Boise States brief tenure in the Mountain West hasnt played out exactly like the Broncos hoped. League pillars Utah and BYU were gone before the Broncos arrived and TCU, after ending Boise States conference and national title hopes last year, bolted, too.
In this, their second and final season in the league, the Big East-bound Broncos have one more chance to claim a Mountain West title.
Our first goal every year is to win the conference, senior guard Joe Kellogg said. We definitely want to accomplish that.
The quest begins Saturday at New Mexico and ends Dec. 1 in Reno against Nevada, a familiar and fitting place for a possible title game.
THIS SEASON BY THE NUMBERS
0 Teams in the Mountain West without a loss.
0 Teams in the Mountain West without a win.
1 Teams ranked in the AP Top 25 (Boise State).
3 Losses to Football Championship Subdivision teams in nine games: Colorado State (to North Dakota State), UNLV (to Northern Arizona) and Wyoming (to Cal Poly).
3 Victories against Pac-12 schools in seven games. Colorado State and Fresno State defeated Colorado and Nevada beat California.
11 Takeaways for Fresno State in four games, surpassing last years total of nine. Fresno State has eight interceptions. Boise State has nine takeaways in three games.
13 Number of consecutive games in which Nevada has had a 100-yard rusher. Stefphon Jefferson has four consecutive 100-yard games to start this season.
24 Straight road games lost by New Mexico before its 27-14 victory at New Mexico State last week. The Lobos last road win came in 2008, also at New Mexico State.
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State (pictured above): The Broncos lead the league in scoring defense, rushing defense, pass defense and total defense. Taylor has been the leader of the unit. The senior has two interceptions, a forced fumble and 18 tackles in three games for a defense that forced nine turnovers against Michigan State and BYU.
Other candidates: Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State; Mike Purcell, DT, Wyoming; Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State.
Preseason pick: Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State The senior has two interceptions and one touchdown return in four games. McFadden leads the league with seven passes defended. He is averaging 4.8 tackles per game.
Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada: Leading the nation in rushing yards and scoring is a good way to put yourself at the top of this list.
The junior is averaging 174.8 yards per game and 18 points per game. He had seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving) in the Wolf Packs 69-24 victory against Hawaii last week.
His work ethic during practice, which has always been good, has been outstanding, Nevada coach Chris Ault said.
Despite his heavy workload Jefferson (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) has carried 122 times in four games he hasnt missed a beat on Monday when were out there running and getting back in gear. Hes leading the parade, Ault said.
Other candidates: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming; Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada; Cody Getz, RB, Air Force.
Preseason pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State Carr is second in the conference in passing yards per game at 265.8. He has thrown nine touchdowns and just one interception.
Chase Clayton, KR, New Mexico: The sophomore leads the county in kickoff return average (43.33). He has two returns for touchdowns.
Other candidates: Mike Edwards, KR, Hawaii; Khalid Wooten, PR, Nevada.
Preseason pick: Mitch Burroughs, KR/PR, Boise State Burroughs has had limited chances in thereturn game. He has just two punt returns (-0.5 yards per return) and two kickoff returns (31.0 yards per return).
TWO MORE RUNNING BACKS TO WATCH
Air Force senior Cody Getz is No. 2 in the nation in rushing (153.7 yards per game) and scoring (14 points per game). The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Getz had 286 career rushing yards in his first three seasons with the Falcons.
Fresno State senior Robbie Rouse is seventh in the country in rushing (129.2 yards per game) and tied for fourth in scoring (12 points per game). Like Getz and Nevadas Stefphon Jefferson, Rouse has rushed for at least 100 yards in each game this year.
FOUR NEW COACHES AND GROWING PAINS
Bob Davie, New Mexico: The former Notre Dame coach and ESPN analyst has had an immediate impact in Albuquerque. The Lobos, 1-11 each of the past three years, are 2-2 with a new option attack on offense.
But it may take a while for Davie to get the Lobos back to bowl contention. He is attempting to change the culture and rebuild the Lobos numbers. New Mexico has 73 scholarship players, below the 85-man limit.
Its the lowest number in the country that weve found, Davie said. The biggest challenge is and was and continues to be the lack of numbers.
Norm Chow, Hawaii: The Warriors (1-3) have struggled early in Chows tenure. Hawaii is allowing 41.8 points per game, including 69 to Nevada last week and 47 to BYU on Friday. The Cougars had 540 total yards including 396 rushing against Hawaii.
Jim McElwain, Colorado State: The Rams (1-3) have been outscored 110-68 and lost to North Dakota State of the FBS. McElwain, the offensive coordinator for two Alabama national championship teams, said the biggest challenge is changing the thought process around the program.
The difficulties lie not in the new ideas but in escaping the old ones, McElwain said. This is just how we have done it. Well, thats probably a reason that maybe we got where we got. ... Ive seen huge strides with what were doing. It will happen and were on the verge of making it happen.
Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State: The Bulldogs (2-2) are two missed extra points away from 3-1 with a loss to Oregon. With his fast-paced offense and excellent returning skill players like QB Derek Carr and RB Robbie Rouse, Fresno State is averaging nearly 40 points per game.
PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
1. Boise State (27) 296
2. Nevada 244
3. Fresno State (2) 231
4. Wyoming 213
5. San Diego State (1) 173
6. Air Force 170
7. Hawaii 116
8. Colorado State 111
9. UNLV 63
10. New Mexico 33
... AND NOW
The top: Boise State and Nevada appear on course for another conference title game in Reno. The rivals meet Dec. 1 in the regular-season finale for both. Everyone in these parts remembers what happened in 2010, when they met under similar circumstances.
The middle: Fresno State, Wyoming (as long as QB Brett Smith stays healthy) and San Diego State should be in the next tier and capable of pulling off an upset.
The surprises: Perhaps everyone underestimated UNLV, which has lost three games by a combined 14 points and topped Air Force in its conference opener, and New Mexico, which at 2-2 has already won more games than it did in any of the last three seasons.
OUT OF LEAGUE
The Mountain West is 14-19 in nonconference games. The league has not finished below .500 in nonconference games since 2006.
... COMPARED TO NEXT YEARS BIG EAST
Boise State is moving to the Big East in 2013, when the league will have 12 teams, two divisions, a conference championship game and an automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.
The competition also figures to be tougher with current Big East members No. 19 Louisville (4-0), No. 23 Rutgers (4-0) and Cincinnati (2-0) sticking around.
Newcomers SMU (1-2), Houston (0-3) and Memphis (0-4) are, on the other hand, not inspiring much confidence.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444,Twitter: @MurphsTurph