45 points and 520 yards per game.  Call it about 38 points and 450 yards per game, as Moore will have to rely a little more on the short passing game.

 

The Bronco defense played one poor half all season.  Unfortunately, it came against Nevada, and it ended the 24-game winning streak.  They allowed just 11 points and 232 yards per game in the other 12 contests.  Expect more of the same in 2011, as the Broncos are strong from front to back.  Their defensive line could be one of the top five in the country.

 

BSU forced 49 sacks last season, and it should be another stellar year for rushing the passer.  Three starters return to the front four, and the new starter saw considerable action last year.  We would not be surprised if all four players earned some form of post-season honors.  Tackle Billy Winn will be a high draft choice next spring.  He comes off a 2010 season that saw him make four sacks and 9 ½ total tackles for loss, while driving blockers away from the linebackers.  End Shea McClellin led the team with 9 ½ sacks and tied for the lead with 13 ½ total tackles for loss.  New starting end Tyrone Crawford finished second on the team last year with seven sacks and tied McClellin with 13 ½ total tackles for loss.  Chase Baker added 4 ½ sacks from his tackle spot.

 

The linebacker position is not quite as strong as the front four, but it is still a big plus.  Both starters from 2010 are back.  Byron Hout and Aaron Tevis combined for 80 tackles a year ago.

 

The five-man secondary returns just two starters, but the new starters will receive a lot of help from having the best pass rushers in the league up front.  The Broncos did not intercept many passes in 2010, but they made up for it with excellent coverage.

 

Another key loss to the team this year is punter/kicker Kyle Brotzman.  Brotzman may be remembered for missing the critical field goals against Nevada, but he was one of the best combo kickers in the nation.

 

The new schedule finds a couple of possible bumps in the road, but we tend to believe Boise is capable of running the table and challenging for a spot in the National Championship Game.  Once again, Boise must travel 2,000+ miles to the east for their opening season game.  This time, the Broncos face Georgia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  If they get by the Bulldogs, then they should be 8-0 when TCU comes to Bronco Stadium.  TCU will not be as strong this year as they have been in recent seasons, and we see Boise winning that one.  So, an opening win over Georgia would more than likely send Boise to a 12-0 season with hopes that there are not two undefeated teams from the AQ conferences.

 

T C U

13-0 and a 3rd place national finish following a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin is a hard act to follow.  The Horned Frogs enjoyed their best season since the 1938 squad won the national title and tiny quarterback Davey O’Brien won the Heisman Trophy.

 

2011 looks like a rebuilding year, but Coach Gary Patterson should be able to coax another winning season and bowl bid out of his troops.

 

The bigger rebuilding job must take place on the offensive side of the ball.  Quarterback Andy Dalton may wish he was still in college rather than be the starting quarterback for the most mismanaged team in the NFL.  Dalton left as the all-time leading passer in TCU history.  This position will take a major hit, because the expected starter, Casey Pachall, has an injured shoulder.  An MRI turned up negative, but a sore shoulder does not lead to a great passer.  If Pachall is not 100% ready to start the season, TCU will be in a heap of trouble.  Behind him are two untested backups.  Matt Brown and Trevone Boykin both have the potential to be excellent dual threat quarterbacks, but both are freshmen; Boykin is a true freshman.

 

Three of the top four receivers from last year have also used up their eligibility.  That leaves Josh Boyce as the only holdover from among that quartet.  Boyce caught 34 passes and averaged an eye-popping 19 yards per reception with six touchdowns.  Antoine Hicks saw limited action and caught 13 passes, but he has the potential to be a big-play receiver.

 

The backfield is the strong spot on this team, and we look for the running game to be featured more often this season.  Last year, the Horned Frogs ran the ball 64% of the time, and that number could approach 70% this year.  Ed Wesley ran for 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns, while chief backup Matthew Tucker contributed over 700 yards and seven scores.  3rd teamer Waymon James saw enough action to rush for more than 500 yards and five scores.  All three return, as well as fourth teamer Aundre Dean, who led the team in yards per carry at 7.0.

 

The biggest problem area is the offensive line.  Only one starter returns.  Among those missing is 1st Team All-American and Rimington Award winner Jake Kirkpatrick and 1st Team All-MWC tackle Marcus Cannon.  The OL gave up just nine sacks all season.  Look for a considerable gain in this negative statistic this season.

 

TCU averaged almost 42 points per game while rushing for close to 250 yards and passing for more than 225 yards per game last year.  The Frogs won’t jump that high this season.  Look for a regression to about 28-30 points and 375-400 yards per game.

 

There is rebuilding to do on the defensive side of the ball as well, only not as much as on the offensive side.  Of course, there is nowhere to go but down after the team finished first nationally in points and yards allowed.  The definite strength of the defense is at linebacker where both starters return after garnering All-American honors last year.   Tanner Brock and Tank Carder are future NFL stars.  The duo teamed up to record 166 tackles with 15 ½ tackles for loss, while they found time to record 10 passes defended.

 

The front four is not as talented as Boise State’s great quartet, but they are better than any other MWC team.  End Stansly Maponga earned 2nd Team All-MWC accolades last year.  The other end spot may eventually go to sophomore Jon Koontz over senior Braylon Broughton.  D.J. Yendrey and Ray Burns make a capable pair of tackles.

 

The secondary shows promise, but it is not going to be up to the standards set by last year’s team.  For the second year in a row, TCU allowed fewer than half of enemy passes to be completed, but we expect that streak to end this season.  Cornerback Greg McCoy intercepted a couple of passes and knocked away six others.  New starter Jason Verrett will replace all-conference CB Jason Teague.  At Safety, only one of the three starters returns.  Tekerrein Cuba is a sure thing at one spot, but Patterson has been switching players around at the other two positions. 

 

The schedule is manageable this season.  An opener at Baylor followed by a trip to the Springs to take on Air Force in week two will be a great indicator for this team.  A 2-0 start could give TCU a chance to visit the field of blue with a 9-0 record.  Of course, this team could lose one or both of those first two games.  We believe the Horned Frogs can earn another double-digit win season, but only if Pachall stays healthy, and the new offensive line gels quickly.

 

Air Force

If Boise State had not joined the league, Air Force would have been listed as a co-favorite in the Mountain West this year.  The Falcons have a lot of experience returning from their best team since 1998.  At the military academies, 14 starters are unheard of.  In fact, it has been many years since AFA has returned that 14 starters.

 

The Falcons gave up 21 points and 350 yards per game last year, which was very respectable but nothing like what they did in 2009 (15.7 ppg/288 ypg).  The stop troops may be as good as the 2009 edition, but even so, we do not expect the Falcons to five up less than 18 points per game in 2011 with the schedule they have.

 

Eight starters and eight key reserves return to this side of the ball, so the Falcons will definitely be improved.  As you must have to succeed in this league, Coach Troy Calhoun has a dynamite secondary.  Safety Jon Davis finished second on the team with 93 tackles and tied for first with three interceptions.  Calhoun would like to see his tackles go down and his interceptions go up.  Often, he had to make tackles on running plays after backs broke through the first line of defense.  Cornerback Anthony Wright knocked down six passes and intercepted two others, as the AFA passing game gave up just 148 yards per game last year.

 

The Falcons are equally strong at the linebacker positions.  Calhoun used three and four linebacker sets last year, and he has a full stable of experienced players back this year.  Jordan Waiwaiole led the Falcons with 96 stops with 7 ½ tackles for loss.  Brady Amack added 82 tackles, while Patrick Hennessey got in on 60 stops with 10 for loss.

 

The one weak spot on this side of the ball is the defensive line.  The Falcons were too generous against the run last year, giving up more than 200 yards per game.  TCU rushed for 377 yards in a 38-7 pasting.  The Falcons have no 300-pound linemen, so they will always be vulnerable in the trenches.  Using a 3-4 defense places a large amount of pressure on the nose tackle, and at 260 pounds, Ryan Gardner is at a disadvantage.  Gardner made only 29 tackles in 10, 2010 starts.  End Zach Payne is the star of the front wall.  He came up with 6 ½ stops behind the line.

 

We are optimistic that Air Force will once again feature an exciting and efficient offense.  The main reason is the return of quarterback Tim Jefferson.  Removing sacks, Jefferson rushed for more than 800 yards and 15 touchdowns.  He passed for 1,459 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging better than nine yards per pass attempt.

 

The running game is in great hands with running back Asher Clark joining Jefferson in the option attack.  Clark led AFA with 1,031 rushing yards.  Two fullbacks that combined for more than 1,000 yards must be replaced, but Calhoun never seems to have a lack of talent ready to plug in here.  The new fullback is Wesley Cobb, a seldom used backup the last two years.  Mike DeWitt will back him up.

 

When your leading pass receiver had 18 receptions, it’s hard to call his return a major asset.  However, Jonathan Warzeka is the perfect academy flanker/slot.  His 18 receptions went for 406 yards (22.6/rec) and three touchdowns.  Warzeka provided excellent ability to run on the perimeter when Jefferson pitched him the ball; he averaged 7.6 yards on his 41 carries.  Zack Kauth grabbed 16 passes and averaged 17+ yards per reception, so the Falcons should once again burn defenses that put eight in the box to try to stop the option attack.

 

The offensive line returns three starters, but there is some concern here with expected starting guard Jordan Eason out with a knee injury and backup center Jeffrey Benson, who was expected to slide over to guard to replace Eason, also suffered a knee injury.  Thus, Calhoun will have to do more shuffling.  One player sure to star wherever he ends up on the line is A. J. Wallerstein, a 1st Team All-MWC performer last year.

 

Air Force averaged 31 points and 425 yards per game last year.  There is no reason to believe they will not equal or better those numbers in 2011.  The schedule sets up nicely for the Falcons.  A relatively easy opener with South Dakota is followed by a visit from TCU.  If the Falcons can get revenge on a rebuilding Horned Frog team, they could be headed to their first double-digit win season this century.  If not, a repeat of last year is within their grasp.

 

San Diego State

2010 was a memorable one at Qualcomm Stadium, as the Aztecs won nine games, including a 21-point win over Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl.  It was SDSU’s first winning season since 1998 and first nine-win season since the 1977 team went 10-1-0 (Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox was a member of that team).  However, the main force behind the turnaround has moved to the “Big House.”  Coach Brady Hoke is now pacing the sidelines at Michigan.

 

All is not lost.  Rocky Long is the new head man after serving as Hoke’s defensive guru the last two years.  Long won at New Mexico; look at what happened to the Lobos since his departure.

 

This year’s Aztec squad will not be as strong, but there is enough returning talent to send SDSU back to a bowl game.  However, Long was faced with an epidemic to one part of his offense, and it could sink the Aztecs’ bowl hopes.

 

The injury bug hit his receiver corps—big time.  Expected starters Jay Waddell and Dominique Sandifer both suffered season-ending knee injuries.  Incoming freshman Anthony Sheffield failed to qualify academically.  Then, possible replacement starter Larry Clark suffered a knee injury.  Not even Oklahoma could lose four key players at one position and not suffer.  San Diego State was already looking at having to replace their top three receivers from last year.  Now, tight end Gavin Escobar is the only returning receiver that caught at least 10 passes last year.  His backup, Hunter Hewitt, has been suspended for the start of the season, so the Aztecs have a lot of work to do disguising this weakness.  Walk-on Dylan Denso and Marcus Russell may see considerable playing time.

 

Quarterback Ryan Lindley will give the new receivers a chance to become successful.  Outside of Kellen Moore, he is the next best quarterback in the league.  Lindley will leave SDSU as the all-time leading passer if he can pass for about 160 yards per game this year.  He passed for close to 300 yards per game last year, so barring injury or just downright pitiful play at the receiver position, he should own that record by October or early November.

 

Long’s coaching style resembles Woody Hayes more than Mike Leach, so expect the Aztecs to run the ball more this season, especially with the liability at wide receiver.  Both of last year’s key backs return.  Sophomore Ronnie Hillman led the conference by a large margin with 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns, which beat Marshall Faulk’s freshman records.  Backup Walter Kazee added 320 yards and three scores.

 

One place that the Aztecs don’t have to worry is the offensive line.  Four quality starters return from a year ago, and they should open holes for the running backs to sneak through for five yards.

 

After averaging 35 points and almost 460 yards per game last year, expect a reduction in both areas.  Long’s game plans usually seek to control the ball on extended scoring drives and not go for the quick score.  Look for about 28 points and 380-400 yards.

 

The defense has a bit of rebuilding to do.  An already raw defensive line took an extra beating when starter to be Neil Spencer was declared academically ineligible.  Larry Gibbs was expected to compete for Spencer’s end spot, but he suffered a broken foot in Spring drills.  That leaves nose tackle Jerome Long and end J. J. Autele as the only experienced holdovers from last year.  Long, an undersized nose tackle in the 3-3-5 alignment, got in on 30 tackles with 6 going for losses last year.  Autele posted 15 tackles as a backup.

 

The strength of the defense is the three-man linebacker unit.  All-conference star Miles Burris returns to the Sam linebacker position after leading the team with 80 tackles.  He led the conference with 9 ½ sacks and 20 tackles for loss. 

 

The secondary will miss free safety Brandon Davis for the first couple of games.  That will leave cornerback Leon McFadden as the lone returning starter until the third game.  McFadden was the star of last year’s secondary with 14 passes defended (led the conference).

 

The schedule presents SDSU with seven or eight win opportunities. We believe they will get to six, maybe seven wins and go bowling once again.

 

Colorado State

The Rams have suffered through back-to-back 3-9 seasons after going bowling in 2008.  Fourth year head coach Steve Fairchild may begin to feel the heat in Fort Collins, if the green and gold go 3-9 again this season.  Fairchild has enough tools to build a winner this year, but like San Diego State, the Rams have been plagued with a rash of problems in one area.

 

That area is the offensive line.  It started when projected starting guard Connor Smith chose to take his sheepskin and enter the workforce rather than use his final year of eligibility.  Then, key reserve tackle Justin Becker was ruled academically ineligible.  To make matters worse, three more offensive linemen suffered injuries in one week of preseason drills.  The other expected starting guard Jake Gdowski had knee surgery and will more than likely miss the start of the season.  Jason Baird and Mason Hathaway are sidelined with ankle injuries.  CSU is now razor thin here, and any chance for a winning season will hinge on the success of their offense.

 

If the Rams can provide any pass protection, they have no worries at quarterback.  Sophomore Pete Thomas put up some amazing numbers as a freshman.  He completed 64.7% of his passes for 2,662 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.  He did toss 13 interceptions, but almost half of those came in September.  Thomas has the ability to pass for 3,300 to 3,500 yards this year, as the Rams move to more of a pro-style passing attack like those used by the New England Patriots.

 

The Rams have two receivers capable of topping 50 receptions this season.  Lou Greenwood and Byron Steele teamed up for 54 receptions and 787 yards last year.  The Rams have depth here with the return of five backups that registered 15 or more receptions.

 

The running back position is not what it used to be in the Sonny Lubick days.  Nobody on this roster is a threat to rush for 1,000 yards, but this offense will not need that to succeed.  If Fairchild can find a back that can consistently pick up three yards on 3rd and two and can punch it in from the two yard line, the Rams will be okay at this position.  Raymond Carter saw limited action here last year after transferring from UCLA.  Carter, at one time a 4-star recruit from Los Angeles, has never lived up to his press credentials, mostly because of multiple knee injuries.  If he can remain healthy, he is capable of rushing for 100 yards against the weaker defenses, but we have to question his durability.  He should be limited to about 15 touches a game.

 

The offense averaged a meager 16.5 points and 335 yards per game in 2010.  If the problems in the offensive line can be solved, CSU will easily surpass these numbers in 2011.  If the OL stays as it is as of mid-August, Thomas could be running for his life rather than running downfield to congratulate his receivers.

 

The defense is much healthier, but it is not as talented as the offense.  The secondary is suspect after giving up nearly 70% completions last year and finishing 3rd to last in passing efficiency defense.  Cornerbacks Elijah-Blue Smith, Momo Thomas, and Shaq Bell have the potential to be good, but only if they get a little help from the pass rush.  The trio combined for just one interception and one pass defended, which is completely unacceptable at this position.

 

The strength, if you can call it that, on this side of the ball will be at linebacker.  Mychal Sisson is a probable 1st team all-conference player after making the 2nd team two years in a row.  He finished second in the league with 15 tackles for loss and recorded 95 total tackles last year.

 

The front four is another liability, and Fairchild could use more 3-4 alignments this year trying to hide the liability and take advantage of more talented linebackers.  The Rams posted just 21 QB sacks, and the chief instigator, Guy Miller, graduated.  Ends Broderick Sargent and C. J. James combined for just 3 ½ sacks.  Davis Burl can play a hybrid position (end/lb), and he has the quickness to pursue across the field and get into the backfield.

 

The Rams were generous a year ago, giving up 35 points and 425 yards per game.  Without an improved pass rush, don’t expect much improvement this year.  However, their schedule will actually give them a chance to challenge for bowl eligibility, especially if Thomas can help the Rams outscore the opposition in 38-35 style games.

 

Games against New Mexico, Northern Colorado, Colorado, Utah State, and San Jose State could actually give the Rams a chance to start 5-0 before enjoying a week off to prepare for Boise State.  The second half of the season includes games with UTEP, UNLC, and Wyoming.  This gives CSU eight winnable games, and we believe they can win at least six of them, but only if the offensive line can protect Thomas.

 

Wyoming

Dave Christensen came to Wyoming after serving as Gary Pinkel’s offensive coordinator at Missouri.  He immediately produced big results in his first season in Laramie in 2009, winning seven games, including the New Mexico Bowl.  In year two, the Cowboys didn’t catch the breaks they caught the year before and finished 3-9.  Both years, Wyoming was outgained and outscored, so the question remains: can Christensen turn this program around and produce a consistent winner?  Wyoming has a storied history in college football, and even though it is the smallest state by population, the ability to recruit all over the Rockies gives this school a chance to succeed.  One look at the lovely campus at more than 7,100 feet in elevation is a great recruiting tool to big sky country (Disclaimer: the photo montage screen saver on the computer typing this preview includes a lovely picture of Laramie, WY, taken by our founder when he lived in the Rockies and frequently hiked in Curt Gowdy State Park just a bit to the east of Laramie).

 

Wyoming will have a new offensive coordinator and new quarterback this year after averaging just 19 points and 286 total yards per game in 2010.  Former Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon produced some stellar passing teams, especially with Tyler Sheehan at quarterback.  Brandon finds the QB cupboard almost bare.  Austyn Carta-Samuels transferred to Vanderbilt when his former OC left for Cal.  Emory Miller was expected to compete for the starting job and given a 50-50 chance of winning it, but he quit the team.  That leaves true freshman Brett Smith as the starter.  Look for Brandon to keep things simple for Smith.  Wyoming will throw short and try to spread the field and cut down on mistakes.  Smith’s completion percentage could be over 60, but his yards per attempt could be under six.

 

The Cowboys lost their top two receivers, leaving Chris McNeill as the leading returnee.  But, he averaged just 9.2 yards per reception last year.  When UW uses a tight end, T. J. Smith can get open in the seams of zones.  He caught just eight passes last year, but he averaged nearly 22 yards per catch.  Look for him to more than double his amount of touches this season.

 

The Cowboys are just fine at the running back position.  Alvester Alexander returns after leading the team with 792 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.  We believe he has 1,000 yard potential, and he could become an important weapon in the short passing game.  In fact, it would not surprise us to see him lead the team in rushing and in receptions.

 

The offensive line is the real strength of this offense, and it will give Smith a chance to learn without fearing continual turf poundings.  After giving up 31 sacks last year, the OL should chop that number by at least 10.  Tackles Kyle Magnuson and John Hutchins create a solar eclipse when they stand up straight.  They will protect the flank and open holes for Alexander.

 

If Smith can just have an average year as a freshman, Wyoming’s numbers will improve on this side of the ball.  We are looking for a typical stat line of 17-27 for 175 yards against an average opponent.  Throw in 150 yards rushing, and Wyoming would average about 20-25 points per game this year.  That would be an enormous improvement; UW has not averaged 20 or more points per game since 2006.

 

There is good news and bad news on the other side of the ball.  Wyoming needs more good news after giving up more than 30 points and 400 yards per game last year.  The Good news is the return of the entire starting front four from last year.  There will be improvement on the 20 sacks and 200+ rushing yards allowed.  End Josh Biezuns led the team with 6 ½ sacks, while his counterpart Gabe Knapton added four.  The healthy return of Mark Willis gives the outside quality depth.

 

Now the bad news: Wyoming must rebuild its back seven line of defense.  Only two starters return here, and the unexpected loss of middle linebacker Oliver Schober is likely to be a major factor in why the Cowboys will not improve much if any on this side of the ball.

 

Brian Hendricks is the lone holdover at linebacker.  He finished third on the team with 80 tackles, but he did not get into the backfield, nor did he cover well on passing plays.  Backup middle linebacker Devyn Harris saw considerable action in 2010, so he has a chance to partially fill the void left by Schober.

 

The secondary performed admirably last year considering there was very little pass rush, and the safeties had to make a lot of stops on running plays.  Cornerback Tashaun Gipson could vie for all-conference honors this year.  He defended a dozen passes last year, intercepting three.

 

It will be hard to hold opponents under 30 points per game this year with the weaknesses in the back seven.  The schedule offers the Cowboys a chance to top last year’s win total, but we do not see this team getting to six wins.  4-8 or 5-7 is about the peak for this season.

 

U N L V

Bobby Hauck replaced Joe Glenn at Montana and in seven seasons, guided the Grizzlies to seven conference championships.  His last team included future Pro Bowl rookie kick returner Mark Mariani. 

 

In his first season in Las Vegas, Hauck’s Rebels finished 2-11, only six fewer losses than he experienced in seven years at Montana.  Glenn left Montana to take a job in the MWC at Wyoming, but he never turned the program around and was dismissed after six seasons.  Is the Montana position a lot like the Boise State position has been?  You can win big at Montana, but don’t try to let the chips ride for bigger stakes?

 

Only time will tell, but in year two in Vegas, Hauck may wish that what happens at Sam Boyd Stadium, stays in Sam Boyd Stadium.  The Rebels will have a hard time improving on the woeful 2-11 season of last year, and they could even win 50% fewer games if they cannot defeat New Mexico.

 

Hauck comes from the three yards and a cloud of dust offense school, and he does not have the horses to make it run.  The current roster was recruited to play in the spread offense, and what talent there is was recruited for speed over girth.

 

Trying to improve on 18 points and 274 yards per game, the first order of business is finding a new quarterback.  Omar Clayton has left the building after finishing second in school history to Randall Cunningham in passing yards.  Caleb Herring should line up under center when the season opens on September 1.  He completed half of his 56 passes last year with four touchdowns and three interceptions (the latter stat too high to win in this league).

 

We expect improvement in the Rebels’ running game this year, but it would be hard to go downhill from last year’s weak results (103 rushing yards per game). Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle teamed for just 655 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, but both have looked solid so far in August drills.

 

UNLV has experienced depth at the receiver positions, but the leading receiver from 2010 will miss the start of this season.  Phillip Payne led the Rebels with 40 receptions, while proving to be the only breakaway threat on the team.  He is still recovering from a broken foot.  Payne has the potential to be an all-conference player.  Replacing him until he is ready to go will be tall and lanky Kurt Davis.  Marcus Sullivan has the potential to give the Rebels a solid one-two punch on the perimeter.

 

The offensive line is still a major liability, and expected starting tackle Allen Carroll has been a spectator in practices so far.  The transfer from Washington would be the one true talent on this line, but he has yet to suit up after being medically cleared.  Redshirt freshman Cameron Jefferson is well undersized to play tackle, but he will start at the all-important left tackle position.  Jefferson is 6-6 and only 265 pounds having been a basketball star more than a football star in high school.

 

With an inexperienced line and inexperienced quarterback, defenses may be able to choke off the running game and stop the Rebels’ offense again this season.  We are a little pessimistic on their prospects in year two of the Hauck regime.

 

The defense makes the offense look good.  UNLV had no defense last year.  The Rebels surrendered 40 points and 450 yards per game.  There was no pass rush; enemy backs enjoyed career days; and the secondary played like matadors.  Maybe having major graduation losses on this side of the ball is not such a bad thing.

 

There is one man among boys on this side of the ball.  Linebacker Princeton Jackson comes from Blinn Junior College (Cam Newton’s school) where he was a legitimate superstar in the Juco ranks.  Jackson is quick and strong, and he can make a tackle on either sideline.  He will immediately be the star on this side of the ball and team with Nate Carter and Tani Maka to give the Rebels respectability at this position.

 

You know things are not well when your leading returning sack master recorded just 1 ½ sacks.  UNLV only dumped QBs 12 times in 13 games last year.  B. J. Bell tied for the lead (with a defensive back) with just 1 ½ sacks.  The other starting end, James Dunlap, never touched a QB.  In the interior, Hauck has a couple of beefy bulldozers coming in at 300+ pounds, but there is very little experience or depth here.

 

The secondary might have been an asset this year, but the Rebels’ projected starting strong safety Chris Jones decided to quit playing the game.  The news is a little better at cornerback with the return of the top three players with starting experience.  Will Chandler and Sidney Hodge (the other player with 1 ½ sacks) combined to stop 10 passes last year with Chandler intercepting five of those.  Former starter Quinton Pointer returns after missing 2010 with a knee injury.

 

The schedule does no favors for UNLV.  The Rebels open the season with road games against Big Ten power Wisconsin and improving Washington State.  Then Hawaii comes for a visit.  Game four finds the Rebels hosting a dangerous FCS team in Southern Utah; the Thunderbirds are capable of pulling off the upset.  In conference play, UNLV faces the other two weakest teams on enemy turf, so this could be a very long season in Vegas.  The chances for an 0-12 season are there, but we believe the Rebels can find a way to win two times.

 

New Mexico

How many times have you seen something similar to this story? A publicly traded company has a history of turning a modest profit most quarters with an occasional loss but never a big loss.  The board decides the modest profit is not enough and brings in this promising assistant from one of the Dow Jones 30, and the modest quarterly profits all of a sudden became incredible losses, threatening to make the company the next Eastern Airlines.

 

New Mexico’s most influential supporters were not satisfied with Rocky Long’s typical six and seven-win seasons in a state that just does not have any recruiting base to expect anything more.  Long won nine games in 2007, and he should have been given a lifetime contract.  Instead, a rebuilding season in 2008 brought a 4-8 record and his dismissal. 

 

How do you feel about that now you influential supporters?  You traded five bowls in six years for back-to-back 1-11 seasons and with no prospects for much improvement if any. 

 

New Mexico’s most recent 1-11 season was much worse than the 1-11 season the year before.  The Lobos averaged 16 points and 266 yards (last in the nation) per game while giving up 44 points and 470 total yards per game last year.  Among the losses was a second consecutive defeat to rival New Mexico State, a team that finished 2-10.

 

Third year coach Mike Locksley has appointed two new coordinators, but that is not the problem.  As a popular commercial once made popular, “Where’s the Beef?”  There are not enough FBS-caliber players on the roster, and Vince Lombardi couldn’t win six games with this team.

 

There is talent on offense, but none of it as in the line.  Two starters return to the blocking corps, and this group may be weaker than last year.  Last year’s line gave up 27 sacks and opened holes for just 108 rushing yards at less than three yards per rush.  The top lineman, tackle Darryl Johnson, missed Spring practice.

 

The Lobos went through four quarterbacks last year, and two return for more pain and suffering.  Either B. R. Holbrook or Tarean Austin will start against Colorado State in game one, but with the lack of protection, it would be no surprise if true freshman Dustin Walton is starting at some point during the season.  Holbrook and Austin combined for 1,017 passing yards with a 51% completion rate and a 4/10 TD/int ratio.

 

The top two receivers from last year are back, giving the Lobos a chance to have a little better passing yardage this year.  Ty Kirk and tight end Lucas Reed teamed for 71 receptions and 936 yards.  New wide receiver Lamaar Thomas has world class sprinter’s speed; he started his career at Ohio State, and he could become the top receiver here.

 

Kasey Carrier and James Wright both return to the backfield.  The two gained 677 yards on the ground and scored four touchdowns last year, but it could be harder for them to gain yards with the raw offensive line.

 

It looked like the defense had a chance to improve quite a bit, but major defections/injuries/suspensions have put a major crimp in the trenches of the 4-2-5 alignment.  The big loss is tackle Calvin Smith, who was a big-time recruit.  He transferred to Purdue.  End J. J. Hugine transferred as well.  End Omar Castillo was dismissed from the team, while end Johnathan Rainey broke a bone in his neck and will miss the entire season.  Two juniors who played sparingly a year ago will be counted on to lead the front line.  Joe Harris and Reggie Ellis will join Jaymar Latchison as the only experienced players in the trenches.

 

UNM has some talent at linebacker.  Carmen Messina, Joe Stoner, and Javarie Johnson, and Spencer Merritt give Locksley a decent two-deep.  Messina led the Lobos with 115 tackles with six tackles for loss.  He batted away four passes as well. 

 

The secondary returns four starters from a year ago, but unless the line develops some threat of a pass rush, it will be hard for this quintet to improve by much.  Free safety Bubba Forrest made way too many tackles last year (100).  If he records triple digit stops again this year, the Lobos will be looking up at the rest of the MWC in the standings.

 

The schedule gives UNM a chance to win four times.  Colorado State is vulnerable in the opener due to their offensive line issues.  Sam Houston State visits on September 24, and if the Lobos lose that game, Locksley could be out.  New Mexico State visits Albuquerque the following week, and the Lobos have dropped the last two games to the Aggies.  On November 12, UNM hosts UNLV in a game that could decide which team avoids the basement.

 

New Mexico has so much room to make up on the rest of the league, it is really hard to predict that they will win any of these four winnable games.  We believe that lightning will strike at least one time—again.

 

2011 Mountain West Conference Media Poll

Team

1st Place Votes

Points

Boise State

28

236

T C U

3

208

Air Force

 

176

San Diego State

 

160

Colorado State

 

104

Wyoming

 

80

U N L V

 

77

New Mexico

 

39

 

 

2011 Mountain West Conference PiRate Ratings

Team

PiRate #

Prediction

Boise St.

121.7

7-0/12-0

T C U

110.0

6-1/11-1

Air Force

106.6

5-2/8-4

S.D.State

100.3

4-3/6-6

Colo.State

92.4

3-4/6-6

Wyoming

90.4

2-5/4-8

UNLV

85.2

1-6/2-10

New Mexico

81.7

0-7/1-11

 

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