Mountain West football notebook

By Chadd Cripe and Brian Murphy, Idaho StatesmanJuly 24, 2013 

MW BOSS: NCAA CHANGE IS NEEDED

LAS VEGAS - Commissioner Craig Thompson thinks changes can be made in the NCAA without splintering the Football Bowl Subdivision, as some of his commissioner colleagues have suggested this summer.

"It's important to rein in on, if we don't get our way, we're going to leave and do something different,'' Thompson said. "By collegiate and collaborative effort, we're going to be able to get together and find solutions that make everybody happy."

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby suggested Monday that teams from his league, the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC could form "Division 4." The commissioners of those leagues are frustrated that their attempts to legislate rules changes in college football often are blocked by smaller schools. The NCAA approved a $2,000 cost-of-attendance stipend for athletes in 2011, but it was overturned by members, including Boise State.

Thompson, who was the commissioner of the American South and Sun Belt conferences before taking over the Mountain West in 1998, doesn't think a full-fledged breakaway is necessary - or even likely.

"What happens when these 70 schools break away and form Division 4? Might happen. I don't think it will happen. I think there'll be a different solution for those people," Thompson said. "If they want to give cost-of-attendance stipends, we should allow them to do that, if they have the means and mechanisms to do that. It's not going to affect how we perform and play necessarily.

"I think it's been overplayed. There are a lot of steps between here and a new division."

In agreeing with the other commissioners, Thompson said the time is right to "re-create a better NCAA. ... What worked years and years ago is not working now.''

SAME BOWLS, DIFFERENT APPROACH

The Mountain West will maintain bowl relationships through 2019 with five games currently played in members' stadiums - the Las Vegas Bowl, the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu, the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.

The league will end its tie to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, after this season, but the Mountain West is still looking for a sixth bowl or, likely, bowls. That is, during the six-year period, the Mountain West would send teams to different games. Thompson said the sixth bowl is likely to be in the Southeast.

The league is also moving away from a pure slotting procedure and instead pooling games to ensure good matchups, reasonable travel and that the same teams don't end up in the same bowls every year. Boise State has played in three consecutive Las Vegas bowls.

"I like it when we're able to go different places. The kids just get different experiences. I think that's important with bowl games," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.

PRIME TIME TITLE GAME

The Mountain West is negotiating with CBS Sports for the rights to the inaugural title game, to be played Dec. 7 at the home site of the highest-ranked division winner. But the game is likely to land at night, Thompson said.

"We hope to have a 3.5-hour window that … we would play the game not against a lot of competition," Thompson said. "If we do decide to play it at night, it might be the last 30 minutes of football in the whole college regular season."

NEW HELMETS

Boise State will have a slightly different logo on its helmets this season. The Bronco-head logo - smaller than the one that appeared on helmets last year - is now on the right side of the helmet with the players' numbers on the left.

Nevada will use a white helmet this season.

SIGNING CLASS UPDATE

Petersen plans to add the entire 2013 signing class to his roster for fall camp rather than hold some players back until January.

The only exceptions are wide receiver Kendal Keys, with whom the Broncos have "parted ways," and defensive lineman Durrant Miles, who will go on a mission as planned.

Wide receiver A.J. Richardson, who committed to the Broncos in February but never signed a letter of intent, said Tuesday that he still plans to join the Broncos in January. He is recovering from a torn ACL.

Fall camp begins Aug. 5. The public scrimmage is Saturday, Aug. 17.

WATCH THE HYPE

Petersen apparently has heard the buzz among fans about sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry last season in a backup role.

"Everybody wants to anoint him as the next Walter Payton already and he's had a few carries," Petersen said. "But I'm excited. He's got a lot of potential. He's got a knee injury (torn ACL in 2011) that's going to hopefully stay healthy. He's going to get a bigger chance than he has in the past. We'll see if he can consistently make plays."

KICKING BATTLES

Petersen expects tight races between Trevor Harman, a senior returning starter, and redshirt freshman Sean Wale for the punting job and between Dan Goodale, a junior former starter, and sophomore transfer Tyler Rausa for the kicking job.

The Broncos ranked 108th in net punting last year. Senior kicker Michael Frisina was 15-of-20 on field goals, including five critical makes in the final two games.

"We need to get better at punting first and foremost," Petersen said, "and we need to continue with the consistency we left the season with in the field-goal game."

NEW YEAR'S SIX

The College Football Playoff announced Tuesday that it will replace the crystal football trophy when the playoff begins in 2014.

It also announced that the six bowl games that will host playoff games - the Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Fiesta and Chick-Fil-A - will be called the "New Year's Six."

The schedule calls for three of the games to be played on New Year's Eve and three on New Year's Day in most seasons.

PLAYOFF TO GROW?

Thompson and Petersen are among those who expect the new College Football Playoff, which debuts with four teams in 2014, to grow.

And soon. Thompson predicted it will move to at least eight teams before the original 12-year contract with ESPN expires.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the pressures build and the public will clamor," said Thompson, a longtime playoff proponent. "I'm thrilled to death that there's a playoff … I think it's a great beginning solution. Personally, I hope it's not the ending solution."

Petersen, who led the Broncos to two Fiesta Bowls under the current Bowl Championship Series structure, agrees.

"I think it's a good start," he said. "You've got to start somewhere. We started probably as small as you possibly can and still call it a playoff. I think it's good. It will be interesting to see the interest and fallout from everything about it."

Petersen figures the Broncos can crack the top four - "We've got to run the table," he said - but he considers a 16-team playoff ideal.

"But with that being said, if there's 16, you have to cut your regular season down," he said. "You'd have a lot of teams play 10 games and that's that, but I still know if we had a 16-team playoff and played 10 games everybody would get more money than they do now if it's done right."

PLAYERS REJOICE: NO MORE TIES

The Mountain West championship game is a hit with players, who don't like the idea of a three-way tie like the conference had last year between Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State.

"One team is better than the other," Wyoming defensive back Marqueston Huff said. "That's how it should be. No ties."

TRANSITION IN LOGAN

When Utah State was in Boise in December for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Aggies were thrilled to have coach Gary Andersen committed long term.

Then he bolted for Wisconsin and offensive coordinator Matt Wells was hired.

That shouldn't affect the Aggies this season, quarterback Chuckie Keeton said.

"None of the players left," he said. "Really, our expectations haven't changed in the slightest. ... We all buy into the same goals, the same objectives. We push each other to make it all the way up to those goals. The first one is a conference championship. I think we can get there."

Utah State went 11-2 and won the WAC last season.

LOBOS MUST FINISH

New Mexico started last season with a 4-3 record, including a 32-29 loss to Boise State. But the Lobos lost their final six games - including four by seven points or less.

"We find that extra seven points in the offseason," linebacker Dallas Bollema said. "We've been working our butts off to get better and in order to fix those mistakes that we were making. We've become a smarter team, a more disciplined team."

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