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MWC: Five key college football games to watch in 2014

Fresno State’s impressive run in 2013 included a Mountain West Conference title. The Bulldogs will look to defend their title against some up-and-coming programs.

With that in mind, we continue our occasional series looking at games to watch this upcoming football season.

Today we feature the Mountain West Conference:

Air Force at Wyoming

Saturday, Sept. 6

The Buzz: Craig Bohl won’t have long to wait for proper introductions to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Mountain West Conference. His Week 2 opponent, Air Force, will provide the new Wyoming coach an early glimpse into the league. Bohl is coming off his third straight national championship at North Dakota State, but the Cowboys program is a far cry from the one he left behind in Fargo. Wyoming hasn’t put together back-to-back winning seasons since 1998 and 1999. Air Force, meanwhile, is coming off its worst season (2-10) since 1980. The Falcons landed near the bottom of the country in total defense, allowing close to 500 yards of offense and 40 points per game. Air Force was winless on the road in 2013 and hasn’t won a game away from Colorado Springs since Oct. 13, 2012 when it beat Wyoming 28-27 in Laramie.

Colorado State at Boise State

Saturday, Sept. 6

The Buzz: For the first time in nearly a decade, Boise State enters the 2014-15 season with loads of uncertainty. A program known for being a David among the Goliaths of college football, the Broncos only won eight games in 2013 after eight seasons of double-digit victories. The program’s main architect, Chris Petersen, left to take the head coaching job at the University of Washington. His predecessor Bryan Harsin, a former Broncos quarterback and assistant coach, will look to continue an impressive stretch of success. Buoyed by a strong performance in 2013, Colorado State will look to improve off an eight-win season for the first time since 2002. Fans of the Rams only have to look back the teams’ 48-45 come-from-behind win over Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl for inspiration heading in the fall.

Fresno State at Boise State

Saturday, Oct. 18

The Buzz: Boise State’s normally the program accustomed to being considered a BCS Buster, but instead there was Fresno State making waves in the final weeks of the BCS rankings. The Bulldogs finished the season ranked third in the nation in total offense (547 yards per game) and first in passing offense thanks to talented quarterback Derek Carr. Carr’s departure – as well as leading receiver Devante Adams – means coach Tim DeRuyter will have a slight rebuilding project  on the offense heading into 2014. Offense never seemed to be a concern for Boise State and Bryan Harsin’s return should provide a lift for the Broncos. Defensively though, this team took a major step back by allowing more than 24 points per game – the most in almost a decade. Eight returning starters on defense should be a big boost for the program heading into 2014.

San Jose State at Fresno State

Saturday, Nov. 8

The Buzz: Fans will remember this one as being quite the shootout last season. The two teams combined for more than 1,300 yards of total offense with most of those yards coming through the air. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr passed for 519 yards and six touchdowns while his Spartans counterpart David Fales threw for 547 yards and six touchdowns in a 62-52 win for San Jose State. Carr and Fales have moved on, leaving both programs looking for new leadership at the quarterback position. San Jose State won six games in Ron Caragher’s first season with five of those wins coming in the Mountain West. If SJSU expects to make a push in the West Division, the Spartans will need to improve on a defense ranked 103rd in total defense, allowing more than 35 points per game.

Utah State at Boise State

Saturday, Nov. 29

The Buzz: Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Mountain West last season had to be Utah State. First-year coach Matt Wells led the Aggies to a nine-win season and a division crown with a balanced offense and a tough defense.  Utah State finished the season ranked 12th in total defense, allowing 330 yards per game including one of the toughest rushing defense in the MWC. All in all, the Aggies held teams to 17 points per game in 2013. This series has been pretty much one-sided. Boise State has won 11 straight including last season’s 34-23 romp at Romney Stadium. The Broncos jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead and hung on for the victory. 


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