Mountain West Preview: Picking the Pre-Season Conference Champion

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After spending the last week breaking down the in's and out's of the Mountain West, it's time for the Crystal Ball Run staff to make their conference championship, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year picks!

Allen Kenney's Take: All this time spent studying the Mountain West in the past week has taught me what the conference aficionados already know: This league is flush with solid teams. It should make for an exciting conference race.

In the Mountain Division, how do you bet against Boise State? The Broncos have a notable question mark in the form of a remade offensive line. We've seen enough out of Chris Petersen over the years to know that's not

In the West, I really like Fresno State. The Bulldogs rampaged through conference play last year except for a loss at Boise. This time around, they catch the Broncos at home. I actually wouldn't be shocked if Fresno makes it through the regular season undefeated.

With the move to 12 teams, that means a conference championship game this year. Can Fresno beat Boise twice in one season?

Champ: Boise State over Fresno State
MVP: Derek Carr
Coach of the Year: Jim McElwain, Colorado State

Aaron Torres' Take: Couldn't agree more with Allen. In putting together the list of top players, I was stunned at how many there were, and how many I didn't have room for on the list (just at the quarterback position alone, I think a case could be made for at least four guys for first team).

Anyway, not to totally piggy-back off AK here (actually that's exactly what I'm doing), but I find it hard to bet against either Boise or Fresno. Just about the only team I could see making a serious run at Boise in the Mountain is Utah State, but frankly, its hard not to expect something to get lost in translation in the move from Gary Andersen to Matt Wells. Even if Wells was on Andersen's staff, I genuinely believe Andersen is one of those elite coaches that can't just be replaced by the next guy in line. I do think the Aggies take a step back, and even if its a tiny step back, I wonder if it's enough to hang with Boise.

In the West Division, well crap, how could you not like Fresno? They should have continuity in Tim DeRutyer's second year on campus, and should also have the most explosive offense with the combination of Derek Carr and Davante Adams.

In terms of a title game, give me Fresno over Boise.

I don't think either team finishes undefeated (although as AK said, with a favorable schedule I wouldn't put it past the Bulldogs), but in a one-game scenario I like the explosiveness of Fresno's offense over anything Boise can counter with.

Champ: Fresno State over Boise State
MVP: David Fales, San Jose State
Coach of the Year: Tim DeRuyter

Andy Coppens' Take: All have made interesting point but I am going to throw a big time flag on Mr. Torres here. Underestimating Utah State is a big mistake if you ask me & Wells was the man behind the offense that was so explosive last year.

This team returns a ton of talent on both sides of the ball & has the best QB in the Mountain division in Chuckie Keeton. They also happen to have the best defense in the conference. Yes, the Aggies have a potentially brutal stretch of at USC, at San Jose State, vs BYU, & vs Boise State. Luckily only two are in conference & getting Boise State at home is huge. Give me the Aggies to surprise a lot of people.

In the West division I tend to agree with everyone so far, but the matchup against San Diego State will have a lot of weight on the division battle in my book. However the Bulldogs simply have the best one-two punch in the conference and can survive a loss or even two and still win the division.

Champ: Fresno State over Utah State
MVP: David Fales, San Jose State
Coach of the Year: Matt Wells, Utah State

Dave Singleton's Take: Conference realignment forced the Mountain West Conference into an interesting position: Grow or die. The MW did just that by getting the band back together in a sense, absorbing several of the schools from the Western Athletic Conference. The Mountain West also had to evolve over the last few years, as schools sought to keep up with the top tier teams like Utah, BYU, TCU.
Those schools are gone now, and have been replaced by the recent gold standard for schools that are not part of the automatic qualifiying conferences in Boise State. The success of the Broncos has forced several other schools in the league to raise their games, and some of that success was seen last season as there was a three-way tie for the conference title.
Now the league is splitting into two division, as there are finally 12 football playing members in the league. In the Mountain Division, Boise State has to be viewed as the favorite, with Utah State serving as the most likely challenger. Utah State hosts their head-to-head matchup this season, and that may be enough of an advantage to give the Aggies the inside track to the title.
In the West Divsion, Fresno State should come out on top, but they will be challenged hard by their fellow Cal State schools (San Jose State, San Diego State). Meanwhile, the easiest prediction might be UNLV bringing up the rear in their division, which will lead to a coaching change.
Champ: Utah State over Fresno State
MVP: Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
Coach of the Year: Matt Wells, Utah State

Kevin McGuire's Take: If there is one thing we have learned last year and throughout this week on Crystal Ball Run, it is that this Mountain West Conference is far from being dominated by one top-heavy program right now. With Boise State falling back to Earth a little bit after the Kellen Moore era and with fresh competition form Fresno State to go with the always interesting San Diego State, we saw that this conference is ready for another wild ride in 2013. This season we should be in for a treat with a handful of talented quarterbacks making for reasons for us east coast fans to stay up a little later at various points in the season. Derek Carr at Fresno State and David Fales at San Jose State are two guys I expect to pile on some big numbers, while Chuckie Keeton at Utah State is a quarterback I expect to see a lot of good things from, and Utah State has a pretty solid defense to look forward to in the fall. My focus will be locked on Colorado State and whether or not Jim McElwain can begin turning that program around. I am not sure the Rams are going bowling in 2013, but I think we will begin to see some signs of improvement.

But when it all comes down to who stands tallest, I find little reason to stray away from Boise State. Chris Petersen remains the best coach in the conference for my money and although Boise State's offense was frustrating at times last year, they still managed to put together a very solid season. I think Joe Southwick will continue to improve and keep the offense in sync and Petersen will have a game plan ready for each game to ensure his Broncos are in the best position offensively and defensively to make another run to a conference title. There will be some tens moments, but even in light of some recent transfers and roster amendments, I'll saddle up with the Broncos in 2013.

Champ: Boise State over San Diego State
MVP: Derek Carr, Fresno State QB
Coach of the Year:  Jim McElwain, Colorado State


About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.