MAACO Bowl Las Vegas - Arizona State v Boise State

CFT predicts: the Mountain West

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One more year with Boise State and San Diego State and the Mountain West will look a lot like the WAC used to. Such is the life on the lower end of the totem pole of conference cannibalism (some of you may know it as realignment).

The Broncos failed to win a conference championship in 2011, but are the overwhelming favorites to end their brief stint in the MWC atop the standings.

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, here’s how I think the Mountain West shakes out:

(Let it be known that I reserve the right to change my mind at any time without notice.)

1. Boise State (last season: 12-1; won Las Vegas Bowl) 
Boise State only loses its greatest player in the history of the program in Kellen Moore. Oh, yeah, and the team returns practically nobody. No biggie, right? Thankfully for the Broncos, the Mountain West also loses TCU, the team’s biggest competitor for a conference title, and keeps coach Chris Petersen.

2.Nevada (last season: 7-6; lost Hawaii Bowl)  
The Wolf Pack only return 12 starters, and there are changes being made offensively, but I’m never one to doubt Chris Ault. Nevada’s defense has a lot to replace too.

3. Wyoming (last season: 8-5; lost New Mexico Bowl)
Dave Christensen is building a strong program at Wyoming and he has a solid quarterback returning in Brett Smith. There’s some questions on defense, but I like the Cowboys’ chances of making a run at a MWC title in 2012.

4. San Diego State (last season: 8-5; lost New Orleans Bowl) 
The Aztecs lose quarterback Ryan Lindley and stud running back Ronnie Hillman, but gain former USC receiver Brice Butler and Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz. Both are immediately eligible and should be able to compete right away.

5. Fresno State (last season: 4-9)
It’s going to be weird to watch Fresno State this season and not see Pat Hill on the sidelines. Hill was the face of that program, but former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter inherits a talented team with plenty of returning starters. Losing top receiver Jalen Saunders hurts, however.

6. Colorado State (last season: 3-9) 
Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain takes over a Rams program trying to get back on track. He’ll have 18 starters from a year ago to help him out. The first half of the schedule doesn’t lend CSU many favors though.

7. Air Force (last season: 7-6; lost Military Bowl)
Air Force recently announced that five key contributors on both offense and defense had been removed from the team. That’s not counting running back Asher Clark, who was dismissed in the spring. In general, it’s been a crappy offseason for the Falcons. It’ll be a mediocre regular season too.

8. Hawaii (last season: 6-7) 
Norm Chow finally gets his chance to be a head coach (not counting BYU’s freshman team in 1975) after serving as a longtime assistant at various stops. However, his time at as an offensive coordinator at UCLA and Utah was forgettable. Will a new job in his home state rejuvenate the 66-year-old?

9. UNLV (last season: 2-10) 
For as good as the Mountain West has been at the top of the standings in recent years, the bottom of the conference has been dreadful. Coach Bobby Hauck was tremendously successful at Montana, but it just hasn’t translated at UNLV — yet. It also say something about the program when the marketing campaign leads off with “WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK!!!!

10. New Mexico (last season: 1-11) 
Boy, this is a program that’s fallen on hard times, eh? The worst thing New Mexico has done recently was hire Mike Locksley, which led to the best thing New Mexico has done recently: fire Mike Locksley. Bob Davie is an interesting choice to replace him, but he’s going to have little to no help this year.

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Interested in our other 10 conference projections along with Division 1-A (FBS) Independents? View ‘em all below by clicking the individual links or our projections landing page HERE. And don’t forget to check out CFT’s preseason Top 25.

Big East
Big Ten
Big 12
Conference USA
MAC
Pac-12
SEC
Sun Belt
WAC
Independents

Longtime starting WKU safety likely out for remainder of 2016

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10:  Calvin Ridley #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes away from Marcus Ward #8 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Like they have the last couple of weeks, Western Kentucky will have to get used to Marcus Ward not patrolling its defensive secondary on game days.

Ward (pictured, left) injured his knee in Week 2 and has not returned to the playing field.  Unfortunately for the player and the football program, that absence will continue as the safety underwent surgery on the knee, which is expected to sideline him for the remainder of the 2016 season.

This may not be the last of the fourth-year senior in a Hilltopper uniform, though, as Ward has yet to use his redshirt season and would have a medical waiver at his disposal even if he had.  It’s unclear, however, if Ward will return for another season or rather make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.

Ward has started a total of 31 games since his true freshman season in 2013, including 26 the previous two seasons.  He was named preseason second-team All-Conference USA prior to the start of the 2016 season.

Perhaps more importantly, he was named a semifinalist earlier this month as a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the Academic Heisman.

No. 10 Washington becomes Pac-12 front-runner after Friday night thrashing of No. 7 Stanford

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Quarterback Keller Chryst #10 of the Stanford Cardinal is hit as he throws by linebacker Connor O'Brien #29 and linebacker Psalm Wooching #28 of the Washington Huskies on September 30, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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All summer long, people wondered why Washington was getting so much preseason love.

After Friday night’s 44-6 thrashing of Stanford in front of a national audience, nobody is wondering anymore about the Huskies.

The sophomore backfield combo of quarterback Jake Browning (210 yards, three touchdowns) and Myles Gaskin (an even 100 yards rushing, two scores) once again powered Washington to a big win, with the offense scoring on all but two full drives on a night where everything went right for the purple and gold.

Defensively is where the Huskies really impressed though. The team swarmed to the ball on every snap, forced two fumbles, racked up eight sacks and kept Stanford under three yards a play for most of the night. The normally reliable Christian McCaffrey was kept in check in remarkable fashion, rushing for just 49 yards on 12 carries.

Just six days after a remarkable comeback win at UCLA, there wasn’t much left in the tank for a Stanford team that was missing two starting cornerbacks and just couldn’t get anything going offensively on the road in a hostile environment. Quarterback Ryan Burns did throw for 151 yards and a touchdown but was under siege most of the night thanks to some shaky play up front from the normally reliable Cardinal offensive line.

The win by Washington certainly establishes Chris Petersen’s team as the Pac-12 favorite — at the very minimum — with a chance to all but punch their ticket to the conference title game next week at Pacific Northwest rival Oregon. If the Huskies continue to look like they did on Friday in Seattle though, a berth in the College Football Playoff is certainly going to be in the cards as well.

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.