MW mid-season power ratings

It’s the halfway point of the season in the Mountain West. All 10 teams have played at least six games, and some have played seven.

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi rates all 10 teams and why. Look for his ratings on a weekly basis as the season continues

1. Boise State (5-1 overall, 2-0 MW): The offensive fire power isn’t there, but the defense has been stellar. The Broncos lead the MW in scoring defense (14.7 ppg), pass defense (173.3 ypg), total defense (334.7 ypg), turnover margin (+11), pass efficiency defense (103.4) and first downs allowed (109).

2. Nevada (6-1, 3-0): The most dynamic offense that leads the MW in scoring (41 ppg) and total offense (549.9 ypg). The Wolf Pack can run and throw with the best of them. A fourth-quarter letdown at home against South Florida is the only thing keeping this team from being undefeated and probably nationally ranked. The defense needs to improve and the better teams in the conference still await.

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Burman talks about MW meetings

Wyoming athletics director Tom Burman left San Diego Monday afternoon from meetings the last couple of days with the Mountain West’s other ADs and school presidents.

Unfortunately, no news came out of the meetings regarding the league’s ongoing challenge to improve its television package, or with its future partnership/merger (or whatever you want to call it) with Conference USA.

But a lot was discussed, and the primary topic was generating more revenue and that centers around a better TV contract. But that’s still where all this stands — in the talking phase. There is no new deal as of now, nor a revamped one that gives the league and its members more exposure … and more importantly, more money.

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MW adds San Jose State, Utah State

Just got off a conference call where the Mountain West announced the additions of San Jose State and Utah State to the Mountain West.

Speculation of this has gone on for months so it was no surprise. But other than two more teams in the MW, there really were not a whole lot of answers to the future of the league or its merger with Conference USA, which announced the addition of five new teams Friday.

Some thoughts on what MW commissioner Craig Thompson said today:

–He said the MW/CUSA merger is still on, but no further details have been hammered out. When the two announced its merger a few months ago there is an end-of-June deadline to either cancel it, extend the talks or re-write what it originally wanted to do. One of those things is to have a championship football game. But you need at least 12 teams to do that. The MW has 10. Will it bring over some CUSA teams to its side? Will it add more teams (Thompson didn’t seem too high on that idea). Or, will it join forces under one name and one league? Stay tuned.

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Number crunching through two scrimmages

Was crunching some numbers from Wyoming’s first two scrimmages of fall camp to try and come to some conclusions on who we might see play this season. Here’s what I came up with.

At quarterback, true freshman Brett Smith has the best numbers so far. He’s 39 of 51 (76.5 completion percentage) for 483 yards with four TDs and one INT. His yards-per-completion is 12.4. Smith has ran the No. 1 offense in both scrimmages, and based on those numbers I would guess he will continue to.

Junior-college transfer Colby Kirkegaard seems to have an edge over true freshman Adam Pittser right now in the backup battle. He is 35 of 46 (76.1 completion percentage) for 221 yards with no TDs or INTs. Pittser is 24 of 53 (45.3 percent) for 210 yards with a TD and a INT. Both guys played better in last Friday’s second scrimmage compared to the first last Tuesday. I’ve been impressed with Kirkegaard’s accuracy, although he hasn’t attempted a lot of deep throws.

At running back, sophomore Brandon Miller has ran 19 times for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and a team-best 7.7 yards per carry (thanks in large part to a 53-yard run Friday). Junior Alvester Alexander has the most carries at 24 for 104 yards and three TDs. True freshman Kody Sutton has 23 carries for 114 yards. All three have shown some good things, and we’ve yet to see junior Ghaali Muhammad (injury). I think UW will be fine at running back, whoever gets the carries.

Sophomore Robert Herron and redshirt freshman Sam Stratton are the top receivers so far with 11 catches apiece. Senior Mazi Ogbonna has eight catches for 150 yards and two TDs, including a 76-yard touchdown. Miller has caught seven passes for 77 yards out of the backfield. Among the true freshmen receivers, Dominic Rufran has 12 catches for 65 yards, Trey Norman has five catches for 50 yards and Josh Doctson has four for 17. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of them play this season.

Perhaps most impressive than anything from the receivers so far? Only three dropped passes in the first two scrimmages.

Haven’t seen a lot of movement or experimentation along the offensive line so far, which I think is good as the coaches must like what they’re seeing. Seniors Clayton Kirven and John Hutchins each have took turns playing with the No. 1 offense at right tackle. Wouldn’t be surprised if that continues all season.

Defensively, junior-college transfer linebacker/defensive end Korey Jones has been spectacular with 12 tackles, including five for loss. True freshman defensive end Eddie Yarbrough has six sacks. I really like the looks of this kid and could see him playing this season. Sophomore linebacker Todd Knight is taking advantage of his opportunity with some injuries at the position with 16 tackles. I would like to see how this defense can play when it gets some of its other LBs back like senior Brian Hendricks and true freshman Mark Nzeocha.

Other than Yarborough, I’ve been impressed with true freshman cornerback Blair Burns, who has 10 tackles, two pass break-ups and one tackle for loss in the two scrimmages. He saw a lot of time with the No. 2 defense in the second scrimmage. He could be a solid nickel back behind senior Tashaun Gipson and sophomore Marqueston Huff.

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Here are some links to stories for some of UW’s 2010 opponents. Note the trouble brewing at Colorado State.

http://www.standard.net/stories/2011/08/11/turnovers-most-important-stat-wildcats-2011

http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20110814/SPORTS/108140352/CSU-suspends-3-due-rule-violations

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/aug/13/sdsu-riddle-one-ball-four-starting-tight-ends/

http://www.lvrj.com/sports/unlv-freshman-jefferson-steps-into-void-as-qb-s-key-protector-127677558.html

http://www.idahostatesman.com/2011/08/14/1759969/defense-dominant-in-first-scrimmage.html

http://www.golobos.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/081411aac.html

http://www.gazette.com/sports/cobb-123199-fullback-steffon.html

Hope you will check out and vote in the new poll question on the blog. Another possible shake-up in terms of the college athletics landscape could be coming if Texas A&M and others go to the SEC. I don’t see this move having an impact on the Mountain West. If others follow A&M’s lead and leave the Big XII, then things could get interesting. But even then, I see the MW being OK and surviving all this. Thoughts?

Also hoping to do another live chat for Tuesday’s third scrimmage at UW. Will post more on that on Monday.

Football news and notes

Wyoming is two weeks away from its first practice of fall camp. Wow, did summer go by fast!

As of now only one of the incoming freshman in UW’s 2011 recruiting class won’t make it for fall camp — 5-11, 185-pound receiver London Muse of Sugar Land, Texas. He didn’t qualify academically. There also is a walk-on junior-college quarterback that will join the team for fall camp, but from what I gather the starting job will be battled by true freshmen Brett Smith and Adam Pittser.

Coach Dave Christensen told me he expects junior running back Ghaali Muhammad to be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 3 against Weber State. Muhammad, who was moved from linebacker to running back after last season, missed spring ball with an injury.

Christensen does not talk about specific injuries involving players.

Christensen also said sophomore right defensive tackle Patrick Mertens may be lost for the season due to an injury. Mertens played in all 12 games last season as a true freshman and recorded 39 tackles and two sacks. Juniors Ben Durbin and Kurt Taufa’asau are the top candidates to replace Mertens in the starting lineup.

Mountain West Football Media Day is Tuesday and Wednesday in Las Vegas. Senior linebacker Brian Hendricks and senior defensive end Josh Biezuns will be there for UW, along with Christensen.

The mtn. will televise a two-hour football show from the event at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and will interview players and coaches from all eight MW teams. Here is the order of the interviews

5 p.m.    TCU: Gary Patterson (HC), Josh Boyce (WR), Tank Carder (LB)

5:15 p.m. Colorado St.: Steve Fairchild (HC), Paul Madsen (OL),  Mychal Sisson (LB)

5:30 p.m. Wyoming: Dave Christensen (HC), Brian Hendricks (LB), Josh Biezuns (DB)

5:45 p.m. Air Force: Troy Calhoun (HC), Jon Warzeka (WR/KR), Zach Payne (DL)

6 p.m. UNLV: Bobby Hauck (HC), Anthony Vidal (TE), Quinton Pointer (DB)

6:15 p.m. San Diego St.: Rocky Long (HC), Ryan Lindley (QB), Jerome Long (DL)

6:30 p.m. New Mexico: Mike Locksley (HC), Lucas Reed (TE), Carmen Messina (LB)

6:45 p.m. Boise St.: Chris Petersen (HC), Kellen Moore (QB), George Iloka (DB)

I will be in Vegas so expect numerous blog posts and Twitter updates througout, and feel free to ask questions and comment on the happenings.

No Wyoming-Hawaii football games for 2012-13

When the new-look Mountain West has 10 teams starting next year, it will play only eight league games — meaning someone won’t play someone.

For Wyoming, that someone is Hawaii.

Although UW hasn’t released its future conference schedules, here is a link to Brian Murphy’s blog from the Idaho Statesman. http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2011/06/11/bmurphy/mountain_west_football_schedules_2012_2013

Wyoming will play at Nevada in 2012 and host Nevada in 2013. Here’s what the home and away conference schedule should look like next season:

2012

Home: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State

Away: Fresno State, New Mexico, Nevada and UNLV

Flip those around for 2013 in terms of home and away.

Thoughts on not playing Hawaii for the first two years? I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s hard to make the trip to Hawaii, and vice versa for Hawaii to come to the mainland, let alone play at 7,220 feet. On years when teams play at Hawaii they can schedule a 13th game, usually a home game, to help offset travel costs. This sounds good, but often not easy at Wyoming to get anyone decent to come to Laramie.

This rotation will last only two years, and then another team enters into a new two-year rotation. Let’s hope the MW higher-ups don’t come up with something silly like UW not playing CSU or Air Force, or even CSU not playing Air Force in this rotation. Wasn’t the MW formed to preserve traditional rivalries back in 1999?

Air Force and Boise State play each other this season (Oct. 22 in Boise) but don’t in 2012 and 2013. Colorado State and Nevada don’t play each other in 2012-13, either. Was looking foward to seeing Boise State and Air Force play right away. That’s likely a bonus for both schools, but not for fans.

Some hoops and football stuff

This writer from CBSSports.com saw my Q&A piece with Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt.

http://eye-on-college-basketball.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/26283066/29611425

The Sporting News, one of my favorite publications, thinks the MWC will be in the BCS — even if its just for a little bit. I’m a skeptical about this. What do you think?

http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football/story/2011-05-26/bcs-would-have-a-hard-time-denying-mwc-entry

For the last couple of years I’ve had the privilege to so the Mountain West football and basketball previews for the Blue Ribbon College Football and Basketball Yearbooks. For any of you who haven’t seen them, they are full of great information, and its done mostly by beat writers who cover the teams and conferences. http://www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com/

Here is a sneak peek of my predicted order of finish in the MWC in football:

1. Boise State

2. TCU

3. Air Force

4. San Diego State

5. Wyoming

6. Colorado State

7. New Mexico

8. UNLV

Thoughts?

Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday weekend.

A split in Division I football?

An interesting article on the thought of a possible split among Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) football members. The split would include the Mountain West.

Here is the link: http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/15164842/divide-might-be-coming-but-which-leagues-will-conquer

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

UW football captains named on a weekly basis

Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said during Tuesday’s Mountain West Conference spring football teleconference that team captains this season will be named on a weekly basis. In Christensen’s first two seasons, captains were named before fall camp.

Christensen said he liked the leadership he saw during spring drills, and thinks there are more leaders on this team than on his previous two.

Christensen said there are no plans as of now to move players to different positions heading into fall camp, and when asked if the starting quarterback job was any where close to being resloved, he said: “not even close.”

Here are some other quotes from other MWC coaches from the teleconference:

“We’ve got a quarterback, but we have a lot of holes, too.” — San Diego State coach Rocky Long, speaking mostly about holes at the wide receiver spot.

“I think they ought to get rid of that blue turf, I think it’s unfair.” — Long on Boise State’s blue artificial turf.

“The only thing I can say is we’re on it every day and see it all the time. We don’t think it’s any different than when we go to a green field. Maybe that’s because we see it every day. When we go into our indoor facilty and the field is green we don’t think it’s any different.” — Boise State coach Chris Petersen.

“I feel this team is built to go to a bowl game.” — New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, who is 2-22 in his first two seasons but returns six starters on offense and nine on defense.

“He has as strong or a stronger arm, and he runs faster.” — TCU coach Gary Patterson on sophomore quarterback Casey Pachall, the likely candidate to start for departed senior Andy Dalton.

“You look back at teams that made a move to a new conference and that first year no matter who good a team is supposed to be doesn’t do that great. The only time we didn’t win the WAC was our first year there.” — Petersen.

Note: In TCU’s first year in the MWC in 2005 it won the regular-season title with an 8-0 conference record and 11-1 overall record. It finished ninth and 11th in both polls.