I’ve voted in 10 preseason football polls. I’ve voted Boise State to win its division or conference every year but one (Hawaii in the WAC in 2007 was the exception).
When I was wrong, it went unnoticed, because Boise State almost always is the preseason favorite. When I was right, no fan ever congratulated me, no coach or player made sure to mention it.
But surely, not making the easy decision to just slot the Broncos atop the Mountain West’s Mountain Division might get some heat. They’ve been the preseason favorite to win the conference or division each of the last five seasons since Kellen Moore and company left. Twice they finished on top.
This year, I’m doing the extraordinary: I picked the Broncos to finish second in their division.
If I’m wrong, then please, consider this part of the proverbial chip on the shoulder. And if so, then all’s well that ends well: Your team won!
But I’m going with what might be a bit of a trendy pick: Colorado State.
The full preseason poll and all-conference teams will be announced Tuesday at the Mountain West Football Media Summit in Las Vegas.
My logic comes down to some basic components, the first being the schedule. Boise State has to play at CSU and San Diego State. The Rams avoid San Diego State and obviously get Boise State at home. Their toughest road games are at Hawaii and Wyoming.
Colorado State and Boise State probably will have the best offenses in the Mountain West. It’s easy to forget since he had a horrific start to the year, but the best passer in the conference the second half of the season was Nick Stevens. He had 19 touchdowns to three interceptions the final seven weeks, completing 68.8 percent of his passes. Stevens is back, as is No. 1 receiver Michael Gallup (1,272 yards and 14 TDs) and three running backs who combined for 2,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. Only two starting offensive linemen return, but one is NFL prospect center Jake Bennett.
Defensively, both teams have a ways to go. The Broncos lost most of their starters, but I can say almost for certain they’ll create more turnovers. If young defensive linemen take a leap, that would go a long way. I don’t think Colorado State will be that good on defense, but the Rams should be better, which could be a major difference after losing three games by a touchdown or less. Eight starters are back, and their linebackers should be a strength.
Both are definitely in a “prove it” situation. Boise State is far from a lock, and there are a few assumptions being made putting Colorado State on top. The last time we saw both teams in their bowl game, Boise State looked awful against Baylor, and Colorado State scored 50 points ... and lost to Idaho. The Broncos are 4-5 in their last nine games against the Mountain Division, 2-3 the last two seasons on the road in the division. Colorado State is the only team in the division to not beat Boise State the last two seasons, but nearly coming all the way back from down 25 in a 28-23 loss last season showed the Rams are not afraid.
This isn’t to say Boise State won’t be good. I think Brett Rypien should be the preseason All-Mountain West quarterback, and the Broncos’ defense probably will be better than Colorado State’s. But the rest of the league is catching up quickly. The Broncos could very well go 6-2 in conference, but if they lose Nov. 11 in Fort Collins, it’ll be hard to make the conference championship for the first time since 2014.
But one thing is easy: San Diego State in the West. Zero question.
Here’s how I voted for the Mountain West preseason poll and all-conference team:
1. Colorado State
2. Boise State
4. Air Force
5. New Mexico
6. Utah State
1. San Diego State
5. Fresno State
6. San Jose State
Offensive player of the year: QB Brett Rypien, Boise State
Defensive player of the year: LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
Special teams player of the year: KR Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Dalyn Dawkins, Colorado State
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
Cedrick Wilson, Boise State
David Wells, San Diego State
Jake Bennett, Colorado State
Dejon Allen, Hawaii
Austin Corbett, Nevada
Archie Lewis, Boise State
Antonio Rosales, San Diego State
David Moa, Boise State
Malik Reed, Nevada
Garrett Hughes, New Mexico
Meffy Koloamatangi, Hawaii
Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii
Logan Wilson, Wyoming
Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Andre Chachere, San Jose State
Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
Trayvon Henderson, Hawaii
Tyler Horton, Boise State
John Baron II, San Diego State
Michael Carrizosa, San Jose State
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State