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CFT predicts: Mountain West standings

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As we look ahead to the 2011 college football season, we take with us the lessons we learned from seasons past. We calculate, scrutinize, dissect and digest schedules, returning starters, coaching changes, injuries, and yes, even hunches, and spew it back in the form of how we think each of the 11 Division 1 FBS conferences — and the independents — will pan out by year’s end.

Of course, these are merely our opinions. Feel free, as we know you will, to disagree. We know that’s why you really come here anyway.

Here are our predictions for the Mountain West:

Ben’s take
The Mountain West thought that it would be inching closer to becoming a newly-minted member of the BCS’s automatic qualifying conferences by adding WAC powerhouse Boise State.

Then TCU announced it is leaving for the Big East after this season, Utah bolted for the Pac-12 and BYU pursued football independence.

Oops.

But regardless of the MWC’s place among college football’s best conferences, the Broncos are expected to make an immediate impact as first-year members. Boise State loses a talented receiving duo in Titus Young and Austin Pettis to the NFL, but at this point I’m convinced Kellen Moore (he’s so dreamy) could make my grandmother a 1,000-yard receiver. Running back Doug Martin returns from a 1,200-yard junior season and should be able to take some of the pressure off Moore. The Broncos also get TCU and Air Force at home this year (they just won’t be able to wear all blue uniforms).

I have Air Force at the No. 2 spot not so much because of what the Falcons have, but what TCU doesn’t. I’ll never underestimate Gary Patterson’s recruiting tactics and ability to plug guys into his system, but the Horned Frogs have some serious hurdles to jump over in 2011. Replacing quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver Jeremy Kerley — both have gone on to the NFL — won’t be easy, and TCU has road games at Boise State, San Diego State and Air Force.

Rocky Long inherits an elevated, senior-laden program in San Diego State from Brady Hoke, so the Aztecs will do pretty well in 2011.

Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV and New Mexico all have work to do to improve in the win/loss column.

John Taylor’s take
In with the new, out with the old, which will be a wash-rinse-repeat cycle next year at this time as well. Such is the storyline for the Mountain West in 2011. Not so unexpectedly, both the new and the soon-to-be-old schools will likely be the ones staking a claim to conference bragging rights — and another potential BcS bid — at the end of the year.

Even as it will be its first year in the MWC, Boise State will be the prohibitive favorites, based in part on Broncos’ past success in the WAC and in large part to returning 14 starters from last year’s 12-1 squad, including one of the likely Heisman frontrunners in Moore. The Horned Frogs, on the other hand, return just eight offensive/defensive starters, the second-lowest total in the country, just ahead of defending national champion Auburn.

The biggest loss for TCU will be Dalton, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the school’s history whose leadership may be missed even more than his on-field production. Obviously, the Nov. 12 showdown in Boise — originally scheduled as a home game for TCU — will very likely determine the conference champion.

Both Air Force and San Diego State should be improved, but not to the point where either is ready to challenge the conference heavyweights.

More predictions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, C-USA, MAC, Pac-12, SEC, Sun Belt, WAC, Independents

CFT’s preseason Top 25

No. 10 Washington putting on a show with big first half against No. 7 Stanford

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Head coach David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal looks on prior to the game against the Washington Huskies on September 30, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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On the first offensive play of the night for Stanford, the Cardinal picked up a first down thanks to a face mask penalty.

It was all downhill from there for the Cardinal.

No. 10 Washington lived up to their high preseason billing on Friday night by manhandling the defending Pac-12 champions in just about every way possible to jump out to a 23-0 halftime lead.

Quarterback Jake Browning threw just three incompletions on his way to 167 yards and two touchdowns and the Huskies looked every bit the part of a top five team in a wild, vintage atmosphere on Montlake. While the offense was impressive, the Washington defense was swarming as well, racking up six sacks in the game so far.

Stanford couldn’t get anything going offensively, averaging just 2.8 yards per play in the first half. Superstar Christian McCaffrey was held mostly in check, with just eight yards receiving and 31 on the ground.

To add injury to the insult of that first half, the Cardinal’s best defender — defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — was injured in the second quarter with a lower leg injury. The team is already without both its starting cornerbacks for the game so it could be a long second half for the visitors.

The game isn’t over yet and there’s plenty of #Pac12AfterDark potential but that was quite a statement made by Chris Petersen’s Huskies in the first half in establishing their credentials for the College Football Playoff.

Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes reportedly dealing with shoulder sprain

LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 29: Patrick Mahomes II #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders stiff arms Daniel Wise #96 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the first half on September 29, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Texas Tech may be without its starting quarterback just as Big 12 play is picking up.

Patrick Mahomes II injured his shoulder on a scramble in the third quarter of the team’s romp over Kansas on Thursday night and did not return to the game. While he was shown on television attempting to throw on the sidelines after returning to the sidelines, he watched the rest of the second half with a headset on instead of a helmet.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports there’s a reason Mahomes didn’t return: he’s dealing with an AC joint sprain in the shoulder of his throwing arm. Mahomes’ father posted on social media that the quarterback would not need surgery to correct the injury but it’s still something that could sideline the Red Raiders’ signal-caller for a few games.

Texas Tech does get a little extra rest before traveling to Kansas State next week on Saturday and then host West Virginia at home the following week.

Mahomes entered the week second in the country in passing, third in passing efficiency, and first in total offense. If there is any positive for Tech it’s that there might not be such a huge drop off to backup Nic Shimonek considering the junior came in and threw four touchdown passes in relief of Mahomes in a little over a quarter’s work against the Jayhawks.

Still, Mahomes is one of the most dynamic players in the country at the quarterback position and they’ll certainly need him back behind center if they stand any chance at beating some of the upper tier Big 12 teams to close out the month of October.

Ohio State OL Demetrius Knox out 8 weeks with another broken foot

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 10:  Storm clouds roll in over Ohio Stadium in the second quarter of a game between the Tulsa Hurricane and the Ohio State Buckeyes on September 10, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. The second half was delayed because of severe weather.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Aside from his feet, Demetrius Knox simply can’t catch a break.

In February of 2015, the Ohio State offensive line broke his foot and miss all of spring practice.  A year and a half later, ElevenWarriors.com initially reported that Knox had again sustained a broken foot and would be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

An OSU spokesperson subsequently confirmed the redshirt sophomore recently underwent surgery and will be out for eight weeks, although it’s unclear if it’s the same foot he broke last year.  Such a timeline means Knox’s regular season is all but over, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll play in the postseason.

A four-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2014 recruiting class, Knox was rated as the No. 5 guard in the country and the No. 15 player at any position in the state of Texas.  On 247Sports.com‘s composite board, Knox was rated as the No. 97 player overall in that class.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Knox played in 13 games in 2015, mostly on special teams.  This season, he’s been listed as a backup at right guard while maintaining a role on special teams.

Arizona facing more questions in its backfield

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Running back Nick Wilson #28 of the Arizona Wildcats carries the ball in the second half of the game Grambling State Tigers at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats won 31-21. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The personnel situation in Arizona’s backfield has gotten dicey all of a sudden.

J.J. Taylor picked up the injured Nick Wilson‘s carries in last weekend’s loss to Washington and rushed for 97 yards, but will be lost for a significant period of time because of a broken left ankle sustained in the same game. Now Wilson, who missed the UW game because of an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for the UCLA game because of that lingering injury issue.

Wilson originally sustained the injury early on in the Week 3 win over Hawaii, meaning the dreaded high-ankle sprain may be in play.

Taylor and Wilson are currently 1-2 amongst Wildcat running backs in rushing yards with 261 and 257, respectively. Wilson was UA’s leading rushers the first two games of the season, with Wilson taking that honor in Week 3.

Overall, though, quarterback Brandon Dawkins leads the team in yards (391), rushing touchdowns (seven) and yards per carry (8.9).

Dawkins will be making his fourth straight start in place of Anu Solomon, who began the season as the starter but hasn’t played since injuring his knee during practice leading into Week 2.