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2013 Mountain West Preview
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Skinny: has Boise State as the even-money ‘chalk’ to win the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State has the second-shortest odds (+160) at the offshore website (risk $100 to win $160).

Boise St., Fresno St. and San Diego State finished in a three-way tie for first place in the MWC last season. Each school had a 7-1 record in conference play.

BSU returns five starters on offense and four on defense from an 11-2 team that capped the season with a 28-26 win over Washington at the Las Vegas Bowl. Finally, the Broncos got a game-winning field goal against the Huskies after their place-kickers had let them down in so many tight games through the years.

Chris Petersen now owns an incredible 84-8 record in seven seasons at Boise St. For whatever reasons, there are still plenty of pundits that don’t give Petersen or this program the credit it deserves. For instance, the Broncos have won seven of their eight games against BCS competition since 2008 with just two of those victories coming on the smurf turf.

Boise St. has beaten Oregon (twice), Georgia, Oregon St., Washington, Arizona St. and Va. Tech. The Broncos only face on BCS foe this season, opening the year at Washington in a rematch of the Las Vegas Bowl. They play at BYU on a Friday night in another tough non-conference matchup.

Senior quarterback Joe Southwick showed improvement throughout his first year as the starter. He completed 66.8 percent of his throws for 2,730 yards with a 19/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Junior WR Matt Miller is back after earning first-team All-MWC honors in 2012. Miller hauled in 66 receptions for 769 yards and five TDs. RB D.J. Harper is gone but rising sophomore Jay Ajayi is poised for a monster campaign after averaging 6.7 yards per carry last year. Ajavi rushed for 548 yards and four TDs.

The BSU defense is led by All-American candidate Demarcus Lawrence, a junior DE who had 9.5 sacks and four tackles for loss in 2012. Senior DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and junior DT Tyler Horn (5 sacks LY) help Lawrence form the best front four in the MWC.

Boise St. has a season win total of 9.5 (‘over’ -160, ‘under’ +130). The Broncos play all five of their toughest games on the road – at Washington, at Fresno St., at Utah St., at BYU and at San Diego St.

Utah State is BSU’s toughest competition in the Mountain Division. The Aggies own 7/1 odds to win the MWC Championship Game. They have a season win total of 7.5 (‘over’ -150, ‘under’ +110).

Junior QB Chuckie Keeton has guided his team to back-to-back bowl appearances. Prior to his arrival, Utah St. hadn’t been to the postseason since 1997. Keeton has a 38/11 career TD-INT ratio. He completed 67.5 percent of his throws last season for 3,373 yards and 27 TDs. Keeton also rushed for 619 yards and eight TDs, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

Utah St. compiled an 11-2 record both SU and ATS in 2012. However, head coach Gary Andersen is gone after taking the Wisconsin job. Matt Wells, who had been on Andersen’s staff for two years and was the offensive coordinator in 2012, is the new head coach.

The Aggies return seven starters on both offense and defense. The ‘D’ gave up only 15.4 points per game last season.

The rest of the division is garbage for the most part. Air Force and Wyoming might make it to bowl games. The Cowboys have one of the MWC’s best singal callers in junior Brett Smith, who posted a 27/6 TD-INT ratio last year.

Fresno St. figures to get plenty of competition for the West Division from both San Diego St. and San Jose St.,. The Bulldogs bring back eight starters on both offense and defense after going 9-4 SU and 11-2 ATS in Tim DeRuyter’s first year at the helm.

Senior QB Derek Carr could be a sleeper Heisman Trophy candidate. Carr connected on 67.3 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards with a 37/7 TD-INT ratio as a junior. He will miss workhorse RB Robbie Rouse (1,490 yds. & 12 TDs), but WRs Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse are back in the fold.

Adams had 102 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 TDs in 2012. Burse hauled in 57 receptions for 851 yards and six scores. Fresno must face both the Aztecs and the Spartans on the road.

San Jose St. went 11-2 both SU and ATS in its last campaign in the WAC. The success led to the exit of head coach Mike MacIntyre to take the Colorado job. The new man in charge is Ron Caragher, who went 44-22 since replacing Jim Harbaugh as the HC at San Diego.

SJS quarterback David Fales might be the most underrated player in the country, but you can bet your ass that NFL scout are all over this kid. Fales produced video-game numbers in 2012, completing 72.5 percent of his passes for 4,193 yards with a 33/9 TD-INT ratio.

Like Fales, senior WR Noel Grigsby doesn’t get much hype but going to play on Sundays in the future, too. Grigsby had 82 catches for 1,307 yards and nine TDs last year.

The Spartans return seven starters on offense and five on defense. They beat Bowling Green by a 29-20 count as 7.5-point favorites at the Military Bowl.

Rocky Long’s squad went 9-4 SU and 8-5 ATS last season. San Diego St. brings back six starters on offense and nine on defense. The Aztecs’ offense will feature junior RB Adam Muema, who rushed for 1,458 yards and 16 TDs while averaging 6.2 YPC in 2012. SDS should have a stout defensive unit led by Nat Berhe and Jake Fely.

The Aztecs have two chances to make national splashes in September, going to The ‘Shoe to face Ohio St. in Week 2. Also, they host Oregon St. on Sep. 21 after enjoying an open date.

Since going 13-1 in 2010 with Colin Kaepernick running the show, Nevada has posted back-to-back 7-6 seasons. The Wolf Pack is 10-16 ATS during that span.

Chris Ault, the school’s long-time coach and innovator of the famed Pistol offense, has stepped down. Brian Polian is the new head coach after serving as the special-teams coach on Kevin Sumlin’s staff at Texas A&M last season.

Nevada dropped a 49-48 heartbreaker to Arizona at the New Mexico Bowl. The Wolf Pack has six starters on offense and five on defense returning. They lost seven of their top eight tacklers from a suspect unit that surrendered 33.8 PPG.

QB Cody Fajardo is back for his junior campaign and third season as the starter under center. In 2012, Fajardo completed 67.0 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards with a 20/9 TD-INT ratio. He rushed for 1,121 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 5.9 YPC.

Hawaii and UNLV round out the division and have head coaches (Norm Chow & Bobby Hauck) on the hot seat. Both could be looking at pink slips in early December.

Fearless Predictions:

Boise State over Fresno State in MWC Championship Game

Mountain West - 2013 Projections
School Record Win Total (5Dimes) Bowl Projection
Mountain Division
Boise State 10-2 10 ½ Las Vegas vs. Arizona State
Utah State 9-3 7 ½ Hawaii vs. Bowling Green
Air Force 6-6 6 ½ -
Wyoming 6-6 5 ½ -
New Mexico 4-8 4 ½ -
Colorado State 3-9 5 ½ -
West Division
Fresno State 9-3 10 ½ Poinsettia vs. Duke
San Diego State 8-4 7 ½ Idaho Potato vs. Ball State
San Jose State 8-4 7 ½ New Mexico vs. Washington
Nevada 6-6 6 ½ Armed Forces vs.  Navy
Hawaii 3-9 3 ½ -
UNLV 3-9 4 ½ -

Games to Watch:

1-Boise St. at Fresno St. (Friday, Sep. 20) – In its Games of the Year, has installed BSU as a one-point road favorite. The Broncos will have one extra day of rest since they host Air Force the previous Friday, while Fresno St. plays at Colorado on Saturday. Boise St. has won seven in a row in this rivalry and won by a 57-7 count in its last trip to Fresno.

2-Fresno St. at San Jose St. (Friday, Nov. 29) – I think this game will decide the West Division. The Bulldogs have won 16 of the last 18 head-to-head meetings, but the Spartans won a 27-24 decision in the last encounter at Fresno St. in 2011.

3-Boise St. at Utah St. (Oct. 12) – Although Boise St. is on the road, this game appears to set up better for it from a scheduling perspective. The Broncos have an open date after hosting So. Miss on Sep. 28. On the flip side, the Aggies will be playing for the seventh time in as many weeks. Plus, they have three tough games in a row beforehand: at USC, at San Jose St. and vs. BYU. has the Broncos as four-point road ‘chalk.’

4-Fresno St. at San Diego St. (Oct. 26) -- The Aztecs have two weeks to prep for this spot, while the Bulldogs take on UNLV at home the previous weekend. When these teams met in Fresno last year, the Bulldogs captured a 52-40 win as seven-point home favorites. Carr destroyed the Aztecs with 579 yards of total offense.

5-San Jose St. at Stanford (Sep. 7) – San Jose St. went to Palo Alto and dropped a 20-17 heartbreaker in the 2012 season opener. The Spartans had more total yardage (287-280) and felt like they should’ve won. Caragher’s team can shock the country and make a huge statement if it can knock off the Cardinal.

Players to Watch:

1-Derek Carr (Fresno St. QB) -- Before pulling a no-show in the bowl game in Hawaii, Fresno St.’s only losses came at Oregon (12-1), at Boise St. (11-2) and at Tulsa (11-3). The Ducks and Golden Hurricane aren’t on the schedule and BSU comes to Fresno. If Carr can play like the best QB in the nation, perhaps the Bulldogs can be a threat to get to a BCS bowl game?

2-David Fales (San Jose St. QB) -- The defenses in the MWC will be tougher and dependable RB De’Leon Eskridge is gone. Therefore, Fales is going to have to be elite for the Spartans to win the West. With Grigsby, Chandler Jones and Jabari Carr as veteran WRs, this aerial attack is going to be lethal. Fales could secure a spot in the first round of the NFL Draft with another monster season.

3-Adam Muema (San Diego St. RB) -- With QB Ryan Katz no longer in the mix, Long is going to lean on his featured back even more. If Muema can put up similar numbers to those he produced in 2012, the Aztecs will be in the thick of the West race.

4-Matt Miller (Boise St. WR) -- Miller is Joe Southwick’s favorite target. He is a sure-handed possession receiver, but Chris Petersen wants more big plays from him. Miller needs to provide those.

5-DeMarcus Lawrence (Boise St. DE) -- Lawrence is probably the best pass rusher in the MWC after registering 9.5 sacks in 2012. With QBs like Carr, Fales, Fajardo, Keeton and Keith Price (Week 1 at Washington), the Broncos need Lawrence in the backfield and disruption the vision of these accurate signal callers.

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