I gave you the the Mountain West Mountain Division on Sunday so today I turn my attention to the West Division.
Fresno State 7/2 – The Bulldogs need to replace the two-time defending MWC Player of the Year in Derek Carr who is off to the NFL. Coach Tim DeRuyter will wait to announce his new QB though. Fresno has 13 starters back including eight on defense. The opening three games are not going to be easy. They open at USC and Utah and then host Nebraska before heading into conference play. The biggest game in the MWC is likely the Bulldogs’ date at Boise State in October.
Nevada 7/1 – The Wolf Pack returns 17 starters including 10 on defense and that could be the difference in terms of whether they can dethrone Fresno State or not. The offense took a step back last year averaging less than 4 yards per carry. The schedule opens with two winnable games before Nevada travels to Arizona. The good news is they get Boise State, Colorado State and Fresno State at home.
San Diego State 12/1 – The Aztecs lost 1,000 yard rusher Adam Muema and return just ten starters (6 Off/4 Def). The schedule doesn’t help much either with road trips to North Carolina, Oregon State Fresno State in their first five games. They also have to play at Boise State later in the season. This could be a real struggle for Head Coach Rocky Long to get to .500 in 2014.
UNLV 30/1 – The Rebels have to replace their all-time leading rusher in Tim Cornett who started for four years in Sin City. Head Coach Bobby Hauck enters his fifth season and does have 51 lettermen returning including 13 starters (7 Off/6 Def). Like SDSU, the schedule does the Rebels no favors. They have seven road games this season including four in the first six games with Arizona and Houston being the big match-ups there. UNLV also heads to BYU later in the season.
San Jose State 30/1 – The Spartans have to replace record-setting quarterback David Fales offensively and have journeyman defensive coordinator Greg Robinson taking over the defense and he is switching the scheme to a 4-3 so that worries me in terms of getting prepared. Head Coach Ron Caragher was 6-6 last year and repeating that will be difficult. Like UNLV, SJSU has seven games on the road in 2014 and the first one is at Auburn. They also have trips to Minnesota, Navy and Fresno State.
Hawaii 30/1 – Head Coach Norm Chow enters the season with one of the hottest seats underneath him in the nation. He is just 4-20 in two seasons on the island and things do not look much better with another new quarterback taking over and a new defensive coordinator trying to rebuild one of the country’s worst defenses. The Warriors don’t leave the islands until September 30th when they play at Colorado but the three home games prior include Washington and Oregon State. They finish the season with three of four on the road. Three wins would be a nice step this year.
The Pick: Fresno State will be hard to pick against but with Nevada returning so many guys on defense I’m going with the Wolf Pack. I think they’ll fix their offensive issues and I like their favorable home schedule.