Aug 212006
 
Authors:

The teams (in predicted order of finish):

1. Texas Christian Horned Frogs

Key player – QB Jeff Ballard

Ballard may not be the best player or best pro prospect on TCU – that distinction goes to DE Tommy Blake – but as Ballard goes, so goes TCU. Since taking over as starter three weeks into last season, Ballard won all eight of his starts. He threw 13 touchdowns last season, and fans can expect that number to go up this season.

Season prediction: 9-3 (6-2)

Top 3 players: Ballard, Smith, DL Chase Ortiz

2. Brigham Young Cougars

Key Player – QB John Beck

In the past three decades, BYU has become a breeding ground for great quarterbacks, and Beck is no exception. While Beck may not reach All-American like three of BYU’s past quarterbacks, he will be the frontrunner for conference player of the year if he can duplicate his 27 touchdowns of last year.

Season prediction: 9-3 (6-2)

Top 3 players: Beck, RB Curtis Brown, LB Cameron Jansen

3. Colorado State Rams

Key Player – DE Jesse Nading

While the offense will be able produce against almost any opposition, the defense, led by Nading, will be expected to drastically improve on the rushing defense from the last two seasons. Nading’s speed and strength give him an advantage over larger offensive linemen.

Season prediction: 7-5 (5-3)

Top 3 players: Nading, CB Robert Herbert, RB Kyle Bell

4. Utah Utes

Key Player – SS Eric Weddle

The reigning conference defensive player of the year, Weddle is the top-rated strong safety in the nation by The Sporting News and will most likely be a first round pick in next year’s draft. The Utes need Weddle to repeat last season’s numbers (four interceptions and 78 tackles) to have a shot at the conference crown.

Season prediction: 7-5 (5-3)

Top 3 players: Weddle, QB Brian Johnson, QB Brian Ratliff

5. San Diego State Aztecs

Key Player – QB Kevin O’Connell

O’Connell will be the focal point of new Head Coach Chuck Long’s offense. Long, who comes over from Oklahoma and tutored Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, will use O’Connell to direct his spread offense. The biggest question mark will be whether or not O’Connell can cut down on his interceptions from last season (12).

Season prediction: 7-5 (4-4)

Top 3 players: Hamilton, CB Terrell Maze, CB Donny Baker

6. New Mexico Lobos

Key Player – QB Kole McKamey

The best running quarterback in the Mountain West, McKamey, is entering his third year as a starter and will be expected to pick up the loss of RB DonTrell Moore to the NFL. He could be a dark horse for conference player of the year if the Lobos finish near the top.

Season prediction: 6-6 (3-5)

Top 3 players: McKamey, LB Quincy Black, OT Robert Turner

7. Air Force Falcons

Key Player – QB Shaun Carney

This season, Carney will likely become the sixth quarterback in Air Force history to both throw and rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Carney is in his third season at the helm for the Falcons and will need to use his experience to combat the Falcons’ tough non-conference schedule – at Tennessee, at Army, at Notre Dame and home to Navy.

Season prediction: 4-8 (3-5)

Top 3 players: Carney, DT Gilberto Perez, CB Chris Sutton

8. Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels

Key Player – CB Eric Wright

Wright, who is in his first season with UNLV, was a starter for USC Trojans in 2004 when they finished the season as undefeated national champions. He will be expected to make an instant impact for the talent-strapped Rebels. Wright has had two interceptions in his career, one against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and one against CSU.

Season prediction: 4-8 (2-6)

Top 3 players: Wright, LB Beau Bell, QB Rocky Hinds

9. Wyoming Cowboys

Key Player – WR Michael Ford

Ford replaces all-conference receiver Jovon Bouknight and must play above his talent if Wyoming will have a chance to return to the success of two seasons ago when they went to a bowl game. Ford, who hasn’t scored a touchdown in his two seasons, will be the focal point of the offense and will use his height, 6 feet 2 inches, and leaping ability to sky over defenders for receptions.

Season prediction: 4-8 (2-6)

Top 3 players: Ford, S John Wendling, C Jason Karcher

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