Ten Takeaways From Mountain West Media Days
By Ken Pomponio
Another Mountain West Conference football media days shindig has run its course, wrapping up Tuesday afternoon amid the surplus of stimuli in sun-splashed Las Vegas.
And what did we really learn from the 15th-annual gathering of coaches, players, officials and notepad- and camera-toting media folk?
Glad you asked.
In the first half of Football.com’s two-part MWC Media Days review, we offer 10 takeaways from the two-day affair. In the second part, set to post later this week, we’ll attempt to read “in between the lines” and decipher some of the event’s more notable coach and player quotes.
In the meantime, though, here are the 10 takeaways:
• This is likely the first and last time we’ll say the Mountain West has it all over the almighty Southeastern Conference, but as Football.com colleague Joe Jenkins (@joejenkins4) pointed out on Twitter recently, one conference had its media gathering in Vegas, the other in Hoover, Ala. Enough said.
• Boise State and Fresno State were picked to win the Mountain and West Divisions, respectively, but that might not be the best news for the Broncos and Bulldogs, given the MWC media’s sub-.500 track record (6 of 14) in forecasting conference champs. To their credit, the media have hit on three of their last four preseason selections — missing only on Boise State in 2011 — but there have been some forgettable whiffs, including Texas Christian in 2007 (the Horned Frogs wound up fifth) and Utah in ’05 and ’00 (sixth both seasons).
• Think the MWC powers that be knew what they were doing in their recent-season raids of the now-defunct Western Athletic Conference? Two former WAC members, Boise and Fresno, are picked to win the MWC divisions, and two others, new 2013 additions, are picked second (Utah State) and third (San Jose State), in their respective divisions.
• The West Division, consisting of FSU, SJSU, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State and UNLV, dominates the media’s preseason All-MWC team with 16 of the 25 selections, including five of the six skill-position players, nine of the 11 defensive selections and the league’s projected Offensive (Fresno QB Derek Carr) and Defensive (Fresno safety Derron Smith) Players of the Year. Fresno State tops the conference with seven players selected, San Jose State has five and Boise State, San Diego State and New Mexico have three apiece.
• Carr, a 2012 All-MWC first-team selection and the conference’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, was the obvious pick to repeat, but take a gander at the MWC quarterbacks that leaves out: 2012 FBS completion-percentage leader David Fales of SJSU, 2012 All-WAC first-teamer Chuckie Keeton of Utah State, 2012 MWC total-offense leader Cody Fajardo of Nevada, 2012 MWC passing-efficiency leader Brett Smith of Wyoming and returning senior starter Joe Southwick of Boise State. The MWC will put that group of six up against the top half-dozen from any conference.
• It’s no real shocker that Hawaii, UNLV and Wyoming failed to place a player on the media’s preseason all-conference squad. After all, those three programs were a combined 9-28 in 2012. But seeing Air Force included as the fourth member of the have-not group is mildly surprising given that the Falcons have qualified for bowl games in six straight seasons and have won a conference-high 29 MWC games (with 18 losses) over that span. AFA didn’t place anyone on the 2012 postseason All-MWC first squad, either, further accentuating the success coach Troy Calhoun and the Falcons have had as a team.
• Bob Davie’s New Mexico Lobos were picked to bring up the rear in the Mountain Division and only had one regular position player (RB Kasey Carrier) named to the preseason all-conference squad, but UNM might boast the best special teams in the league with punter Ben Skaer and kick returner Chase Clayton occupying two of the three All-MWC preseason special-teams spots. The Lobos also are set at kicker with 2012 honorable-mention all-league selection Justus Adams returning.
• Those hoping for an announcement on the start time and TV network (CBS controls the rights) for the league’s inaugural championship game are still waiting as MWC commissioner Craig Thompson told the assembled media that negotiations are ongoing. The game is listed for Dec. 7, but finding a time slot and a national audience will be tricky with the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC title tilts already set on the Dec. 7 docket.
• Thompson said he likes where his 12-team conference currently sits within the ever-shifting FBS landscape, but added the league would definitely (and wisely) listen if ex-MWC member Brigham Young comes calling. BYU is entering its third straight season as an FBS independent.
• And finally, yes, the season is upon us. Air Force will be the first MWC team to report to “fall” camp on July 30, and five others (Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico, San Jose State and Utah State) will follow suit over the ensuing two days.