Ken Pomponio

2013 Mountain West Conference Bold Predictions

Created on Aug. 27, 2013 5:10 AM EST

It’s not a matter of months or weeks any more, but rather days and hours.

Yes, the college football season is upon us.

Still, there’s just enough time for some last-minute bold predictions, and here’s some best guesses for the Mountain West Conference:

Division Champs

In the Mountain, there’s a clear line of demarcation between the top two (Boise State and Utah State) and the remaining four (Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming and New Mexico). So that leaves the 2012 MWC tri-champs (BSU) duking it out with the 2012 WAC champs (USU) for the title, and despite the head-to-head matchup being played in Logan, we give the edge to Boise State.

The West figures to be tougher with an experienced, 11-win San Jose State squad moving over from the WAC to join 2012 MWC bowl participants Fresno State, San Diego State and Nevada. Even three-win Hawaii and two-win UNLV will be improved. The California triumvirate, however, will prove to be the cream of the West crop, and division title will come down to the final weekend of the regular season when the Bulldogs visit the Spartans on a Friday afternoon. It’ll be Fresno State prevailing in a points-aplenty thriller.

Conference Champ

It’ll be the Broncos and Bulldogs in Boise, and the home-field, blue-turf edge and the Boise State defense will prove to be the difference as the Broncos avenge a regular-season road loss to FSU.

Offensive Player Of The Year

There will be no shortage of candidates given the conference’s outstanding quarterback class bolstered by WAC transfers David Fales (SJSU) and Chuckie Keeton (USU). But reigning MWC Offensive Player of the Year and Fresno State senior Derek Carr simply will have too much going for him.

Defensive Player Of The Year

San Jose State linebacker Keith Smith, the media’s preseason DPOY choice, Fresno safety Derron Smith, San Diego State safety Nat Berhe and SJSU cornerback Bene Benwikere all will state their cases, but the best player on the conference’s best defense, junior defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, will take home the honor.

Top Heisman Candidate

We’ve already discussed why a MWC Heisman winner is about as a realistic as a serene day in the Middle East. That said, Carr, Fales and Keeton, in that order, are the conference’s top candidates.

Coach Of The Year

The coaches of the division champs — Fresno’s Tim DeRuyter and BSU’s Chris Petersen — obviously will be in the running, but we’ll give the edge to an FBS newcomer, San Jose State’s Ron Caragher, who will have the Spartans in the West Division title hunt up until the regular-season ending loss to FSU.

Biggest MWC Upset

We’ve told you Hawaii will be improved, and they’ll deal San Diego State’s division title hopes a late-season blow with a win in Honolulu on Nov. 16.

Emerging Star

Hawaii’s new starting quarterback, junior Taylor Graham, has the pedigree (son of 10-year NFL QB Kent Graham), background (an Ohio State transfer who was a Top-15 prep recruit) and environment (guiding Hawaii’s spread offense under offensive guru Norm Chow) to flourish in his first season as a collegiate starter.

Game Of The Year

Remember that season-ending, high-scoring Fresno State-San Jose State showdown we talked about a few paragraphs back? That’s the call here with Carr and Fales going head-to-head Nov. 29 at Spartan Stadium.

Coach On The Hottest Seat

No hesitation here: It’s UNLV’s Bobby Hauck. He’s 6-32 after three two-win seasons in the desert, and he’s yet to win a road game. The Rebels and their conference-most 19 returning starters will be improved, but enough to reach the postseason in a loaded division/tough conference and save Hauck’s job? Not likely.

A Half-Dozen More “Bolder” Proclamations

  • Boise State will lose two (at Washington, at Fresno State) of its first four games but will reel off nine straight wins to win the inaugural MWC title game.
  • Nevada will finish with a losing record and miss out on a bowl for the first time since 2004.
  • UNLV will snap its 22-game road losing streak with a victory at the site where it won its last road contest: at New Mexico on Sept. 28.
  • The MWC, which had four QBs finish in the Top 40 of the FBS passing-efficiency ratings a year ago, will nearly double that total this year with Fales, Keeton and Graham joining Carr, Wyoming’s Brett Smith, Boise State’s Joe Southwick and Nevada’s Cody Fajardo.
  • Carr set the MWC single-season passing yardage record by throwing for 4,104 a year ago, but both Carr and Fales will obliterate that by both topping 4,500 this fall.
  • Utah State will notch the MWC’s biggest non-conference victory of the season when it wins at USC on Sept. 21.
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