Mountain West faces a sneaky challenge in 2009.
As college football begins this weekend, it’s a feeling of euphoria and glad hearts as the nation’s favorite sport is nearly in full swing.
After a stellar season in 2008 in which Utah, the true national champions, were the only undefeated team, and TCU defeated the only other undefeated team in the regular season, the Mountain West caused a lot of discussion around the water cooler.
The big bad programs from around the country don’t like it.
Not. One. Bit.
I have a conspiracy theory that explains why the MWC has three teams in the pre-season top-25 for the first time ever.
They expect them to lose.
BYU is at Oklahoma with the Heisman winner and a loaded Sooner team, the Utes graduated nearly everyone but Kyle Whittingham and TCU looks pretty darn good but they still have questions on offense. If all three of these teams go down in the first month, which I think is very possible with their schedules, the higher ups of college football will slap us on the face and tell us to go back to the kid’s table.
Well, the only way we continue the battle against the BCS is if the teams win anyway. BYU needs to find a way to protect Max Hall against what might be the best defensive line in football. TCU needs to find a way to win in Death Valley and Utah needs to gel their new signal caller in a hurry. Teams like Wyoming have to play Texas in a manner that earns respect, and knocking off Colorado the following week would help too.
In a clash like this, all the teams have to do their part.
Without further windbaggery, there’s the Dahl E. Llama’s MWC picks for week 1:
9/3 – Utah State Aggies @ #19 Utah People’s Champion Utes: Yes, this game is over, but I wrote this before the Utes and Aggies suited up so this still counts. This is a perfect story line really. After guiding the defense to a drubbing of Alabama, Gary Anderson defects to Logan to try and turn back nearly 40 years of drudgery. His first task? Beating his old team. I think the Aggies could be a pleasant surprise this year, but not in SLC. Do you honestly think that after that crowd whips itself into a frenzy with their undefeated banner tonight that they go out and lose to Utah State? Nope, me neither. Llama says: Utes 31-14. (Notice how close the actual score was. Yes, it’s after the fact, but you’ll just have to trust me)
#24 BYU Hurtin’ Kittens @ #3 Oklahoma Sooners: Yes, technically this game is on a neutral field in Jerry Jones new TV room but it’s as neutral as Wyoming’s game in Nashville a few years ago in Tennessee. If only the Cougs hadn’t been decimated by injury this fall, it would be easier to see them hanging with what might be one of the most loaded teams in history. This program didn’t just beat top-25 teams last year, it annihilated them. I think with two really young guys facing the pass rush for the Y? they eventually get to Max Hall and the running game will struggle early. That being said, I really am pulling for the conference in this game. If Jan Jorgensen and the Cougar line can put some pressure on Bradford the Kittens have a chance, if not, the fourth quarter might be all about the gamblers cursing the Cougars for ruining their spread. Llama says: Sooners 56-31
Weber State Wildcats @ Wyoming Cowboys: It’s a whole new rodeo, that’s the statement new coach Dave Christensen issued when he arrived in Laramie. He’s been true to his word as the team appears to be in the best shape of their lives. A lot of experts around the country and especially in Ogden are saying the ‘Cats are going to knock off the Cowboys. Nothing but silence has come out of Laramie. Right now, the Pokes appear to be that guy in the corner of the room that doesn’t do anything when a fight breaks out. But when he does decide to join the fray, it will be worth watching. The Wildcats are coming off one of their best seasons in history but their skill players will face a defense that returns eight starters on a top-40 ranked squad. Also a note for the naysayers. Chris Stutsriem and the others are gone from last year. This isn’t the 120th ranked offense anymore and even with that dubious ranking, this is still the defense that single-handedly went in and knocked off Tennessee last year on homecoming. I think the Cowboys make this a statement game for their season. Llama says: 31-7.
San Diego State Surfer Boys @ UCLA Office Pool Gamblor: Yes, I am Gamblor, master of the two-dollar office pool! Rick Neuheisel and his crew respect the Aztecs, and they should. SDSU has a history of scaring stronger opponents to open the season. However, This is almost becoming a ritual that takes place about three times a decade where a high profile coach comes into San Diego and says the following things: “I have sun, surf and a great talent pool, I can’t lose!” Well, they all have for the most part. Consider that the Aztecs have been to three bowl games in the last 40 years. Consider that they are the only team not to go to a bowl game in the conference since it’s inception. Considering Wyoming’s monumental struggles in that same time frame, that’s saying something. I think it will be close, but no cigar for Brady Hoke and his new crew. Llama says: UCLA 27-25.
New Mexico @ Texas A&M: We all know that the 12th Man started with the Aggies and it’s a formidable place to play. Unfortunately, the Lobos have had a double-whammy of sorts this offseason. Rocky Long leaves and heads to a conference rival, and new coach Mike Locksley has been hampered by allegations of an embarassing nature. That’s no way to start a new regime. Llama says: Aggies 31-10.
Nicholls State @ Air Force: Well, since this will be an easy addition to my overall total: Llama says Falcons: 35-7
Sacramento State @ UNLV: The Rebels are the darlings of the offseason for collegiate pundits. Many are even expecting them to go to a bowl game. There’s a reason Mike Sanford has won 11 games in three years. I”m not saying it’s going to happen, but for a team based in Vegas, it’s quite a gamble to think that they’re going to just put it all together. That being said, they’ll squash this bug-related mascot. Llama says: Rubbblesss . . . . 38-3.
csu @ colorado: Yes, they are in lower case. I’m a small-minded blue collar jerk from Wyoming. . . . . and I’m okay with that. Nobody want to admit that the Sheep have struggled this offseason. For a team that leaned heavily on Gartrell Johnson a year ago, they need to have someone step up in the backfield in a hurry. Also, they’ve gone with a fifth-year senior to make his first starts of the season at QB. I think the buffs, no matter how loathsome I find them, will handle their little brother this year. Llama says: 31-17.
Well, I didn’t give a lot of credit to our conference this week, hopefully someone will make me look fooolish. San Diego State is my upset possibility of the week.
Don’t like it? Let me know with the comment section, but keep it civil.
Dahl Erickson is an award-winning sports writer for the Star Valley Independent and has been recognized by the Wyoming Press Association for outstanding work in Sports Features, Columns and Specialty Publications. He’s also a hopeless Wyoming fan and a sports fanatic who lets his own opinions get in the way of rational thought.