Aug 302004
 
Authors: Preston Cagle

’03 End of Year Standings

Team Overall Record Conference Record

1. Utah 10-2 (.833) 6-1 (.857)

2. New Mexico 8-5 (.615) 5-2 (.714)

3. Colorado State 7-6 (.538) 4-3 (.571)

4. Air Force 7-5 (.583) 3-4 (.429)

5. San Diego State 6-6 (.500) 3-4 (.429)

6. BYU 4-8 (.333) 3-4 (.429)

7. UNLV 6-6 (.500) 2-5 (.286)

8. Wyoming 4-8 (.333) 2-5 (.286)

The Mountain West Conference looks to continue being one of the

toughest non-Bowl Championship Series (BCS) conferences in the

nation again in 2004.

The MWC sent three teams to bowls last year, including Utah

(Liberty Bowl), New Mexico (Las Vegas Bowl) and CSU (San Francisco

Bowl), and the conference is guaranteed three bowls again this

year. MWC teams will return to the Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31), the Las

Vegas Bowl (Dec. 23) and the Emerald Bowl (Dec. 30) in 2004.

The MWC saw six of its eight teams produce a record of .500 or

better, and Utah is ranked in the preseason top-25 at No. 19. The

MWC teams will participate in games against 14 bowl-game

participants, eight top-25 teams including the likes of top-ranked

USC, No. 7 Michigan, No. 14 California and No. 15 Tennessee.

In the MWC’s five-year history, the teams have compiled a 70-70

conference record in away games, making it one of the nation’s most

competitive conferences on the road and at home. On Jan. 30 Texas

Christian University announced it will join the MWC in the

2005-2006 season, raising the number of teams to nine and bringing

in a team that has been to six-straight bowl games and finished in

the top-25 three of the last four years.

No. 21 Utah Utes

(10-2, 6-1)

After winning the MWC and beating Southern Mississippi 17-0 in

the 2003Liberty Bowl, the Utes return 17 starters in 2004. Eight

offensive starters return to the No. 4 MWC offense, including

junior quarterback Alex Smith, who passed for 2,247 yards, ran for

452 yards and scored 15 touchdowns last season. The defense also

ranked fourth in the MWC last year and returns seven starters,

including senior defensive back and three-year letterman Morgan

Scalley, who pulled in two interceptions, had 73 tackles and also

returned kicks for the team. Head coach Urban Meyer returns for his

second season at Utah and has tallied a 27-8 overall record in

three seasons as a head coach.

’04 Important Dates

-Sept. 2 Texas A&M

-Sept. 11 @Arizona

-Nov. 6 Colorado State

New Mexico Lobos

(8-5, 5-2)

The Lobos finished second in the MWC last year but were defeated

in the Las Vegas Bowl by Oregon State 55-14. New Mexico returns 11

starters for the 2004 season. Five starters return to the

conference’s second-ranked offense, including junior tailback

DonTrell Moore, who rushed for 1,450 yards and 19 touchdowns last

season. On defense the Lobos return four starters to the No. 3 MWC

defense. Senior linebacker Nick Speegle, who was second on the team

with 45 unassisted tackles and third on the team with 80 total

tackles, comes back to lead the Lobo defense. Head coach Rocky Long

enters his seventh season as head coach with New Mexico. In six

seasons he has compiled a 33-40 overall record, with a 21-21

conference record, and he has made two bowl appearances.

’04 Important Dates

-Sept. 11 Texas Tech

-Sept. 18 @Oregon State

-Oct. 30 @Colorado State

CSU Rams

(7-6, 4-3)

The Rams finished off 2003 with a 35-21 loss to Boston College

in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. CSU returns 15 starters

from a team that finished third in the 2003 season. Offensively the

team returns eight starters to the MWC’s No. 2 offense. H-

back/tight end Joel Dreessen, who finished third in receiving on

the team with 29 catches for 323 yards and three touchdowns and

missed four games due to an abdominal strain, will be back in the

lineup for the Rams. On defense the Rams return four starters to

the No. 5 defense in the MWC. Former cornerback Ben Stratton, who

led the team in interceptions (4) and was third on the team in

tackles (79), will be at safety this year in the CSU defense. Head

coach Sonny Lubick returns for his 12th season at CSU. In that

time, he has compiled a 91-44 overall record, with a 62-21

conference record, and he has taken CSU to eight bowl games.

Important dates:

Date Opponent

-Sept. 4 @Colorado

-Sept. 11 @ #1 USC

-Sept. 18 #23 Minnesota

 

Air Force Falcons

(7-5, 3-4)

Air Force returns only six starters from a team that finished

fourth in the MWC and missed out on a bowl game last season. Three

offensive starters return to a group that finished third in the

MWC. Junior running back Darnell Stephens, who gained 633 yards

last year and scored five touchdowns, returns to the offense as

well. The defense also returns three starters to a squad that

finished No. 7 in the MWC defense category. Senior linebacker John

Rudzinski, who made 65 tackles last year with 31 coming unassisted,

returns to the defensive side of the ball. Head coach Fisher

DeBerry returns for his 21st season as the Falcons’ head coach. In

his 20 seasons at Air Force, he has compiled a 156-88-1 overall

record, with a 91-59-1-conference record, and he has taken Air

Force to 12 bowl appearances.

’04 Important Dates

-Oct. 4 @Navy

-Oct. 16 @Colorado State

-Nov. 8 Army

San Diego State Aztecs

(6-6, 3-4)

The Aztecs return 16 starters to the fifth overall team in the

MWC. The No. 6 MWC offense returns eight starters, including

sophomore running back Lynell Hamilton, who rushed for 1,154 yards

and four touchdowns as a freshman. The MWC’s No. 1 defense also

returns eight starters and is anchored by junior linebacker Matt

McCoy and senior linebacker Kirk Morrison, a duo that combined for

240 total tackles last year. Head coach Tom Craft comes back for

his third season with San Diego State. In two seasons as a head

coach, he has turned out a 10-15 overall record and gone 7-7 in

conference play.

’04 Important Dates

-Sept. 18 @ #7 Michigan

-Oct. 2 @UCLA

-Oct. 16 Colorado State

Brigham Young Cougars

(4-8, 3-4)

BYU returns 11 starters to a team that finished No. 6 in the MWC

in 2003. Five offensive starters return to an offense ranked

seventh in the MWC last year. Junior wide receiver Todd Watkins is

a transfer student who should be an impact player for the Cougars.

The MWC’s No. 2 defense returns five starters, including safety

Aaron Francisco, who led the team in interceptions with three last

year and tackles with 116 (57 unassisted). Head coach Gary Crowton

returns for his fourth season as the head coach. Crowton has

compiled a 21-17 overall record with BYU, a 12-9 conference record

and has taken the Cougars to one bowl appearance.

’04 Important Dates

-Sept. 4 Notre Dame

-Sept. 18 #1 USC

-Oct. 2 @Colorado State

UNLV Rebels

(6-6, 2-5)

The Rebels finished No. 7 in the MWC last year with an

eighth-ranked offense and seventh-ranked defense in the conference.

They return nine starters. Senior wide receiver Earvin Johnson

leads five offensive starters back onto the field. Last year

Johnson led the team in receiving with 60 catches for 834 yards and

four touchdowns. Senior linebackers Adam Seward and Ryan Claridge

lead the defense back into action in 2004. In 2003, Seward led the

team in tackles with 119, 67 of those coming unassisted. Claridge

finished No. 2 on the team in interceptions with two and No. 4 on

the team in tackles with 76. Head coach John Robinson returns for

his sixth season with the Rebels. He has a 26-33 overall record

with a 13-22-conference record since arriving at UNLV. His career

totals are 130-68-4 overall with a 77-50-1 conference record.

’04 Important Dates

-Sept. 5 @ #14 Tennessee

-Sept. 11 @ #22 Wisconsin

-Nov. 13 @Colorado State

Wyoming Cowboys

(4-8, 2-5)

Wyoming looks to improve on last year when it finished last in

the MWC in the standings and in defense. The Cowboys will take the

field with 15 returning starters to their roster in 2004. Seven

starters return to the No. 5 MWC offense, including junior wide

receiver Jovon Bouknight, who pulled in 47 catches for 746 yards

and seven touchdowns last year. The last-ranked defense returns

seven starters as well. Leading the way on defense will be senior

linebacker Guy Tuell, who finished third on the team with 69

tackles, 40 of which came unassisted. Head coach Joe Glenn returns

for his second year as Wyoming head coach. In 19 seasons as a head

coach, he has a 162-67-1 overall record, going 22-7 in conference

play.

’04 Important Dates

-Sept. 11 @Texas A&M

-Sept. 25 Ole Miss

-Oct. 22 @Colorado State

*All rankings are from the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll

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