Derek Carr earned the right to wear a title belt with a historic season.
Photo: USA Today Sports
The Mountain West conference has been in a bit of transititon during the realignment wars of the past few years. 2013 was the first of many future years of stability for the league-at least, that is the hope. San Jose State and Utah State joined the league as full members, which brought the league’s football membership to 12 teams, and allowed for a conference championship game to be played for the first time in the league’s history.
Mountain West at a Glance
There was a bit of a power shift at the top of the conference. It was newcomer Utah State finally wresting control away from Boise State in the Mountain Division. Boise State finished second in the division and tied for third overall in the conference. In the West Division, Fresno State rode their high octane offense to the top of the league and ultimately the conference title. San Diego State finished in second place in the West division, but one of the third place finishers was a bit of a surprise.
Biggest Surprise: UNLV goes to a bowl game
Yes, the UNLV Rebels. From Las Vegas. A team that had won only six games total over the previous three seasons finished with seven wins overall (5-3 in conference) and an appearance in a New Year’s Day bowl game in Texas. A positive step forward for a long moribund program.
Biggest Disappointment: Air Force going winless in conference play
The bottom seemed to fall out for the Falcons this season. While they finished 2012 6-7, and they were not expected to be a challenger for a division title, the bottom was not supposed to fall out like this. The Falcons lost ten games, went winless in conference play, and lost all but one of their games by more than a touchdown. It will be interesting to see what the next step for Air Force will be going forward. Was this a one season blip, or a sign of things to come?
Colorado State celebrates an amazing comeback win over Washington State
Photo: USA Today Sports
Best Game: Rams get bowl season off to a rockin’ start
Washington State scored a touchdown with 9:35 left in the game to take a 45-30 lead. It would be the last points that the Cougars score on the day in the New Mexico Bowl. The Rams came storming back with a flurry in the last three mintues, scoring 18 points in the last 2:52 to win 48-45.
The Mountain West went 3-3 in bowl games this year, including 1-2 against the Pac-12 (the closest major conference to the MWC).
Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
Carr led the nation in passing touchdowns (50), points responsible for (314) and led the Mountain West in total offense (5, 199). He also threw 306 consecutive passes without an interception, a span of nearly two months. His accuracy was a key force behind Fresno State’s success this season.
Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year: LB Shaquil Barrett, CSU
Barrett, a senior, was the heart and soul of a Colorado Rams team that went 7-6 this season. Barrett led the league in tackles for loss with 20.5. He also ranked third in the FBS with 12 sacks.
Mountain West Freshman of the Year: Tyler Winston, San Jose State
Winston finished second on the Spartans in receptions (58), receiving yards (858) and touchdowns (5). Winston also had four 100 yard receiving days – including 162 yards on 10 catches in the upset victory over Fresno State that knocked the Bulldogs out of BCS contention.
Mountain West Coach of the Year: Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Hauck’s team had won two games each of his first three seasons. The Rebels won seven games this season – a major improvement. Given that Hauck seemed to be on the hot seat when the season started (a seat that got hotter after a 56-7 blowout loss to Arizona in week two), and just received a contract extension, it was a turn around that seemed to come out of nowhere but is worthy of honors.
High level quarterback play led some teams to the top of the league this year. But with the departures of Fales, Carr, Smith (Wyoming) and Herring (UNLV), plus Chris Petersen leaving the sidelines of Boise for Seattle, it will be interesting to see what happens with the league in 2014. It may be a year of transition across the board.