As I look into my crystal ball, here are three predictions for the Mountain West:
1. Boise State will win the Mountain West. I am going with the Broncos to win the league based on Kellen Moore and all their returning talent. I know there are some questions at receiver, but I have faith that Moore is an excellent teacher and has helped in their development this summer and during fall camp. Tyler Shoemaker, Chris Potter, Kirby Moore and Geraldo Boldewijn all have played, but now they have added responsibility. Do not be surprised to see Boise State spread the ball around more. Last season, Titus Young and Austin Pettis each had 71 catches. Shoemaker was next on the list with 32. That type of discrepancy should not happen again in 2011.
2. TCU will not lead the nation in total defense. This is a tough prediction to make, considering the Horned Frogs have led the nation in this category for three straight seasons. Coach Gary Patterson has talked about the potential for this to be his best unit yet. He has a strong defensive front and linebacker group, led by All-American Tank Carder. But there are questions in the back end of the defense, especially with Tejay Johnson gone. But a bigger factor is the offense. I think this unit could take a step back without Andy Dalton, and that will have a direct impact on defensive statistics. Without an offense that averages north of 40 points, the defense might find tougher sledding.
3. Colorado State will make a bowl game. The Rams have a bevy of starters returning, including quarterback Pete Thomas, who took his share of lumps as a true freshman last season but showed signs of potential. Linebacker Mychal Sisson also returns to anchor the defense after leading the nation last season with seven forced fumbles. The schedule sets up perfectly for Colorado State, too. The toughest nonconference game is Colorado, so at worst the Rams should be 3-1 in those games, meaning they need three wins in eight conference games to become bowl-eligible.