Another college football conference, another conference affected by the storm of realignment. The Mountain West loses TCU to the Big 12, but welcomes Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii to the fold. They also have Boise State and San Diego State around for one more season before they depart for the Big East. San Jose State and Utah State come in next year to replace them, but that’s not the biggest news. The MWC and C-USA entered into an agreement at one point to combine both leagues into a super-mega-ultra conference. They backed away from that due to several issues, but apparently will still maintain an ‘association’ while staying as separate leagues.

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1) Boise State
The conference is basically Boise’s to lose despite losing stars like Kellen Moore and Doug Martin. Joe Southwick will try to fill Moore’s shoes at QB, but will have a wealth of receivers to help him out. The O-line is filled with veterans who should help RB DJ Harper get going. The big problem on defense is the gutted D-line that will feature a ton of new and inexperienced faces, but the LBs are solid as well as the secondary. The key to the season might be the kickers not going all Shankopotamus when it counts. They’ll have a great record at the end of the season, not get into a BCS game and continue their yearly whining about getting no respect while everyone laughs at their pitiful schedule.

2) Nevada
There are certainties in life, namely death, taxes and the Nevada offense running all over the place. QB Cody Fajardo is the star, having been last season’s leading rusher, but he’ll have a deep group of RBs to help out. This being the Pistol, the receivers are really minor parts in the offense. The defense hasn’t played one the same level, but all they need to do is play well enough to allow the offense to do its thing.

3) Wyoming
The Cowboys had a breakout season last year and appear on an upward path. After emerging last season as a true freshman, QB Brett Smith should continue to grow into a potent dual-threat. Chris McNeil will be his #1 receiving target and a pair of decent RBS will join Smith in the run game. The problem will be the line that needs to step up its play. The defense was one of the worst in the country last year and needs to play with more overall aggressiveness. This is a team that will need to continue doing more with less.

4) Fresno State
The Bulldog offense appears to be loaded with weapons. QB Derek Carr, RB Robbie Rouse and WRs Rashad Evans and Josh Harper are all capable of putting up big numbers. They’ll have to because the defense was pretty bad last season, though there’s reason for optimism. DTs Anthony Williams and Tyeler Davison could be big run stuffers while LB Travis Brown will get more involved in the pass rush. Overall, there just needs to be more consistent production.

5) Air Force
They lose the school’s winningest QB, but that shouldn’t be a problem as this offense is predicated on the run. Connor Dietz will take over behind center and will team with FB Mike DeWitt and RB Wes Cobb to pound the ball through the tackles. The defense must rush the passer more to be more effective. A strong LB corps led by Alex Means will certainly help, but the D-line needs to play its part too.

6) San Diego State
Rebuilding is the theme on the Aztec campus. Gone are QB Ryan Lindley and RB Ronnie Hillman and Oregon State transfer Adam Katz and Adam Muema appear set to take over for them, respectively. The receivers will carry the offense, with WR Colin Lockett and TE Gavin Escobar big targets. The defense has its own problems to take care of, namely a small D-line, but has a stout back seven.

7) Hawaii
Norm Chow is the head coach so you can expect tons of aerial plays, but with a stable of good RBs and no game-breaking WR, the attack might be more balanced. The defense’s strength was in the pass rush and getting into the backfield, with LB Art Laurel the bets at it. However, it struggled against better offenses and is retooling the D-line.

8) Colorado State
The Rams have a new head coach who has a mountain to climb in getting a moribund offense to improve. The QB situation is unsettled and the receivers lack depth, but Chris Nwoke looks like a feature back. The pass defense was decent, but that’s only because teams were pounding away at the horrid run defense. The LBs are fine, but the D-line must become better at stopping opposing rushers at the line.

For a team that struggled to score at times, the Rebel offense is the obvious area in need of improvement. It starts with an O-line tha returns all 5 starters, but was inconsistent last year, and a solid RB in Tim Cornett. However, an unsettled QB situation and the receivers are being built from scratch. The LBs the only players of note on a defense that just can’t get to the QB.

10) New Mexico
The offense ranked in the cellar of the country last season and the defense just doesn’t have enough talent. The mystery is why their head coach is someone who was last patrolling a sideline in 2001? Bob Davie was mediocre at Notre Dame back in the day, but were there really no better candidates?