UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

Mountain West 2012 conference preview

Mountain West 2012 Conference Report
How much rebuilding must Boise State do? Can Nevada put together an undefeated conference run? Is San Diego State seriously not going to punt? Holly Anderson answers that and more in her Mountain West conference preview. For more coverage, visit our preseason content archive.

Note: The projected standings reflect the author's opinion, not SI.com's.
 
How They'll Finish
 
 ConferenceOverall
Boise State8-010-2
Nevada7-18-4
San Diego State6-28-4
Air Force4-47-5
Fresno State4-45-7
 
 ConferenceOverall
Wyoming4-45-7
Hawaii3-55-7
Colorado State3-53-9
UNLV1-72-11
New Mexico0-81-12
 
Offensive MVP
 
RB
Robbie Rouse
2011 stats: 1,549 rushing yards, 228 receiving yards, 14 TD
2012 projection: 1,500 rushing yards, 350 receiving yards, 15 TD
Expect the diminutive Rouse (who shoulders the obvious nickname of "Mighty Mouse" with dignity) to take two or perhaps three weeks to break the Bulldogs' school career rushing record. A top 10 back last season, the 5-foot-7 senior is only 317 yards shy of matching the team mark and will be able to warm up against Weber State in the opener before taking on Pac-12 teams Oregon and Colorado in Weeks 2 and 3.
 
Defensive MVP
 
DB
Leon McFadden
2011 stats: 35 solo tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions
2012 projection: 41 solo tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions
Originally signed as a wide receiver, McFadden switched to corner almost immediately upon arriving in San Diego, and led the conference in passes defended in 2011. The 5-10 senior, who also occasionally returns punts for the Aztecs, hasn't missed a game in his three years at SDSU. And while his stats suffer from opponents often avoiding his side of the field, McFadden's 27 career pass breakups still rank eighth in school history.
 
Three Key Nonconference Games
 
Boise State at Michigan State
Friday, Aug. 31
8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Broncos are rebuilding after a storied multi-year run and have the misfortune of facing their toughest opponent on the season's first Friday. They've lost most of their big names, and many starters on both sides of the ball, but we've been surprised by Boise State before, haven't we?
 
Nevada at Cal
Saturday, Sept. 1
3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
Could the other contender for an undefeated Mountain West season ruin the Golden Bears' first game back in their renovated stadium?
 
San Diego State at Washington
Saturday, Sept. 1
10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
If Rocky Long is truly serious about not punting this season, this would be a good time to try it out. The Huskies fielded a dismal defense in 2011 that allowed more than 450 yards per game.
 
Key Conference Game
 
Boise State at Nevada
Saturday, Dec. 1
TBD
We predict one of these teams will go undefeated in league play and one will emerge with a single loss. Which team is which likely won't be decided until this matchup.
 
Three Key Questions
 
Just how rebuild-y is Boise? A reporter asked Chris Petersen a version of this question following last year's Las Vegas Bowl, and Petersen practically snorted at the podium. We guess the real question here is "just how gulfy is the gap between the Broncos and the rest, even when Boise has lost every name player?" We can see Nevada catching the Broncos, and San Diego State could also threaten, but Petersen will have two-thirds of the season to recalibrate his war machine before having to face either one.
Baumgaertner: Boise State Top 25 team report
Will Hawaii win a game on the mainland? If the Warriors don't beat Colorado State, maybe not. Look for Hawaii to live up to its home-field advantage with visitors like Lamar, New Mexico, UNLV and South Alabama scheduled to hop out to the islands. On the road, UH must contend with the likes of (in chronological order and descending order of scariness) USC, BYU, San Diego State and Air Force.
Is Rocky Long your new favorite sleeper coach? It's entirely possible, between having the gumption to outright quit head coaching after more than a decade at New Mexico to take a coordinator gig and this "punting is for quitters lolz" kick he's on.
 
SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.