Mountain West football media day – West Division notes

Here are some news and notes from Tuesday’s first day of Mountain West football media day activities here in Las Vegas. Tuesday featured teams from the West Division. Players and coaches from the Mountain Division get their turn Wednesday.

–Nevada coach Brian Polian isn’t one to hold back his opinions, and he wasn’t happy that this season’s rivalry game with UNLV is not at the end of the season,

Brian Polian

Brian Polian

like many rivalry games are around the nation, or during the weekend of Nevada Day, which celebrates when Nevada became a state back in 1864. Nevada Day is Friday, Oct. 30 this year.

This year’s game is Oct. 3 at UNLV.

This reminds me of the Border War with Wyoming and Colorado State. There was a decent stretch when that game was played at the end of the season with other rivalry games. However, that usually came during the weekend of Thanksgiving, and attendance in Laramie or Fort Collins were poor with students not around, and usually one of the two teams not being very good.

I’ve written in the past that the Border War should be played more toward the middle of the season. The weather is better and there is more fan interest. Attendance figures at both schools back that up. Not sure what to say about the Nevada-UNLV game, but one thing is certain, Polian doesn’t like the set up this year.

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Bowl season starts Saturday with four MW teams in action

A record seven Mountain West football teams made it to bowl games. The old record was six in 2013.

Four of those teams will play their bowl games Saturday, the first day of the bowl season. Here’s who I think will win and why. As the other bowl games with MW teams approach, I will pick those as well. As always, your feedback is encouraged.

New Orleans Bowl — Nevada (7-5) vs. Louisiana (8-4), 9 a.m. MT (ESPN)

This is basically a road game for Nevada as it plays the in-state school that is playing in this game for the fourth consecutive year. The Ragin’ Cajuns won the previous three.

The two teams are evenly matched. Nevada averages 31.3 points per game; Louisiana (8-4) averages 30.6. Nevada allows 28.2 points per game; Louisiana 27.9. Both teams also have dual-threat quarterbacks: Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and Louisiana’s Terrance Broadway.

Nevada is good enough to win this game, but I am sticking with Ragin’ Cajuns as it will have the definite home-field advantage. Plus, Nevada will kickoff this game at 8 a.m. PT on their own time clocks. It may take the Wold Pack a while to wake up.. Louisiana 34, Nevada 28.

New Mexico Bowl — Utah State (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5), 12:20 p.m. MT (ESPN)

UTEP averages 212.7 rushing yards per game, and Utah State allows only 129.3 rushing yards per contest. Utah State also is a more well-rounded team offensively and defensively.

UTEP has allowed 46 touchdowns this season, compared to 33 for Utah State. The Aggies may take a little time to get going on offense, but their defense will carry them to an easy victory. Utah State 38, UTEP 20.

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 13

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of the Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 13 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Colorado State (9-1 overall, 5-1 MW): Remains No. 1 coming off a bye week. Winners of eight straight and the only MW team ranked in the polls, yet needs a Boise State loss to win the Mountain Division (assuming the Rams win out). Senior quarterback Garrett Grayson was notified last week by the Heisman Trust that he is a candidate to win this year’s award. He’s good, but not sure he’s that good. This week: vs. New Mexico, 11:30 a.m. MT Saturday (ROOT). Rams will end their home season on a high note, but a big game at Air Force next week looms: Colorado State 45, New Mexico 22.

2. Boise State (8-2, 5-1): Still not far behind Colorado State in the rankings. The Broncos had to rally from first-half deficits in their last two games, but they lead the MW in scoring (37.7 ppg) and they find ways to win games. This week: at Wyoming, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2). Boise State is 8-0 all-time against Wyoming, and it will make it 9-0 in a game closer than some may think. Boise State 27, Wyoming 20.

3. Utah State (8-3, 5-1): Can still win the Mountain Division, but needs some help. The Aggies have allowed the fewest points in the MW this season (213), and just keep winning. This week: vs. San Jose State, 7:30 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN2). Perhaps the rest of the country will see why Utah State is one of the best stories in college football as they win their ninth game despite playing their fourth quarterback due to injuries. Utah State 30, San Jose State 14.

4. Air Force (8-2, 4-2): The fourth team from the Mountain Division with eight or more wins, and perhaps one of the more underrated teams in the country. A big test comes this week, but no matter what the Falcons do the rest of the season, the program has bounced back nicely after going 2-10 in 2013. This week: at San Diego State, 7:30 p.m. MT Friday (CBSSN). Should be a low-scoring game between two good defenses. Going with the home team, but not feeling overly confident with that. San Diego State 24, Air Force 21.

5. Nevada (6-4, 3-3): Leaders in the West Division and still the favorite to win that division despite an overtime loss at Air Force last week. Capable of beating any team in the league, but also capable of losing to them all. This week: vs. Fresno State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU). The division title is on the line in this one. Going with the home team and senior quarterback Cody Fajardo. Nevada 38, Fresno State 31.

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 7

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of the Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 7 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Colorado State (4-1 overall, 0-1 MW): The Rams are tied for the longest winning streak in the MW at three, and concluded their nonconference schedule with a 42-17 pasting of Tulsa last week. CSU is one of the more well-rounded teams so far in the league, and also does a good job of flipping field position — leading the MW in net punting (41.9 yards per punt). This week: at Nevada, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). It’s all MW play from here on out for the Rams, and a tricky road game at Nevada will see how well-rounded this team is. Going to go with the Rams in this one. Colorado State 34, Nevada 26.

2. Air Force (4-1, 1-1): The Falcons haven’t lost since at Sept. 6 setback at Wyoming, and also have won three straight. Air Force’s defense has been the biggest surprise this season, as it allows just 116 rushing yards per game, and has allowed the fewest points in the MW (106). This week: at Utah State, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU). Air Force already owns a conference win over Boise State, but let’s see what it can do on the road against — all of a sudden — a much improved Utah State squad. I am going to go with the home team in this one. Utah State 27, Air Force 23.

3. Utah State (3-2, 0-0): A big jump up for the Aggies after they dismantled No. 18 BYU on the road last week. A game like that could be the one that starts a big run for the Aggies. And, how about going a little old school with sophomore Nick Vigil playing both ways at running back and linebacker? This week: vs. Air Force, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNU). Will the Aggies still be up after the big win over BYU or will there be an emotional letdown? Going with the first scenario. Utah State 27, Air Force 23.

4. Boise State (4-2, 2-1): A crazy 51-46 win at Nevada last week showed the Broncos are still formidable and dangerous. When the Broncos don’t turn it over they can beat anyone. Kind of a simplistic statement, but Boise State is just one of a handful of good and intriguing teams in the Mountain Division moving forward. This week: Off.

5. Fresno State (3-3, 2-0): After a rough start, the Bulldogs have won two straight and are 2-0 in league play. I don’t think they are as good as past years, but in a year like this you don’t have to be spectacular to be solid in the MW. This week: at UNLV, 8 p.m. MT Friday (CBSSN). Fresno State should make it three straight wins against the worst team in the conference. Fresno State 38, UNLV 13.

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 6

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of his Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 6 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Nevada (3-1 overall, 1-0 MW): The Wolf Pack didn’t jump from No. 2 to No. 1 just because of its 21-10 road win at San Jose State, but it also has allowed the fewest points of any MW team this season (77). Throw in dual-threat quarterback Cody Fajardo and, at least right now, Nevada is at the top. This week: vs. Boise State, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). We should see how good Nevada is this week. Boise State is will be mad and motivated after a road loss at Air Force. Going to go with the road team in a close one. Boise State 24, Nevada 21.

2. Colorado State (3-1, 0-1): An impressive 24-21 win at Boston College last week. The Rams lead the conference in total offense (492 ypg) and are second in scoring (32 ppg). A couple of key starters a banged up this week — including quarterback Garrett Grayson, but it won’t matter much this week. This week: vs. Tulsa, 1 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Network — online only). The Rams’ impressive offensive numbers should climb and they will win their third straight game. Colorado State 38, Tulsa 16.

3. Air Force (3-1, 1-1): One of the biggest moves up this week. Not many saw the Falcons’ 28-14 home win over Boise State coming. Air Force leads the MW in scoring (33.2 ppg) and is third in scoring defense (21.2 ppg). Maybe the biggest surprise is it is seventh nationally in rushing defense (82.2 ypg). This week: vs. Navy, 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). This game should decide the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy winner this year. Again, going with the road team here in a close one. Navy 27, Air Force 23.

4. San Diego State (2-2, 1-0): An expected 34-17 home win over UNLV last week, but let’s see if the Aztecs can go on the road this week in league play and win. SDSU also will start a true freshman quarterback in Nick Bawden. Its stay in the top four may not last long — or could it? This week: at Fresno State, 8 p.m. MT Friday (CBSSN). For some reason I like road teams this week. I think the Aztecs will play good enough defense to make Fresno throw the ball more, which is not a good thing. San Diego State 28, Fresno State 20.

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Mountain West football power rankings and picks – Week 2

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of his Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 2 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Colorado State (1-0, 0-0 MW): A big jump for the Rams, but they earned it as they had the most impressive win — not sure if it was good or bad — in the league last week with a 31-17 win over Colorado in Denver. We will see how good CSU  is when it plays at Boise State Saturday. This week: at Boise State, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday, (ESPN2).The Rams will be good this season, but they are not good enough to win in Boise. Boise State 27, CSU 21.

2. San Diego State (1-0, 0-0): One of four teams to beat Big Sky teams last week. The Aztecs should contend for the West Division title, but they get a much bigger test this week. But for now, SDSU makes a significant move up. This week: at No. 21 North Carolina, 6 p.m, MT Saturday (ESPNews). The MW needs a win over a team from a Power 5 conference foe. The Aztecs have the best chance. It will be close, but they fall short. North Carolina 28, San Diego State 17.

3. Boise State (0-1, 0-0): Yes, the Broncos got soundly beat 35-13 against Ole Miss last week in Atlanta. But it was a one-point game early in the fourth quarter before the Broncos succumbed to Ole Miss’ size and athleticism. Quarterback Grant Hedrick can’t throw four interceptions like he did against Ole Miss. This week: vs. Colorado State, 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPN2). Boise State may not be a dominant team this season, but it is still good and will bounce back this week. Boise State 27, Colorado State 21.

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Mountain West football power rankings and picks – Week 1

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his first weekly installment of his Mountain West football power rankings and picks for the Week 1 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Utah State: The defending Mountain Division champs get senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton back from a knee injury, and it may be a stretch to put the Aggies this high not knowing how good Keeton will be. But there is a proven backup behind him and a lot of good players on defense. This week: at Tennessee, 5 p.m. MT, Sunday (SEC Network). Of all the MW teams playing big-time programs this week, Utah State may have the best chance to win. But I am still going with the Vols in a close one. Tennessee 27, Utah State 24.

2. Fresno State: Not only do the Bulldogs have to replace quarterback Derek Carr, but they also lost some really good receivers. Still, there are players in the pipeline that can fill the void. This team will still be good. This week: at USC 5:30 p.m. MT, Saturday (FOX). Even with Carr and Co., Fresno State was blown out by USC in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl. USC has a new coach and has a mess on its hands with the Josh Shaw saga, but it still has enough to win. USC 31, Fresno State 20.

3. Boise State: The Bryan Harsin era begins, and one has to wonder if the Broncos will remain among the MW’s powers. They will, thanks to Harsin’s new wrinkles and what was built by former coach Chris Petersen. There are too many good players on that roster not to. This week: vs. Ole Miss, 6 p.m. MT Thursday (ESPN). The Broncos will go to Atlanta and pick up the league’s best win over a nonconference foe. Boise State 30, Ole Miss 23.

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Targeting rule concerns MW coaches

One of the biggest rule changes this year in college football involves targeting, where a player hits a defenseless player.

This could involve a defender hitting a receiver over the middle, a defender hitting a quarterback, and even a running back lowering his head to a defender down field.

MW logoThe NCAA wants to eliminate players using the crown of their helmets leading into hits. They also don’t any defender hitting anyone above the shoulders in a blatant manner.

Most Mountain West coaches like the merits of the rule, but are leery of how it will be called since most of those plays happen so fast. And, they are leery of the punishment.

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Weighing in on MW All-Conference football

There were not a lot of surprises when the All-Mountain West first and second football teams came out Tuesday.

Here is the link to the complete list:

http://www.themwc.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/120412aaf.html

Congrats to Wyoming senior center Nick Carlson and senior defensive tackle Mike Purcell for making the first team. I voted for both on my first team. Of UW’s players, those two were the most deserving and had the best chance of making the first team.

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Final MW football power rankings

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi gives his final power rankings for Mountain West football in 2012:

1. Fresno State (9-3 overall, 7-1 MW): As stated numerous times this season, this is the most complete team in the conference. That was evident in the all-conference selections as junior quarterback David Carr was the Offensive Player of the Year, senior safety Phillip Tomas was the Defensive Player of the Year and receiver Davante Adams was the Freshman of the Year. In all, the team had a league-high first team all-conference players. The Bulldogs were the highest scoring team in the MW (40.2 ppg), was second in scoring defense (22.2 ppg) and intercepted the most passes (20). Despite a 10-point loss at Boise State, the nod goes to the Bulldogs as the top team in the league this year.

2. Boise State (10-2, 7-1): Head-to-head play doesn’t mean much in these rankings (you can weigh in on that if you want) because San Diego State won at Boise State this season. The Broncos have been nationally ranked all season. Their strength was on defense as they finished in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (14.9 ppg), total defense (304.7 ypg) and in turnover margin (+18). The offense was OK, and improved as the season went on.

3. San Diego State (9-3, 7-1): Not a lot of separation with these first three teams. The Aztecs won their final seven games of the season, and did it mostly with a powerful run game. What’s even more impressive is San Diego State did a lot of its work with sophomore backup quarterback Adam Dingwell after senior starter Ryan Katz suffered a season-ending leg injury in the eighth game. Coach Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense improved as the season went on, thanks in large part to the play up front. That enabled Long to be named the MW Coach of the Year.

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