The season has ended, but it does not mean outlets are bringing us super-duper-early top 25 lists. Here are some national outlets and their 2009 lists which pertain to the MWC.
The Rivals.com list seems to be quite different for the Mountain West; they have Utah at 17 and BYU at 22, but TCU is in the others considered along side Air Force. I'm very intrigued as to why TCU is on the outside when they return about half of their defense and quarterback Andy Dalton is back and will be a junior, along with running back Joseph Turner.
Here is what Rivals said:
The Buzz: The passing game will be a huge question. But the defense returns a lot of key players in the front seven, and the Utes will be able to run the ball.
The Buzz: Replacing four starters on the offensive line is the top priority for the Cougars, whose defense should be much better.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach put out a top 25 and has TCU at 16, Utah at 21 and BYU at 24. That is a bit more accurate, but I could see Utah in the top 20 if either Paul Kruger or Sean Smith return, but that is wishful thinking since both are considered an early second round pick in the draft if they declare.
Below is what Mark Schlabach had to say:
16. TCU Horned Frogs
Behind the country’s No. 1 defense, the Horned Frogs finished 11-2 in 2008, beating Boise State 17-16 in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. As many as eight defensive starters will have to be replaced if junior defensive end Jerry Hughes enters the NFL draft. Middle linebacker Jason Phillips and safety Stephen Hodge will be big losses, too. Six starters are expected back on offense, including quarterback Andy Dalton.
21. Utah Utes
The Utes finished the 2008 season as the only unbeaten team in the country after upsetting Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl. They will have to replace quarterback Brian Johnson, their top three receivers and the right side of their offensive line. Nine starters are expected to return from one of the country’s best defenses. Kicker/punter Louie Sakoda also will be difficult to replace. The Utes will play three difficult road games: at Oregon, BYU and TCU.
24. BYU Cougars
The Cougars fell short of their “quest for perfection” in 2008, losing to TCU 32-7, at Utah 48-24, and to Arizona 31-21 in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl. BYU will need to find a replacement for wide receiver Austin Collie, who declared for the NFL draft. The Cougars are waiting to see if tight end Dennis Pitta will return for his senior season. Quarterback Max Hall and running back Harvey Unga are definitely returning, but four starting offensive linemen will have to be replaced. Nine starters are expected back on defense.
The next is Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel who posted a top 10 list. He has the Utes at number seven, but that can determine if defensive back Sean Smith and/or defensive end Paul Kruger return.
Utah: Don’t make the mistake of discounting the Utes just because quarterback Brian Johnson and his receivers are graduating. As you saw in the Sugar Bowl, Utah can play some pretty mean defense. Star pass-rushers Paul Kruger, Stevenson Sylvester and seven other starters return on that side. An experienced line should help the offense rebuild.
The one common thread is that Boise State is either in the top 10 or near the top 10 of all of these lists. That may be true, because Boise State does have Kellen Moore at quarterback and will be only a sophomore for the 2009 season. It's never too early to start talking college football for the upcoming season.