More parity expected in the Mountain West

Aug 23, 2005 1:07 AM

One thing you can pretty much guarantee this year — nobody in the Mountain West Conference is going undefeated.

Urban Meyer has left mighty Utah, which ran the table last year and has now ballooned to 400-1 to win the national championship this year, according to the most recent odds at Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book.

And, the Utes are the highest ranked team on the board!

Yet, there’s no cause for alarm. The Mountain West is actually a pretty strong league from top to bottom, if you believe Sagarin Ratings, which many college football junkies and major newspapers across the country use.

Of the 120 or so major colleges, the nine Mountain West members rank between 15 and 84 in preseason. As a whole, that’s not bad. It indicates fairly good balance from top (Utah) to bottom (UNLV).

Now with Meyer at Florida and Smith the top pick of the San Francisco 49ers, the gap between the Utes and everyone else in the league should narrow considerably.

The Colorado schools (Air Force and Colorado State) should enjoy winning campaigns and be in the thick of the race. TCU and New Mexico are solid teams, while Wyoming and San Diego State could be the best of the lot from a point spread angle. Both the Cowboys and Aztecs were above .500 against the spread (ATS) vs. non-conference teams last year.

The key for Colorado State this year is the ground attack. Under Sonny Lubick, the running game has averaged more than 170 yards during his 12-year tenure. If the Rams can exceed that this season, CSU could reverse their 4-7 mark of a year ago.

Air Force usually has successful seasons when the QB position is secure. Last year, Fisher DeBerry went with freshman Shaun Carney, who completed over 61 percent of his throws. For an option offense that likes to run the football, that’s pretty impressive. DeBerry is 161-94-1 at Colorado Springs, so expect the Falcons to bounce back strong.

BYU is the X-factor. The most famous of the league members has struggled since LaVel Edwards retired. If the Cougars can resurrect their QB factory, they could surprise.