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2007 Mountain West Conference Preview

2007/08 NCAA Football Previews
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My Sportsbook - Mountain West - Can TCU overtake BYU?


Philadelphia, PA (My Sportsbook) - Both BYU and TCU finished 11-2 last season with decisive bowl victories as the Cougars took care of Oregon, 38-8, while the Horned Frogs demolished Northern Ill, 37-7. However, that's where the similarities end. BYU won the conference with an undefeated 8-0 mark, including a two-touchdown win (31-17) at TCU, with the Frogs also losing at Utah the following week.

Both schools will have new quarterbacks this year, but the Cougars also lose their 1,000-yard rusher and their top-three receiving leaders. The Frogs bring back nine starters from a defense that allowed just 12 points per game last season.

Last year, the Mountain West Conference received four bowl bids and won three of them, going 3-1 as well against the spread. In fact, the MWC was dominant ATS the entire season, with a 21-12-1 out-of-conference mark, including 9-3-1 vs. BCS schools!

Which club will come out on top in 2007? If one goes by the odds to win the BCS Title Game, then TCU has the edge since the Frogs are 100-1 with BYU listed at 200-1. The rest of the league is currently 75-1 as the seven other clubs are part of the field.

1) TCU - The Horned Frogs are one of only eight teams with more than 21 victories the past two years. Do they have what it takes for another 11-win season? Strengths - It all starts with the defense. TCU ranked third in the country in scoring defense (12.3) and second in total "D" allowing just 234.9 yards per game. Nine starters return to the unit, including future first-round draft choice Tommy Blake. The offense brings back RB Aaron Brown, who should easily surpass the 1,000-yard plateau this season. Even though QB Jeff Ballard graduated, the previous two quarterbacks in the TCU system have reeled off eight straight wins in their first eight starts. Weaknesses - It's hard to find anything wrong with the Frogs except maybe a matchup at Texas early in the season. They do have to replace their starting QB and their top receiver, but minor changes haven't stopped them before. Bottom line - The Mountain West Conference has had one undefeated team each of the last three seasons and TCU will continue that trend with an 8-0 league mark in 07. The only loss will come at the hands of the Longhorns. Bet the Frogs almost every week.

2) BYU - For the fourth time in the last 14 years the Cougars pulled off a double-digit win season. Unfortunately, they finished 7-4, 6-5 and 5-7 the three follow-up years. Will a sub-standard record chase them down once again? Strengths - For all of BYUs offensive weapons, the defense was the key to its 11-2 mark. After allowing 29 ppg in 05, the unit slashed it in half giving up just 14.7. The secondary was the bright spot intercepting 18 passes after picking off only nine the previous season. In addition, the unit was beaten for just 12 passing touchdowns as opposed to a whopping 25 in 05. Weaknesses - Gone are John Beck (3,885 passing yards and 32 touchdowns), Curtis Brown (1,010 rushing yards, 62 receptions and 10 TDs) and Jonny Harline (58 catches, 935 yards and 12 TDs). The replacements will be QB Max Hall, RB Fui Vakapuna and WR Austin Collie, but if they don't match the production of the aforementioned troika, it could be a long season in Provo. Bottom line - BYU will not win 11 games, but will also not fall below .500 either. The Cougars will be somewhere in between with eight victories, six in the conference, but don't be surprised if they fail to reach .500 ATS. They will be heavily bet and might not warrant the support.

3) COLORADO STATE - The Rams have not had a winning season since 2003, but this will be the breakout year as coach Sonny Lubicks club will be one of the most improved teams in the nation. Strengths - When running back Kyle Bell tore his ACL in fall practice last August, the season was pretty much history and the Rams played like it winning just four games. The offensive line was also mistaken as an infirmary and both of these units will improve immensely in 07. Defensively, only 12 teams in the entire country allowed fewer passing TDs and all four secondary starters return. The front seven also did its job holding down the run, knocking off a full yard per carry from the previous two seasons. Weaknesses - If Bell doesn't return 100%, the offense will once again rest on the shoulders of QB Caleb Hanie, who faltered last season under constant pressure. Bottom line - All the pieces are in place for a major turnaround in Fort Collins. The Rams will go from 4-8 (1-7) to 8-4 (5-3) and will be one of the top ATS teams to wager on throughout the year.

4) NEW MEXICO - Rocky Long did his finest coaching job ever last season taking the Lobos to a bowl game after returning just 10 starters and losing his starting quarterback early in the second game. Strengths - Kole McKameys injury and Chris Nelsons ineffectiveness forced redshirt freshman Donovan Porterie into the role of saviour and he delivered with a 4-2 record. Running back Rodney Ferguson also burst on the scene with 450 rushing yards the final three games. New OL coach Dave Baldwin installed a multiple look scheme this spring with extra wide-outs and two tight end formations and Porterie looked extremely poised with the new offense. Thirteen of the top 14 tacklers return, which will be a huge boost to the defense after only four starters returned each of the last three years. Weaknesses - The offensive line gave up 43 sacks last year, tied with Duke for fifth worst in the country. On the bright side, only 37% of the sacks came in the last seven games. According to coach Long, the hardest player the Lobos will have to replace is kicker Kenny Byrd, who booted 32 of 38 field goals the last two years. Bottom line - Like Colorado State, expect eight wins, five in league play. The Lobos will be a solid ATS team all season long.

5) UTAH - The Utes look to regain their magical form from 2004, but must face TCU, BYU and CSU all on the road. Strengths - Brian Johnson returns from injury to reclaim his starting job after Brett Ratliff guided Utah to 10 wins in his last 15 starts. Johnson has a host of weapons to work with and four O- line starters return as well. Weaknesses - Eric Weddle, the heart and soul of the defense, has taken his tack to the NFL. In addition, both defensive tackles depart, which will leave the team extremely vulnerable up the middle. Bottom line - Utah will be improved but it might not reflect in its record, as the club has to travel to Oregon State and Louisville as well as the three teams previously mentioned. Expect a .500 season, but five of the six victories will come in conference play. There will be a lot of high-scoring games in Salt Lake City this season so be prepared for a ton of OVERS.

6) AIR FORCE - Not many prognosticators are predicting big things from the Falcons, especially with a new coaching staff, but this team was not nearly as bad as its four-win season a year ago. Strengths - Troy Calhoun, who takes over from Fisher DeBerry, was Wake Forests offensive coordinator in 2002 when the Deacons led the ACC in first downs, fewest turnovers and most importantly, total offense. Quarterback Shaun Carney will love the new no- huddle offense and the defense will also show massive improvements. That unit knocked off seven points per game from two seasons ago and the move to the 3-4 "D" will be a godsend. Weaknesses - Air Force historically has fared poorly against the pass, as its defense rarely practiced against it since the Falcons primarily ran an option-based offense. The passing defense still might not be up to snuff in Calhouns first year at the helm. In addition, the Falcons are always behind the rest of the conference in terms of building chemistry since most of the cadets aren't available for summer workouts. Bottom line - Air Force lost five games last season by a combined 21 points. This team could have easily been 6-6 and thats exactly where they will finish in 07. Three MWC victories will also be in the cards, but more importantly, the Falcons will be over .500 ATS.

7) UNLV - The Rebels have been stuck in "deuce" mode, as in two victories each of the past three seasons. Strengths - Former USC recruit Rocky Hinds was injured most of last season and should improve in 07, especially with Ryan Wolfe and Casey Flair as his two main targets. The O-line gave Hinds tremendous protection allowing just six sacks the final six games. Weaknesses - Defense has been a problem the last two years as the unit gave up a combined 39 passing TDs in 05 and 06, not to mention finishing in last place in conference play allowing an average of 36 points per game. Bottom line - A brutal non-conference schedule, which features Wisconsin, Hawaii and Nevada, will prevent the Rebels from winning more than three games, two in the conference. However, they will be more competitive and it will show in their ATS record.

8) WYOMING - The Cowboys have been outscored in every year but one (2004) this entire decade. Coincidentally, that campaign was the clubs only winning season at 7-5. Strengths - The skill positions are set with Karsten Sween under center and a host of backs and receivers for him to get the ball to. Coming out of spring practice, coach Joe Glenn felt this years squad was the best in his five years with the team. Weaknesses - Despite the assortment of offensive talent, the O-line loses two four-year starters and one three-year starter. The defensive line also is a mess with four new starters and a combined three career starts. In addition, leading tackler John Wendling is off to the NFL and the safety position will need two new starters. Bottom line - Its hard to see this team winning more than four games (one in the MWC) with its inexperience in the trenches. The Cowboys are 6-12 ATS in their last 18 games and will sport a similar percentage this season.

9) SAN DIEGO STATE - Its surprising that the Aztecs were able to win three games last year with all the injuries they sustained, especially at the quarterback spot where they were down to their third string for half the season. Strengths - Kevin OConnell should be healthy to start the year after missing most of the first seven games with an injured thumb. Seven other offensive starters return so look for substantial improvement from the 14 points per game the Aztecs averaged last season. Weaknesses - San Diego State gave up an average of 27 ppg last season, the same amount it allowed in 05. Not a positive statistic considering every other MWC team saw its ppg total go down. To make maters worse, the Aztecs brought back the most defensive starters of any team in the conference in 06 and have the least returnees in 07 with just four! Bottom line - It will be considered a great coaching job by Chuck Long if he can get this team to match last years three wins. Look for a 2-10 mark, 1-7 in league play. Stay away from them ATS.

July 27, 2007, at 01:51 PM ET

2007 College Football Conference Previews cont...
NCAA Football
1. 2007 Team By Team Previews
2. 2007 WAC Conference Preview
3. 2007 Mountain Conference Preview
4. 2007 Conference USA Preview
5. 2007 Big East Conference Preview
6. 2007 ACC Conference Preview
7. 2007 Big 12 Conference Preview
8. 2007 Pac 10 Conference Preview
9. 2007 Big 10 Conference Preview
10. 2007 SEC Conference Preview
11. 2007 CFB Independants Preview

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