In the 2012 College Football offseason, we saw several conference re-alignments that all carried their share of uneasiness, and excitement for the fans, personnel, and players involved.
One of those conferences with longstanding rivalries throughout the board from the dismantle of the Western Athletic Conference, was the Mountain West.
Despite issues that the No. 5 in-conference, Nevada Wolf Pack has seen this season, the 2010 record gave them credibility to assemble a stellar 2011 recruiting class, which was defense-centered with 14 signees, along with RB Kendall Brock out of Fresno, CA who ran for 2,400 yards in high school, with 40 touchdowns.
Yes, Nevada will lose Senior Safety Duke Williams from the backfield, but defensively, the Wolf Pack looks to be establishing momentum from year’s prior, and have demonstrated longevity with the personnel given, to sustain conference opponents for a few years to come.
With that said, I believe that Nevada has a strong chance to beat the Boise State Broncos on December 1. If they beat the New Mexico Lobos, they will come in to the matchup at 7-4; 4-3 in conference, and just one game behind the Broncos, who have appeared a bit sluggish this season, when compared to their dominance from the past few years.
That dominance was crushed with the loss of QB Kellen Moore, who took the majority of snaps last season. It’s obvious that head coach Chris Peterson didn’t do his backup – Junior, Joe Southwick – any favors by limiting reps, and the numbers show. Southwick has thrown for 2,051-yards, 13 TD’s and 7 interceptions this season, compared to his 2,451-yards, 15 TD’s and 8 INT’s in his career at Boise State.
While the Broncos’ defense is ranked 8th in the nation, allowing an average of 14.4 points per game, there have been a few notable offensive struggles that I believe the Nevada defense will be able to capitalize on. These struggles include a loss in the first game of the season to then, No.13 ranked Michigan State Spartans, and on November 3, at home to the San Diego State Aztecs, and marginal wins by 15 points total, to the Fresno State Bulldogs, Brigham Young Cougars, and New Mexico.
As far as Nevada and Boise State go on December 1, watch out for an already hyped up, proverbial repeat of 2010, with a battle of explosive defenses. This is truly, anybody’s game.
Current MWC No. 1, Fresno State has a bye this week, and are working diligently to finish this out this season strong against the Air Force Falcons at home on November 24. Based off percentages, I believe that a win should solidify a solo conference championship, as they beat the Aztecs, 52-40 on September 29.
The Falcons rank 2nd overall in rushing yards, but against Nevada, the Bulldogs definitely established themselves for their powerful defense, causing four turnovers, including LB Travis Brown’s 26-yard fumble return, and DB Derron Smith’s 34-yard pick six. Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter set a goal of 30 turnovers for the season, which they accomplished after playing 11 weeks straight. With a recharged team, expect that number to rise.
San Diego State is currently tied with Fresno State, but are on a bye this week, and face the Wyoming Cowboys on November 24. Given the internal conflict that has plagued the Cowboys this season, it appears as if that chaos has infected the team unit, and even though QB Brett Smith has completed 161 of 262 passes for 2,160 yards, and 22 TD’s, the numbers don’t add up, as they are practically necking the UNLV Rebels for that 6th place spot.
For those watching Wyoming, Rebels QB Nick Sherry is doubtful tomorrow, after a back injury he sustained late last week in a loss to Colorado State.
I see SDSU finishing strong against the Cowboys in their exit game from the Mountain West, as they move onto the Big East in 2013, with Boise State, and possibly Air Force.
The final Top Five in two weeks could look like this:
1) Fresno State: 9-3 overall, 7-1 conference (win over Air Force at home)
2) San Diego State: 9-3; 7-1 (win over Wyoming at home)
3) Boise State: 9-3; 5-2 (barring a loss at Nevada)
4) Nevada: 8-4; 5-3 (with wins at New Mexico; at home against Boise State)
5) Air Force: 6-5; 5-3 (win over Hawaii, loss at Fresno State)
Follow VF Castro on Twitter: @VFdoesFootball