Week 2: Mountain West Previews & Predictions

Colorado State (1-0) at Boise State (0-1) Sept. 6, 10L15, ESPN2 

Here’s The Deal: Utah State should have something to say about it, but this might be the battle for the Mountain division. Colorado State roared back with 24 unanswered points after getting down to Colorado 17-7, making it the second game in a row – counting the bowl victory over Washington State – with an emotional comeback. There were a few problems here and there, but the running of Dee Hart and Treyous Jarrells carried the Rams to the win, and now it’s time to go big game hunting. This is only the third meeting between the two programs with Boise State winning the first three really, really easily. This time around, though, it could be a fight if the Broncos play like they did in the 35-13 loss to Ole Miss. Up 7-6 going into the fourth, Boise State melted down on both sides of the ball, giving up 28 points in the ugly blowout. One win over Colorado State changes everything and shows that, yeah, this is still going to be the star of the Mountain West. 
Why Colorado State Might Win: Is Boise State going to keep screwing up? QB Grant Hedrick threw for 264 yards, but he killed drive after drive with back plays, throwing four picks and all but taking the Broncos out of the game. Add on the nine penalties for 72 yards, and the misfires on third downs late in the game, and it was an un-Boise State performance in Bryan Harsin’s first game. With two straight wins over Pac-12 teams, this is a confident Ram team that knows it can come back, and now it knows it can pound away, but … 
Why Boise State Might Win: The Bronco defense held up well against the run. Ole Miss was able to throw well, but its ground game was bottled up and stuffed for just 71 yards on 34 carries. The defensive front was phenomenal at getting into the backfield, coming up with 11 tackles for loss and two sacks – the pressure is going to be dialed up all game long. Meanwhile, the Broncos did an okay job of generating a push up front for Jay Ajayi, who ran for 86 yards on 20 carries. 
Who To Watch Out For: This offseason, converted safety Jasen Oden appeared to be the next big thing for the Colorado State running game. Instead, Alabama transfer Dee Hart took over against Colorado, and he set the tone, maybe for the season, by pounding out 139 yards and two touchdowns on a tough 22 carries, and leading the team with 35 receiving yards on three grabs. JUCO transfer Treyous Jarrells added even more flash with 121 yards and a score on 17 carries. The 5-7, 175-pound Jarrells and the 5-9, 190-pound Hart – a one-time super-recruit for the Crimson Tide might just be special enough to carry the Rams to a huge year. 
What’s Going To Happen: Will the real Boise State please stand up? The run defense isn’t going to keep Hart and Jarrells completely under wraps, but it’ll be just good enough to survive another shaky day from Grant Hedrick. The Broncos will play far, far better at home.
Prediction: Boise State 34 … Colorado State 27 
Line: Boise State -10.5 o/u: 56 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 3.5 

Washington State (0-1) at Nevada (1-0) Sept. 5, 10:30, ESPN 

Here’s The Deal: Reno will be the setting for a duel between two of the West Coast’s most prolific passers, Washington State Connor Halliday and Nevada’s Cody Fajardo. Halliday’s Cougars kicked off 2014 with a disappointing 41-38 to visiting Rutgers. If the team plans on returning to the postseason, avoiding an 0-2 start is a must. Fajardo’s Wolf Pack won its opener, but largely because Southern Utah was the opponent. Nevada failed to impress in the 28-19 victory. 
Why Washington State Might Win: In a game that’ll hinge on the play of the quarterbacks, the Cougars maintain the more dangerous passing attack. Halliday threw for 532 yards and five touchdowns in the opener, and his list of reliable receivers is long. If the Pack neutralizes one of the Washington State playmakers, three others are standing by to pick up the slack. 
Why Nevada Might Win: Fajardo is the ringleader of a balanced offense that won’t get much resistance from the Wazzu defense. The senior presents run-pass problems for the Cougars, and his supporting cast is improving. Don Jackson is a proven complement on the ground, and WR Jerico Richardson is fresh off a career-best 13-catch effort. The Cougars were shoved around at the point of attack last Thursday. 
Who To Watch Out For: The Cougars can live with Fajardo dropping back to throw. It’s when he leaves the pocket that he’s most dangerous. Wazzu linebackers Cyrus Coen, Tana Pritchard and Darryl Monroe will be busy spying Fajardo, while being careful not to leave the middle of the field open. 
What’s Going To Happen: When boiled down, it’s essentially Halliday vs. Fajardo. Advantage—slightly—to the visitors. In a shootout that could come down to the final few possessions, the Cougars will ride their triggerman’s right arm to a critical first win of the year. 
Prediction: Washington State 38 … Nevada 31 
Line: Washington State -3.5; O/U: 66 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2 

Fresno State (0-1) at Utah (1-0) Sept. 6, 3:00, Pac-12 Network 

Here’s The Deal: Fresno State’s first attempt at a Pac-12 school? Yeah, that didn’t go too well. The Bulldogs were served a reminder from USC that it’s no longer 2013. The defending Mountain West champs were outclassed in every phase of a 52-13 drubbing that could reset expectations before the season ever gets off the ground. Fresno State now travels to Salt Lake City to play a Utah team that opened with a routine spanking of Idaho State. The Utes have one more week to get ready for next week’s pivot game in Ann Arbor. 
Why Fresno State Might Win: Just because nothing went right for the Bulldogs in the opener doesn’t mean they lack talent, especially on defense. Fresno State has playmakers at each level, DL Tyeler Davison, LB Ejiro Ederaine and S Derron Smith. Plus, Tim DeRuyter is too good of a defensive coach to allow a repeat performance of last week’s implosion. 
Why Utah Might Win: The Utes are a different team now that QB Travis Wilson’s career has resumed. The junior returned to the field last week after missing the second half of 2013. Occasionally erratic, yes. But he’s a playmaker, either as a runner or when hooking up downfield with Dres Anderson. Fresno State, on the contrary, is still unsure about its quarterback, rotating Brandon Connette and Brian Burrell at the Coliseum. 
Who To Watch Out For: Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is looking for more dominance from his defensive linemen, though the coach is not referring to senior DE Nate Orchard. Orchard has picked up where he left off in 2013, notching eight tackles and 2.5 sacks in Week 1. 
What’s Going To Happen: Fresno State wasn’t going to be the same without Derek Carr behind center, but the situation is worse than many expected. The Bulldogs got exposed as a possible rebuilding candidate in 2014. While DeRuyter tinkers, Utah will capitalize with a second straight win at Rice-Eccles Stadium. 
Prediction: Utah 31 … Fresno State 23 
Line: Utah -10.5; O/U: 64 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2 

Arizona State (1-0) at New Mexico (0-1) Sept. 6, 7:00, CBS 

Here’s The Deal: Arizona State and New Mexico hook up for the first since 1977, with the Lobos enjoying a rare opportunity to host a ranked team. New Mexico is in danger of falling to 0-2 after coming up short against UTEP in Albuquerque. For the 18th-ranked Sun Devils, this is their final audition before Pac-12 play kicks off with a trip to Boulder to play Colorado. 
Why Arizona State Might Win: The Lobo defense was no match for UTEP a week ago. That cannot bode well for this week’s pairing with the Sun Devils. ASU scored 45 points last Thursday in what could be its average this season. The Devils house explosive playmakers, such as RB D.J. Foster and WR Jaelen Strong, with senior QB Taylor Kelly serving as the steady orchestrator of the attack. 
Why New Mexico Might Win: The Lobos feature an offense just quirky enough to give ASU problems. The Sun Devils are rebuilding on the fly on defense. And now they must face Bob Davie’s version of an option, which also incorporates some passing. QB Cole Gautsche and backs Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson highlighted last week’s 410-yard output on the ground, the kind of production that can keep the ASU offense off the field. 
Who To Watch Out For: Gautsche will go up top occasionally, but his legs are his best tools. Since New Mexico hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard passer since 2011, Arizona State coach Todd Graham will feel confident pressing up linebackers Salamo Fiso and DJ Calhoun and safeties Damarious Randall and Marcus Ball to shut down running lanes. 
What’s Going To Happen: As matchups go, this is a rough one for New Mexico. The Lobos’ defense doesn’t have against the Sun Devils, and their offense is too one-dimensional for an athletic opponent. ASU will jump out fast and never look back in an unusually lopsided road win. 
Prediction: Arizona State 50 … New Mexico 21 
Line: Arizona State -25 o/u: 67 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2 

San Jose State (1-0) at Auburn (1-0) Sept. 6, 7:00, ESPN2 

Here’s The Deal: Auburn needed a half to put Arkansas away, but the offense was terrific throughout its opener with both Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall at quarterback. It’s an interesting first part of the season for the defending SEC champs, going to Kansas State 12 days after this and with LSU coming up to start October, but San Jose State might pose an interesting challenge. The Spartans don’t have the defense to hold up, but the offense can push the ball down the field, even with David Fales now a Chicago Bear and with new parts to the offensive puzzle. Of course, dealing with the Tigers is a little different than beating North Dakota, but the parts are there to wing the ball around a bit. 
Why San Jose State Might Win: The Auburn secondary was suspect last season, and it wasn’t just because teams had to throw to stay alive. It’s still a question mark after playing an Arkansas team that doesn’t want to throw unless it has to. It’ll be bombs away for Blake Jurich, who completed 22-of-25 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns last week. The Spartans have just enough balance – potentially – to mix things up a wee bit. 
Why Auburn Might Win: The San Jose State run defense took a big step back last season allowing 212 yards per game and 29 touchdowns, and while there are good playmakers in some key spots, and eight starters are back, the jury is still out on whether or not this group can improve despite the loss of tackling machine LB Keith Smith and corner Bene Benwikere. Auburn’s offense picked up where it left off with a balanced attack, running for 302 yards and throwing for 293. San Jose State’s defense doesn’t have the depth to hold up under the pressure, but … 
Who To Watch Out For: DT Travis Raciti looked back to his 2012 form, at least for one game, after a bit of a down 2013 season. He was terrific against South Dakota with six tackles and a nice play behind the line, while big-hitter Christian Tago also made six tackles, even though he wasn’t needed much. If the Spartans are going to have any shot. Raciti has to hang out behind the line, and Tago will end up with at least ten tackles. 
What’s Going To Happen: The Spartans will throw well unless the defensive front can do more to get into the backfield, but it won’t matter – the Tiger offense will keep on humming.
Prediction: Auburn 52 … San Jose State 20 
Line: Auburn -32.5 o/u: 66 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2 

Idaho State (0-1) at Utah State (0-1) Sept. 6, 8:00, CampusInsiders.com 

Here’s The Deal: Utah State is better than that. The Aggies were the upset special of many to go into Tennessee and come up with something big, but instead, they got walloped 38-7 after getting down 31-0 going into the fourth quarter. The defense was bad, the offense worse, but there’s hope. Wake Forest is up next followed by a winnable game at Arkansas State, so there’s time to right the ship, and it all starts this week against an Idaho State team that got lit up by Utah 56-14. 
Why Idaho State Might Win: The ground game actually sort of worked. The Bengals managed to crank out over four yards per carry against the Utes and hung around for a while, and then the floodgates opened up in the second quarter and the fun was over. Even so, Xavier Finney ran for 133 yards – he’s a decent back who can carry the load.
Why Utah State Might Win: Get ready for Chuckie Keeton to be his old, accurate self. After a rough first week against Tennessee, he should shine against a Bengal defense that allowed the three Utah quarterbacks to complete 22-of-32 passes for 351 yards and a score. It took about a quarter, but once the Utah offense started to work, it was all over – Keeton should do whatever he wants to.
Who To Watch Out For: The Utah State linebacking corps suffered a major blow when Kyler Fackrell was knocked out of the Tennessee game with a knee injury. Alex Huerta was already out with a shoulder problem, and now the Aggies have to find players who can not only fill in, but produce. Torrey Green has experience, but now he’ll be thrown into the spotlight. 
What’s Going To Happen: The Aggies will come up with a cathartic win with Keeton coming up with a nearly perfect performance. 
Prediction: Utah State 48 … Idaho State 7 
Line: No Line o/u: No Line
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1 

San Diego State (1-0) at North Carolina (1-0) Sept. 6, 8:00, ESPNEWS 

Here’s The Deal: San Diego State makes a rare trip out East to play in Chapel Hill for the first time in school history. The Aztecs, which are hoping to contend in the Mountain West this season, opened the year with a lay-up over Northern Arizona. No. 23 North Carolina, too, defeated an FCS opponent, Liberty, in Week 1, but needed a third-quarter outburst to pull away. The Heels want to build momentum during the non-conference slate, with an eye on eventually winning the ACC Coastal. 
Why San Diego State Might Win: Rocky Long’s frenetic defense will cause problems for a Carolina O-line breaking in three new starters. The Aztecs will bring the heat whenever it’s feasible. On offense, San Diego State are balanced, thanks to the running of Donnel Pumphrey and the big-play catches from Ezell Ruffin. The Heels must still address questions about their run defense. 
Why North Carolina Might Win: San Diego State will attack, but will Long accept the results? The Aztecs have three newcomers in the secondary, and banged-up linebackers Josh Gavert and Jake Fely are missed. The Tar Heels have plenty of options for emerging QB Marquise Williams, including speedy RB T.J. Logan and receivers Quinshad Davis, Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer. All of these Heels are capable stretching out the San Diego State D. 
Who To Watch Out For: The Carolina secondary is getting a big boost from the returns off suspension of Des Lawrence, Donnie Miles, M.J. Stewart and Brian Walker. Walker and Lawrence will start at cornerback, challenging Aztec QB Quinn Kaehler to complete more than just dump-offs and short tosses. 
What’s Going To Happen: Carolina’s quest to make a statement in 2014 begins with this visit from San Diego State. The Aztecs will attack, but Williams has the poise to capitalize on a one-speed defense, making the right reads when the pocket is compromised. He’ll build more distance on backup Mitch Trubisky by accounting for four touchdowns in a comfortable Tar Heel win. 
Prediction: North Carolina 41 … San Diego State 24 
Line: North Carolina -15 o/u: 60 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2.5 

Northern Colorado (0-0) at UNLV (0-0) Sept. 6, 10:00, Mountain West Network 

Here’s The Deal: UNLV, here’s a shot to get that taste of Arizona out of your mouth. The same Arizona team that needed everything in the bag to get by UTSA destroyed UNLV 58-13 with 787 yards of total offense in the ugly blowout. The Rebels have Northern Illinois next followed up with three straight road games, but first is a layup against a Northern Colorado team that went 1-11 last year and is now kicking off its season. 
Why Northern Colorado Might Win: Maybe, just maybe, UNLV really is that bad. The Rebel defense got destroyed for 434 passing yards from Anu Solomon, and had nothing for a ground attack that came up with 353 yards and three scores. As bad as last year was, at least the Bears had a good passing game, rolling up 289 yards per game, however … 
Why UNLV Might Win: The key parts are gone. It’s hard to say that Northern Colorado is rebuilding after a 1-11 season, but that’s what it’s doing losing most of the skill stars including quarterback Seth Lobato and receiver Jace Davis. This is a time for Northern Colorado to tune up, even if it’s getting blown out. 
Who To Watch Out For: Defense, defense, defense. The Rebel defense came up with two sacks, but it was destroyed down the field for play after play, and there wasn’t enough of a pass rush to stop what Arizona wanted to do. The offense will be fine – dual-threat quarterback Blake Decker tried to do everything himself – but it’s all about the D. Either it looks great, or it’ll be a sign of bad things to come. 
What’s Going To Happen: UNLV will get a lot of problems out of its system with an easy blowout win. The offense will work better, and the defense will come up with a stop that’s not 19 yards down the field. 
Prediction: UNLV 45 … Northern Colorado 13 
Line: No Line o/u: No Line 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1 

Air Force (1-0) at Wyoming (1-0) Sept. 6, 10:15, ESPNU 

Here’s The Deal: After disappointing seasons, all of a sudden, one of these teams will start out the season hot with a two-game winning streak. Wyoming needed to fight to get past Montana, hanging on late for a 17-12 win in Craig Bohl’s first game as the new head coach. With Oregon coming up next, the Cowboys need this win, while Air Force can match last year’s win total with a victory before getting an easy trip to Georgia State next week. The Falcons rolled without a problem against Nicholls State, winning 44-15 with the running game working like it was supposed to throughout last season. Wyoming won last year 56-23. 
Why Air Force Might Win: The Falcons need to get behind the line early on. Montana came up with nine tackles for loss and six sacks, stopping the Cowboy offense way too often. The UW running game came up with 209 yards and two scores on the ground, but the passing game sputtered with Colby Kirkegaard under constant pressure. 
Why Wyoming Might Win: The defense really did work last week. Is the Wyoming defense really ready to handle what the Falcons are going to bring? The Cowboy scheme was changed up to a 4-3 under defensive coordinator Steve Stanard, and the results were there right away holding Montana to just 42 yards rushing and was great at getting into the backfield. How do you stop the Air Force ground game? Get to it before it gets started. 
Who To Watch Out For: Air Force found its new star in sophomore Jacobi Owens, a 5-11, 190-popund back out of Las Vegas who didn’t get on the field last season, but hit the ground running against Nicholls State, busting out 233 yards on 23 carries. Extremely quick and with a great burst, he can produce inside or out. 
What’s Going To Happen: Wyoming’s defense has made a huge improvement. Can the offense keep up the pace? It’ll go down to the wire in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys coming up with a big late stop to hang on. 
Prediction: Wyoming 38 … Air Force 34 
Line: Air Force -2.5 o/u: 51 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2 

Oregon State (1-0) at Hawaii (0-1) Sept. 6, 10:30, CBS Sports Network 

Here’s The Deal: On the opening weekend of the season, Oregon State missed its mark, while Hawaii exceeded expectations. The pair meets in Honolulu to get a better read on whose 2014 reality will be closer to its opening act. The Beavers were flat and sloppy in the Portland State game, turning just 1-of-9 red-zone trips into a touchdown. The Warriors, on the contrary, darn near spoiled Chris Petersen’s debut at Washington. They lost by a point in a heartbreaker that qualifies as a lost opportunity. 
Why Oregon State Might Win: Sure, the Beavers won by a mere 29-14 margin, but they thoroughly outplayed the Vikings in Week 1. Behind the passing of Sean Mannion and the running of Storm Woods, Oregon State outgained Portland State, 504-214. OSU’s problems are fixable, including cutting down on stupid mistakes and converting once they get deep into enemy territory. 
Why Hawaii Might Win: The Warriors played well enough on defense last week to be cautiously optimistic about a more competitive season. Hawaii outgained Washington in the loss, while really rising up against the pass. If the secondary, led by U-Dub transfer Taz Stevenson, can hound Beaver receivers into drops, Oregon State will be in danger of being upset for a second consecutive week. 
Who To Watch Out For: One of the primary strengths of this Oregon State team is a back seven flush with experience and productivity. With Hawaii’s penchant for running north-south with 245-pound Joey Iosefa, Beaver coaches will expect their well-sized safeties, Ryan Murphy and Tyrequek Zimmerman, to step up and support the run. 
What’s Going To Happen: Oregon State isn’t quite as erratic as it looked last week. And Hawaii was a little fortunate to have faced Washington’s backup quarterback in the opener. The Beavers, with a few less penalties and a couple more red-zone touchdowns, will pull away in the second half. 
Prediction: Oregon State 43 … Hawaii 21 
Line: Oregon State -10.5 o/u: 59 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2