Around the Mountain West

Oct 062005
Authors: Trevor Edy

Air Force 2-3 (1-3)

The Falcons are currently on a three game losing streak after dropping their last match to CSU. They look to rebound against Navy on Saturday. The Falcons lead the MWC in rushing, running for just over 250 yards per game. Although Air Force has three MWC loses on the season, two of them have been contests decided by three points or less. The Falcons split up time at the quarterback position between sophomore Shaun Carney and senior Adam Fitch. The Falcons came into the season ranked seventh in the MWC, look for them to compete for that seventh spot the rest of the way.

BYU 1-3 (0-2)

The Cougars came into their 2005 campaign ranked fifth in the preseason polls. Junior quarterback John Beck leads the MWC in passing, throwing for 340 yards per game and eight touchdowns on the season. Beck also leads the conference in attempts at 200, 60 more than any other quarterback. BYU is ranked last in the MWC in rushing; only averaging 81.8 yards a game, but still maintain the second ranked offense in the conference. The Cougars may have the toughest schedule in the MWC; they lost to the ACC's Boston College and play No. 12 Notre Dame later on in the year. If things are going the way they seem, the Cougars might be on the bottom looking up in the conference.

Colorado State 2-2 (1-0)

In 2004, the Rams finished a disappointing sixth place in the MWC. This year they were ranked second in the preseason polls and have the most wins in the six-year history of the league. CSU is coming off a big win against Air Force, but have a tough challenge Saturday when Utah comes to town. Sophomore running back Kyle Bell is coming off a 197 yard, three-touchdown game. The Rams are ranked first in total offense in the conference behind senior quarterback Justin Holland. Holland leads the conference in pass efficiency with ten touchdowns to six interceptions, and averages more than 260 yards through the air. Injuries might hurt the Rams in the long run, but look for them to be in the middle to top of the MWC at season's end.

New Mexico 3-2 (1-1)

UNM came into the season ranked No. 1 in the MWC. The Lobos started the season with three straight wins, but have come out with losses in their last two games. Senior running back Dontrell Moore is second in the MWC in rushing and is on pace for his fourth 1,000 yard rushing season of his career. Junior quarterback Kole McKamey has connected with senior wide receiver Hank Baskett five times in the end zone. Baskett leads the MWC in receiving yards, averaging 108 yards per game. UNM adds a defensive threat to the mix; senior cornerback Gabriel Fulbright leads the league in interceptions with five. The Lobos need to get to mid-season form quickly if they want to keep pace with the top four teams in the conference.

San Diego State 2-3 (1-1)

The Aztecs started the season on a three game losing streak, two of which came at the hands of national powerhouses Ohio State and UCLA. They have since won two in a row after beating San Jose State and BYU. Sophomore quarterback Kevin O'Connell has passed for seven touchdowns and only three interceptions in five games, and is second in the conference in passing efficiency. The Aztec pass defense is ranked second in the MWC, allowing only two touchdowns. SDSU came into the season ranked eight in the conference, and after a slow start, look for the Aztecs to possibly make a late season run to finish in the middle of the pack.

TCU 4-1 (3-0)

Ranked a modest sixth in the preseason, the Horned Frogs have surprised the conference by winning its first three conference games. TCU started the season by beating then No. 7 Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., the first major upset of 2005. They went on to lose to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, before winning their next two MWC games in overtime. The Horned Frogs are in the top half of the conference in both total offense and defense. They are No. 2 in points scored and No. 3 in points against. Freshman Aaron Brown and Junior Robert Merrill head up the backfield of this two-back set. Each of them has over 300 yards on the season. Look for TCU to be one of the MWC's elite, but consistency might be their biggest hurdle.

UNLV 1-4 (0-2)

The Rebels came into the 2005 season ranked last in the MWC. They rank last in scoring and are in the bottom half in overall defense. UNLV did surprise many by losing to New Mexico on a failed two-point conversion in their first game. Junior quarterback Shane Steichen has recorded seven touchdowns and 800 yards through the air on the season, as well as averaging 61 yards per game on the ground with two rushing touchdowns. The Rebels are the second most penalized team and if they can't get back to their form from week one, it's going to be another long season for Mike Sanford and his coaching staff.

Utah 3-2 (1-1)

The reigning MWC champions look to repeat last year's performance lacking quarterback Alex Smith and offensive genius Urban Meyer. They come into the season ranked third in the conference, anchored by athletic sophomore quarterback Brian Johnson. Johnson leads the MWC in total yards with nearly 1,500, averaging 295 all-purpose yards per game. The Utes' backfield is anchored by senior running back Quinton Ganther, who is averaging 82 yards per game on 92 carries. The 2004 MWC leader in tackles, senior linebacker Spencer Toone, returns for his final year to lead a physical defense. First year coach Kyle Whittingham has big shoes to fill in Salt Lake, with a tough schedule ahead of his team. It's hard to tell how the Utes will end up at season's end. Look for Brian Johnson and Utah's physical defense to turn up the heat in the second half of the season to put Utah in the top four.

Wyoming 4-1 (2-0)

After coming off an impressive win against UCLA last season in the Las Vegas Bowl, Wyoming looked to carry that momentum into the 2005 season. The Cowboys may have the best defense in the conference, currently allowing 18 points and twelve touchdowns per game. The Cowboys are led by preseason first team All-MWC quarterback Corey Bramlet. The senior has thrown for over 1,100 yards combined with eight touchdowns and only four interceptions. Wyoming's passing game is set up by freshman running back Wynel Seldon, who is tied for first in the MWC in rushing touchdowns with six. Although the Cowboys have offensive firepower, the defense is going to set the tone for this team. Wyoming leads the conference in forced fumbles with seven and has two linemen in the top three in sacks. The Cowboys will definitely contend for this year's conference title.

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