1. TCU (11-1)
2. Utah (9-3)
3. Brigham Young (8-4)
4. UNLV (8-4)
5. Air Force (7-5)
6. San Diego State (5-7)
7. Colorado State (4-8)
8. New Mexico (4-7)
9. Wyoming (3-9)


UNLV - The Rebels had a shot at a .500 season and a bowl invitation a year ago only to fall short after starting quarterback Omar Clayton went down with an injury. Clayton is healthy after throwing 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions and his receiver package of Ryan Wolfe and Phillip Payne may be the best the MWC has to offer. The front seven on defense is stout. They will get home games with Oregon State, Hawai'i, BYU and Utah, and are quite capable of beating any of these teams in Vegas…and the Rebels go bowling for the first time since 2000.
UTAH - The Utes can only disappoint only from a certain standpoint. They are coming off an undefeated season and a BCS bowl victory over Alabama and getting back to that type of mountain would be a major stretch for any team trying to overcome such heavy graduation/early player departures. The quarterback spot is unsettled with the loss of Conference Player of the Year Brian Johnson. Two cornerbacks must be replaced. There are gaping holes of inexperience across the board and they will opeate with a target on their chest. Utah will find a way to compete for the league crown, but it won’t be nearly as successful as last season.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: QB Max Hall - Brigham Young
TOP NEWCOMER: DT Lata Heimuli - Utah
TOP BLOCKER: Zane Beadles - Utah

QB Max Hall - Sr. - Brigham Young
RB Matt Asiata - Sr. - Utah
RB Harvey Unga - Jr. - Brigham Young
WR Ryan Wolfe - Sr. - UNLV
WR Rashaun Greer - Sr. - Colorado State
TE Dennis Pitta - Sr. - Brigham Young
OL Erik Cook - Sr. - New Mexico
OL Zane Beadles - Sr. - Utah
OL Marshall Newhouse - Sr. - TCU
OL Nick Charles - Sr. - Air Force
OL Shelley Smith - Sr. - Colorado State
K   Ross Evans - So. - TCU
KR David Reed - Sr. - Utah

DL Jerry Hughes - Sr. - TCU
DL Jan Jorgensen - Sr. - Brigham Young
DL John Fletcher - Sr. - Wyoming
DL Koa Misi - Sr. - Utah
LB Stevenson Sylvester - Sr. - Utah
LB Jason Beauchamp - Sr. - UNLV
LB Ken Lamendola - Jr. - Air Force
DB Rafael Priest - Sr. - TCU
DB Robert Johnson - Sr. - Utah
DB Nick Sanders - Sr. - TCU
DB Chris Thomas - Sr. - Air Force
P   Anson Kelton - So. - TCU
PR Jeremy Kerley - Jr. - TCU

1. Max Hall - Brigham Young
2. Andy Dalton - TCU
3. Ryan Lindley - San Diego State

Utah (Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide, Sausan Shakerin)

UNLV (Phillip Payne, Ryan Wolfe, Rodelin Anthony, Jerriman Robinson)

Colorado State (Tim Walter, Adrian Martinez, Scott Benedict, Shelley Smith, Mark Starr, Cole Pemberton)

Wyoming (Mitch Unrein, Fred Givens, John Fletcher)

Utah (Nai Fotu, Mike Wright, Stevenson Sylvester)

TCU (Rafael Priest, Nick Sanders, Tejay Johnson, Marcus Jackson, Corderra Hunter, Malcolm Williams, Sir Demarco Bledsoe)


1. Utah at TCU (Nov. 14)
2. Utah at Brigham Young (Nov. 28)
3. TCU at Brigham Young (Oct. 24)
4. TCU at Air Force (Oct. 10)
5. Utah at UNLV (Oct. 17)

1. Utah at Oregon (Sept. 19)
2. Brigham Young vs. Oklahoma @Arlington, TX (Sept. 5)
3. Florida State at Brigham Young (Sept. 19)
4. TCU at Clemson (Sept. 26)
5. Air Force at Navy (Oct. 3)

1. James Aiono DE Epraim, UT Utah
2. Waymon James RB Sherman, TX TCU
3. Terrance Cain QB Brenham, TX Utah
4. Malcolm Williams DB Athens, TX TCU
5. Casey Pachall QB Brownwood, TX Utah
6. Craig Bills DB Provo, UT Brigham Young
7. Kyle Van Noy ATH Reno, NV Brigham Young
8. Jurell Thompson DB Wichita Falls, TX TCU
9. Latu Heimuli DT Salt Lake City, UT Utah
10. Richard Wilson TE Spanish Fork, UT Brigham Young

STRENGTHS: QB Tim Jefferson was tabbed the 2008 MWC Freshman of the Year, and talented tailback Asher Clark was the team's top rusher from the nation's No. 6 rushing attack. Both return, although Jefferson took time out from the off-season to concentrate on academics. Clark is now being experimented at QB, his former position. Both give this ground attack solid wheels. The secondary appears to be the strength of the defense. Senior Chris Thomas, the teams MVP last fall, returns at safety, as do starting corners Reggie Rembert and Anthony Wright. All three linebackers are back in the fold, further enhancing the back seven.

CONCERNS: The biggest question is up front on defense. Two quality bookends have departed in Ryan Kemp and Jake Paulson. Getting pressure on opposing QBs won’t likely elicit the same strong results. The Falcons are also missing an experienced receiver, despite the fact that the passing attack is only a last ditch option. As always in Colorado Springs, expect the ground game to continue to be the play of choice eight times out of ten. One of the biggest tasks is replacing Ryan Harrison in the kicking/punting game.

PROGNOSIS: Air Force has nearly twice as many starters back as it did a year ago, but the team is still fairly young. Most of the starters are freshmen and sophomores. A steady defense and methodical use of the running game is still the winning formula, and so it should be no surprise that head coach Troy Calhoun makes a bowl game for the third straight season.


STRENGTHS: QB Max Hall is a legitimate Heisman contender, RB Harvey Unga is a former MWC Freshman of the Year who is now healthy after a lesser sophomore outing, and TE Dennis Pitta may be the best offensive end across the national landscape. As needed, DE Jan Jorgensen is one the best sack masters in the conference while operating in this unique 3-3-5 defensive scheme. Also key is that all of the linebackers return to the fold. The defense should be stiff.

CONCERNS: Only four total starters return to the offensive side, which means there are sure to be gaping holes. The first area of concern is the losses at receiver. Any incumbents are short on quality experience. Also, the offensive line has to replace four starters. Replacing both starting safeties becomes the priority on the defensive side. Projected secondary starters Brandon Bradley and Scott Johnson have been battling through injuries, while one of the projected starting CBs, Brandon Howard, has left the school for personal reasons. Incoming JUCO transfers will vital here.

PROGNOSIS: An undefeated season is (probably) out of the question. The Cougars open with Oklahoma and get Florida State two weeks later. With senior Max Hall under center, anything is possible as Coach Mendenhall strives to keep pace with Utah and TCU in conference (they get both at home). Keep an eye on Dennis Pitta as he could easily wind up the top TE in the 2009 NFL Draft. The lack of playmakers at receiver and a newly formed OL could make the season interesting at times against teams BYU usually dominate. The defense is good enough to stuff the ground game but keeping the passing yards down is going to be a difficult task with this secondary.


STRENGTHS: Four starters return to bolster the offensive line, all of them are seniors. Receivers Rashaun Greer and Dion Morton are both playmakers that can help a passing game still searching for a quality QB. The most experienced unit on defense will be in the secondary - all four DB starters return.

CONCERNS: The Rams will be breaking in a new QB and a new set of running backs. Fifth year senior and first time starter Grant Tucker will handle the job under center, but coaches have yet to give him the vote of confidence. Replacing talented Gartrell Johnson in the backfield will have to be done “by committee”. The top defensive player, LB Ricky Brewer, is out for the season on a "team rules" suspension, and the inexperience up front on the defensive line is going to cause problems.

PROGNOSIS: While the Rams got an important bowl victory last season, they now have to reload at some of the most important positions. A new QB, a new set of running backs and a completely rebuilt defensive line are huge areas of concern, and they’ll keep CSU out of the conference race. The two aforementioned offensive holes left coaches scratching their heads all spring. Luckily, the blockers up front may be the team's best unit. Getting off to a rough start won't help build confidence as BYU, Utah, TCU, Nevada and Colorado dot the schedule before mid-October arrives.


STRENGTHS: Those 1,000-yard rushing seasons of the past were built around a strong offensive line. Center Erik Cook is an All-MWC performer. and there is enough talent around him to keep the schemes sound. The top three receivers return - led by Chris Hernandez -though none put up big numbers last season due to the QB inefficiencies. Both of the returning starters at safety are seniors, and will be called upon to keep the defense grounded.

CONCERNS: QB play was horrid a year ago. Donovan Porterie threw for over 3,000 yards in 2007, and now returns from the torn ACL that sidelined him in ‘08. The QB plight is still unsettled however as eight-game starter Brad Gruner is in a heated battle with Porterie. With roughly three starters back on defense, the Lobos will switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme, which puts pressure on a DL that is extremely short on experience/depth. Two new corners get broken in and will require a ton of help from the veteran safeties.

PROGNOSIS: Dynamic offensive mind Mike Locksley from Illinois takes over in his first stint as a head coach. All schemes on both sides of the ball will go through a major reconstruction schematically. The offense will become a no-huddle spread attack as the defense also moves to a completely new scheme. The days of a power running game are history, and this team is lacking top rated talent to guarantee a smooth transition. It will probably take a few seasons to haul in the players Locksley needs to run his sets optimally. The key for the present is finding a QB, the proven downfall of 2008.


STRENGTHS: These receivers may be the deepest in the conference. Leading catcher Vincent Brown is back, as are two other returning starters. Still, senior DeMarco Sampson was the surprise standout of the spring. Sophomore Ryan Lindley has a bright future at QB after showing plenty of promise a year ago. Combined with the talent running routes, this could be a formidable passing attack. The new blitzing defensive scheme should benefit the linebacker. Moreover, the LBs possess the most talent on this side, and Luke Laolagi is primed to log over 100 tackles.

CONCERNS: Appropriately, the Aztecs cannot run the ball well, nor can they effectively stop the run. This is not a physical ball club. There are veterans returning in the offensive backfield, but they were all a part of a group that managed to average just 73 yards per game last fall (nation's third worst). The front seven on defense returns six starters. However, much like the offense, SDSU has never been known for its physical defensive prowess. Depth is extremely thin across the board, and everyone will be learning a new scheme. Any/all of these are serious concerns.

PROGNOSIS: The Aztecs are in full rebuilding mode. Hot Ball State ex-coach Brady Hoke takes over, and his assistants now are a nice cross-section of football minds - defensive coordinator Rocky Long, whose 11 years as head coach at New Mexico featured stellar defenses; offensive coordinator Al Borges, the former Auburn play caller; and former Cleveland Brown Brian Sipe, who now coaches the quarterbacks. There is enough talent here to spread the ball around via the air, and the new 3-3-5 oft-blitzing defense is going to help improve a defense that has been on the downside for a long time. Improvements should be evident rather quickly. However, this is the only school not to attend a bowl in the history of the MWC. That won't change this season, but Brady’ll have ‘em surprise a few teams.


STRENGTHS: Everyone's All-American at defensive end is Jerry Hughes (15 sacks in 2008). He, along with a pair of three-year starting corners in Nick Sanders and Rafael Priest, have the capability to wreak havoc with opposing aerial attacks on any level. Dual-threat QB Andy Dalton returns after winning 19 games the previous two seasons, and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal with top rusher Joseph Turner and leading pass catcher Jimmy Young returning. Two All-MWC honorees at offensive tackle (Newhouse and Cannon) will provide plenty of protection.

CONCERNS: The loss of two All-Conference players at linebacker raises concerns. The newly built interior of the line, combined with the losses at LB, will make the (inside) run stopping efforts a priority need. Still, this was the nation's No. 1 rush defense a year ago. Repeating that sort of effort will be a long shot. Outside of Hughes, the rest of the DL gets filled with new faces.

PROGNOSIS: Everyone will expect the nation's No. 1 ranked defense to take a step back with seven seniors departing. But Gary Patterson knows how to coach, and he’s very optimistic about his chances in 2009. No wonder, considering the Frogs return a strong nucleus from an offense last fall that set single-season school records for points scored and touchdowns. Only a loss to Utah kept TCU from an elusive BCS invite. If they can get through road games against Virginia and Clemson in the first three games, the Halloween home match up against Utah could be for all the mid-major BCS marbles.


STRENGTHS: UNLV finally has a quality signal caller after five straight years of different QB starters. Omar Clayton threw for 18 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions before going down with knee injury and missing the last three games last season. He is going to push Max Hall for top conference QB honors. Clayton has multiple weapons to work the spread offense including All-American candidate Ryan Wolfe and super soph Phillip Payne at the receiver spots. Tackles Malo Taumua and Martin Tevaseu lead the front seven on defense, but it’s linebackers Jason Beauchamp and Starr Fuimaono who make this the best front seven the Rebels have employed since its last bowl trip in 2000. The offensive line also boasts two All-MWC candidates in Joe Hawley and Matt Murphy.

CONCERNS: The only thing missing from this offensive attack is a replacement for back Tank Summers. Finding another RB will be a big key. The biggest development will be in the secondary, which has been forced to retool after losing three key contributors, including suspended starting safety Daryl Forte. The influx of talent here has been crucial - the Rebels landed eight defensive backs in their recent recruiting class, four of them from the JUCO level.

PROGNOSIS: Seriously, watch out for UNLV this season as a surprise team. The Rebels had a shot at a .500 season and a bowl invitation last year, only to get torched in the finale by San Diego State. The Reb’s receiver-QB combo is as good as the Mountain West has to offer, and the front seven on defense is stout. They will get home games with Oregon State, Hawai'i, BYU and Utah, and are quite capable of beating any of these teams in Vegas.


STRENGTHS: The best set of linebackers in this league resides here. Stevenson Sylvester, Mike Wright and Kepa Gaison all played huge roles in the undefeated BCS run of a year ago. The defensive line, too, won't see much drop off despite the early departure of DE Paul Kruger. Remaining is Koa Misi, and many feel his ability is on par with Baltimore Raven bound Kruger. Matt Asiata is an underrated ball carrier, and offensive tackle Zane Beadles is the Utes’ best bet to make an All-American team.

CONCERNS: The main focus is finding a replacement for MWC Offensive POY Brian Johnson at QB. Corbin Louks currently holds the top honor after being used primarily in running situations last fall. JUCO transfer Terrance Cain came in and battled well, as expected, but the real surprise was from true frosh Jordan Wynn. Still, nothing is settled under center. Sean Smith bolted early, which means the two new corners are going to get tested early and often. The biggest loss of all is at the kicker/punter position; the stability four-year all-world mainstay Louie Sakoda afforded coaches has moved on.

PROGNOSIS: Not many (mid-major) teams are in a position to overcome the heavy graduation/early departure losses that Utah will endure. Plus, the Utes obviously have a huge target on their chest after last year's undefeated success. They are also searching for a new signal caller. Added up, this does not bode well for Utah to get back to another BCS bid. But make no mistake - this program has a load of talent waiting in the wings, and the drop-offs won't be as exaggerated as some might predict. Utah has built a strong program with solid recruiting foundations, and nothing less than a conference title will be sufficient. They will continue to be right in the thick of the MWC race.


STRENGTHS: On defense, the entire front line, led by DT John Fletcher, remains intact. The conference's second-rated pass defense also returns three players to the secondary. This defense will likely finish statistically in the top half of both the conference and the nation. There is plenty of experience at the receiver position, which will bode well for the new spread offense head coach Dave Christensen brings with him from Missouri. Now, five receiver sets are not out of the question.

CONCERNS: Finding a QB that can fully grasp this spread offense will take a couple of seasons. Last year, three Cowboy hurlers combined for 17 interceptions but only seven touchdowns. Senior Carsten Sween gets the early nod but has been plagued by the same turnover bug. The running backs will miss the 2,000 yards of offense that departed members Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon provided, while the offensive line has some rebuilding to Throwing the ball first may not be a bad idea.

PROGNOSIS: The defense has the personnel to make some noise, but the offense will need time to mature and grasp a detailed new system. There is no running game to rely on, and big September tilts with Texas and Colorado could prove devastating with such ominous limitations. The Cowboys have to change how the team values the football; 36 turnovers killed this program last season. The hiring of coach Christensen should pay dividends in the long run. His first year’s prognosis however, does not look good on paper unless a quarterback can quickly take charge. If Sween is not the guy, the answer will have to come from one of the new recruits.



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