Three teams tied for the Mountain West title last season, but with the addition of Utah State and San Jose State, determining a conference champion will much easier in 2013.
With 12 teams, the Mountain West will hold a conference title game in early December, which should add plenty of intrigue for the league this year.
Boise State and Fresno State are the frontrunners to win the Mountain West in 2013. The Broncos return only nine starters, but Chris Petersen’s team always reloads. The Bulldogs lost by 10 points at Boise State in 2012 but return All-Mountain West quarterback Derek Carr, along with a talented group of receivers.
The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.
Boise State or Fresno State: Who Wins the Mountain West in 2013?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
What was supposed to be a down year for Boise State still yielded an 11-2 season, a share of the Mountain West title and a pair of losses by a combined six points. Oh man, what a let down. Meanwhile, Fresno State’s best season in in five years still produced a share of the MWC title, but a 10-point loss to Boise State and another puzzling bowl loss. The Broncos have won every meeting in this series since 2005, and although the gap is closing, there’s no reason to mess with Boise State’s track record. As one would expect, first-year starting quarterback Joe Southwick improved as the season went along, with an efficiency rating 15 points higher in his final five games compared to the first eight. After throwing nine touchdowns and six interceptions in the first two months of the season, he had a 10-to-1 ratio in the final two. Boise State will have some questions on defense, especially against the pass. That could be problematic against Derek Carr and Fresno State on the road in September or a potential MWC title game, but I still like Boise State’s defensive front with Demarcus Lawrence and Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe leading the way.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Boise State's two-point home loss to San Diego State was the deciding game in the Mountain West last season. It created a three-way tie between the Aztecs, Broncos and Bulldogs after Boise State slipped past Fresno State 20-10 at home. Boise State, behind leadership of second-year starter Joe Southwick, looks to be improved from a year ago and won't lose another league game in 2013 like it did against SDSU last fall. It will, however, have to visit Fresno State early in the year (Week 4) and the outcome of that game will likely decide the conference crown. Fresno State has an elite quarterback in Derek Carr and gets the game at home, but the rest of the team isn't as deep or talented as Boise, so I will take the Broncos to win the MWC for the second time in as many tries.
Jeremy Mauss, Mountain West Connection, (@JeremyMauss)
Based off of history, it is easy to say Boise State should win the Mountain West this year, and particularly against Fresno State who has always struggled against the Broncos. However, this year things look to be different for Fresno State as they have quarterback Derek Carr who is one of the nation's best, plus they have wide receiver Davante Adams who had 102 catches as a freshman as well as Isaiah Burse. That pair should be the best in the Mountain West.
A few of the concerns for Fresno State is that they lose All-Mountain West running back Robbie Rouse, and he will likely be replaced by BYU transfer Josh Quezada who was a three-star recruit in his own right coming out of high school. Also, their offensive line takes a hit by losing a pair of multi-year starters, but they do have some experience returners with five players who saw significant time or started this past year.
Getting Boise State at home is the first step in winning the Mountain West title, because a win would mean that Fresno State would likely host the conference title game. For Fresno State to win the title they will have to defeat Boise State for the first time since 2005, and also gave the Broncos two conference loses for the first time in over a decade. If this Fresno State team does not win the title it may be a long time before they do.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s very tempting to pick Fresno State, but it’s hard to see Boise State losing the Mountain West in 2013. The Bulldogs’ only defeat in conference play last season came against the Broncos, losing 20-10 in Boise. Fresno State returns most of its core, including All-Mountain West quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Davante Adams. The defense will miss linebacker Travis Brown and safety Phillip Thomas, but nine starters are back from a unit that ranked 22nd nationally in yards allowed.
Boise State had a rebuilding season last year, yet still finished 11-2 overall and 7-1 in Mountain West games. A handful of key players are departing, but the Broncos should still end up as conference champs. Quarterback Joe Southwick will be more comfortable in his second year under center, and running back Jay Ajayi is a rising star. The front seven should be solid, but the secondary is a question mark with the departure of cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins.
If there’s a reason to pick Fresno State, it’s Boise State’s weakness in the secondary, along with a Sept. 20 home date against the Broncos. Considering the winner of that matchup could end up with homefield advantage in the conference title game, it’s crucial for Fresno State to win the early season matchup. Despite the reasons to like the Bulldogs, I still think Boise State claims the Mountain West title in 2013.
Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Both Boise State and Fresno State are similar in that they are led by experienced quarterbacks who direct productive offenses, but also have defenses who can get the job done. I fully expect both teams to win their respective divisions in the new-look Mountain West this season, with Boise State reaching the apex of the Mountain Division and Fresno State showing its the best of the West Division.
Even though the Bulldogs are returning more starters (16 compared to Boise State's 9) and have a potential Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback Derek Carr, I still think the Broncos' overall talent and track record under head coach Chris Petersen will win out. Boise State Petersen is 51-4 in conference play (five seasons in the WAC, last two in the MWC) as the Broncos' head coach, which includes five outright or shared conference titles in seven seasons.
It's tough for me to pick against that type of sustained success, although Fresno State will get its chance to send a strong message when it hosts Boise on Sept. 20. Regardless of how the opening round goes, I'll take the Broncos to claim the contest that really counts - the MWC championship game on Dec. 7.
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