Mountain West: Summarizing the 2010 Season and Predictions for 2011

Michael ClineCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2011

The Mountain West: Summarizing the 2010 Season and Predictions for 2011

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    The Mountain West has seen its best season since its inception in 1999. Out of the nine current teams, five finished with a winning record. The Mountain West Conference had the highest Bowl Win Percentage of all conferences this season, leading the nation with an .800 winning percentage. Only one team from the MWC lost a bowl game this season.

    Since 1999, the Mountain West Conference has earned 46 bowl bids. Of those 46 bowl bids, the MWC collectively hold a 29-17 record. That holds their all time bowl win percentage at .630.

    A total of five teams received bowl eligibility, and TCU played in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin. The Horned Frogs defeated the Badgers 21-19. The Aztecs played their bowl game in their home stadium. Qualcomm was host to the Aztecs and Midshipmen in a flooded San Diego. San Diego State downed Navy in the SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl, 35-14.

    Air Force battled against Georgia Tech in a defensive football game. The Falcons went on to achieve victory at the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl,14-7. BYU stormed into the New Mexico Bowl and took down UTEP in a blowout, 52-24. And finally, Utah entered Las Vegas with its eighth straight bowl appearance. Their opponent was the once BCS bound Boise State. Boise State would be victorious, defeating Utah 26-3.

    After great success this year, the MWC will try to achieve even more in 2011. Next year, the Mountain West will lose a few, and welcome in a new face. Here is the 2010 recap, and predictions and expectations for the following year.  

Texas Christian University Horned Frogs

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    TCU finished 2010 with an undefeated season. The Rose Bowl victory placed the cherry on top of an outstanding year. The Horned Frogs are no doubt the face of the Mountain West Conference. When TCU departs for the Big East in 2012, a big gap will need to be filled. 

    TCU opened up the 2010 season against Oregon State in the Cowboy Classic in Arlington, Texas. The game was closer than some had expected, but nonetheless, TCU kicked off the season in victory, defeating the Beavers 30-21.

    After Week 1, it was smooth sailing for the Horned Frogs. TCU took down conference games like Colorado State, Wyoming, BYU, Air Force, and UNLV with ease. For all five of these conference matchups, TCU had a total of 189 points on offense, and gave up a jaw dropping 16 points against five conference opponents. Perhaps their two biggest scares were back to back opponents; Utah and San Diego State.

    Utah and TCU both found themselves in the top 10, and had their eyes set on the BCS. However, both teams were set to face off, this time, in Utah. Utes fans were pumped up and ready to go. By the time three hours had passed, all life had been sucked out of the stadium.

    TCU ended up destroying the Utes in Salt Lake City, 47-7. This game would spell doom for the Utes for the next few weeks. As for TCU, they focused on the Aztecs, who were hungry for an upset.

    For San Diego State, few people took them seriously. The schedule on paper looked average at best. And for a team like TCU, who had all momentum on their side, it was no question that TCU was a huge favorite. The Aztecs traveled to Fort Worth, and the game began.

    The Aztecs found themselves up 14-0 early on, but by the end of the first half, TCU had stomped on SDSU. The score was 34-14. This didn't stop the Aztecs. Defenses stepped up, and SDSU was climbing back up. However, a crucial defensive stop was not achieved, and TCU held on 40-35. 

    The Horned Frogs then became MWC Champions, and went on to defeat the Badgers in the Rose Bowl on New Years Day, 21-19.

    As for 2011, don't expect a change in performance from the TCU football program. While the 2011 schedule has not been fully determined, TCU is ready to take down any opponent. Expect another undefeated season.

Utah Utes

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    For the Utah Utes, momentum was key in 2010. The football program was well respected, and after the Week 1 overtime victory over Pittsburgh, a ranked opponent, Utah cracked the Top 25. With each victory came another leap in the Top 25. 

    Eventually, the Utes were ranked eighth in the country. Utah was then on the road facing Air Force. The Utes played the turnover game, and forced 5 takeaways. Even though entering the Fourth Quarter with a 28-10 lead, Air Force was still in it to win it. The Utes offensively could not move the ball, and the Falcons went right to work.

    In the end, Utah defeated the Falcons 28-23. Turnovers were the key to a Utes victory, but more importantly, momentum was on their side, for now.

    For the Utes, their football team was fueled by momentum. Entering the TCU game, Utah was on an eight game winning streak, a streak that would be violently snapped by TCU. In Salt Lake City, the Utes were quickly silenced by the unstoppable Horned Frogs.

    The nightmare was not over for Utah. Their next opponent was Notre Dame, a road game being played in South Bend, Indiana. Obviously, the Utah loss to TCU still took its toll on the team. Utah was unable to score a touchdown, and barely threatened in the red zone. After four quarters, all Utah had to show for it was three points. Notre Dame won, 28-3.

    Psychologically, the Utes were hurt after the loss to TCU. Because of this loss, Utah was unable to play good football against Notre Dame, a team Utah should have defeated. Many teams are run on momentum, and often are affected by a tough or embarrassing loss. 

    After two poorly played games, Utah was able to achieve a comeback victory against San Diego State. Utah would finish the season in a tough bowl game loss against Boise State.

    As for 2011, Utah will be joining the Pac-12. Immediate success could be possible, but as of now, the Pac-10 is extremely competitive. Utah will achieve bowl eligibility and finish with a winning season in 2011.

San Diego State Aztecs

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    The Aztecs were off the radar entering the 2010 season. Nobody expected this University to excel in football. In fact, the last time SDSU was victorious in a Bowl game entering 2010 was in 1969.

    The Aztecs played excellent football all year long. In all four losses, SDSU lost by five points at most. Twice the Aztecs lost by a field goal and were defeated by four points and five points each once.

    Led by Quarterback Ryan Lindley, the Aztec offense put up huge numbers all year long. Nine times the Aztec offense scored over 30 points. Most success from the football team is credited to former head coach Brady Hoke, who departed for his "dream job" at Michigan after the 2010 year.

    The Aztecs played in exciting games all year long. In Week 3, Missouri and the Aztecs battled at Qualcomm Stadium. Eventually, the Tigers would achieve victory by three points.

    The Aztecs also pulled off a two-point win over Air Force in October. San Diego State also came close to taking down the No. 3 TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth but could not pull off the upset.

    After the season concluded, SDSU was bowl eligible for the first time as a MWC member. The Aztecs then took down Navy in San Diego by the score of 35-14. The Aztecs offensively put up Poinsettia Bowl personal records. The Aztecs had won their first bowl game since 1969.

    The future of the Aztecs was altered when Brady Hoke announced his departure. Defensive Coordinator Rocky Long has been hired as Head Coach for 2011.

    Next year could be a breakout year for SDSU. The talent is present on the roster. If the Aztecs can win in close games, there is a big possibility they could be a Top 15 team late in the season. Expect SDSU to be ranked in Week 1. The Aztecs will have another winning season and bowl eligibility will come easily. 

Air Force Falcons

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    The Falcons had what some would call an easy schedule for the 2010 season. However, big schools were highlighted, like Oklahoma, TCU, Utah and SDSU. In fact, these four games were the only losses after the season had ended.

    For Air Force, the highlight of the season was winning the Commander-In-Chief"s Trophy for defeating both Army and Navy in the regular season. This trophy is coveted and gives the winning school and all those who serve in that branch of the military huge bragging rights.  

    Air Force was known for their great running game and often abandoned the pass. Statistically, the Falcons were a Top 3 rushing attack in the nation. However, the lack of a passing game hurt the Falcons in each of their losses.

    In 2011, the Falcons will try to become a respected name in college football. This year, they have a big chance in filling the shoes of departing schools like BYU and Utah. Look for Air Force to win six to eight games next year. 

BYU Cougars

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    What should have been a huge year in football for BYU turned out to be a disaster. BYU was expected to be a Top 25 team and possibly a team who could upset TCU and reign supreme in the Mountain West. All those dreams turned into nightmares for BYU after the first five games. 

    Week 1 ended on a positive note. BYU defeated Washington 23-17 in an exciting matchup. The following week, BYU played sloppy football against Air Force, losing 35-14.

    It got even worse for BYU. Just seven days later, BYU was smothered by Florida State 34-10. What made this game so ugly was the lack of offensive production out of BYU. In the third and fourth quarter of the game, BYU was held to a shocking 39 yards. Because of the lack of offense, Florida State took a three-point lead and added 21 points to the deficit. 

    However, the losing streak dragged on. Nevada, led by Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, put up great numbers to overpower BYU at home, 27-13. All this time, no coaching changes had been made by the university. Soon, BYU would be without a choice.

    There was no better opportunity for BYU to stop the bleeding than their game against Utah State. Utah State was also struggling, having lost 10 straight games. Surely BYU could find a way to win. But on any given day, any team can beat any other team. And this time, Utah State had its chance to upset. 

    After giving up 17 unanswered points to Utah State, the Cougars were doomed once again. Sure enough, the home team would come up on top, 31-16. 

    After this loss, the season was soiled and wasted. The Cougars finally ended the losing streak with a 25-20 win over Wyoming. BYU would lose two more times after the losing streak but found a way to become bowl eligible.  

    As for 2011, BYU will become independent in football. This is a huge advantage but is expensive. However, BYU will make the leap from conference play to independent. It all depends on what their schedule looks like but expect BYU to continue its success. 

Colorado State Rams

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    Another tough season in the books for CSU. The Rams were unable to achieve a winning season and also was not bowl eligible. CSU could only earn three victories and continue to be a pushover in the conference. 

    The Rams had one of the worst running games in all of college football, along with a poor passing attack. The offense often struggled to score double digits and were shutout twice. 

    The defense also was poor for the Rams, ranked 104th in the country. Only once did they hold their opponent to 10 points or under.

    There is not much to say about the CSU football program. There are not brighter days ahead. Another losing season is imminent in 2011.

UNLV Rebels

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    Another poorly run football program in the Mountain West is UNLV. The Rebels ended 2010 with only two wins against the worst of the MWC—Wyoming and New Mexico. 

    The only time UNLV scored over 40 points was in their two victories. All other games, the Rebels scored over 10 points in only five games. However, the strength of schedule was extremely difficult for UNLV. 

    The Rebels offensively had on average 274.4 yards per game and averaged about 18 points per game. Defensively, the Rebels would give up 40 points per game.

    If UNLV wants success in 2011 and beyond, a better defense is mandatory. Giving up 40 points will almost always result in a loss. More offensive production is also needed. For all Rebels fans, don't expect a turnaround in 2011. A winning season make take some time to occur. 

Wyoming Cowboys

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    The Wyoming Cowboys had possibly the toughest schedule in the Mountain West. Texas, Boise State, TCU and Air Force were all games that would be improbable for the Cowboys to win. In fact, the Cowboys only won three games out of 12.

    The highlight of the 2010 season was the victory over Colorado State in the closing week of the season. With this victory comes the Bronze Boot.

    In 2011, Wyoming could bounce back and play good football. Their record does not reflect the talent and capabilities of this program. This year"s schedule was too much for the Cowboys to handle. If next year's schedule is toned down, the Cowboys could be a 4-6 game winner. 

New Mexico Lobos

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    Even though this year's schedule was also difficult, the Lobos record does reflect the program. Most picked the Lobos to be winless, but New Mexico was able to defeat Wyoming by a field goal.

    Some say the Lobos got lucky against the Cowboys. Others view it as the only highlight of the year. After being destroyed by Oregon 72-0, the season was basically lost.

    Again, not much to say here. You make the call whether or not the Lobos can win a game in 2011.