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Checking in early this morning from Las Vegas, where Monday night thunderstorms shook the skies and lightning added to the always luminous visual display here on the Strip.

Later this morning, Mountain West Conference Football Media Days get underway at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, with the preseason honors and "order of finish" predictions to be released at 10:00am, Las Vegas time.


If memory serves, I get a preseason ballot every-other-year, so this was a "year off" for me, but I have seen writers Darnell Dickson (Provo Daily Herald) and Jay Drew (Salt Lake Tribune) post their ballots--they both have BYU finishing second to TCU, with defending champion Utah coming in third and comprising the remaining member of the now well-established "MWC Big Three."

I just don't see much to distinguish the teams in the lower two-thirds from one another, so you could argue any combination of predicted finishes for teams 4 through 9 and not bother me a bit.

However, if I had a ballot this year, it would look like this:

1. BYU (History says: "Senior BYU QB=Conference Championship." Plus, the Cougars get TCU in Provo)

2. TCU (Defensive standard-bearer in the MWC; I'm not convinced that the offense will be consistently productive under Andy Dalton)

3. Utah (New QB bound to experience growing pains; Utes travel to Fort Worth and Provo)

4. UNLV (Can't believe I'm picking Rebels this high, but they've got some talent; last winning season came in 2000)

5. Air Force (Calhoun 17-9 through first two years of tenure; have to play at Utah and BYU)

6. San Diego State (15 returning starters including productive QB; Hoke and Long are great hires)

7. Colorado State (Offensive backfield and defensive front seven hurt by graduation; play at BYU and TCU)

8. New Mexico (All-new schemes on offense and defense)

9. Wyoming (New Coach Christensen pumps a little life into the Cowboys)


Offensive Player and Defensive Player of the Year honors should be focused on a couple of players; BYU's Max Hall is the favorite on offense, while TCU's Jerry Hughes is the sure-fire lock on the other side of the ball.


If you've been asking yourself "Can BYU reach the National Championship Game?", you're not alone,as the folks at Rivals.com are asking the same thing.


The website heismanpundit.com states the case for Max Hall to enter the Heisman race:


"Keep in mind that BYU is really the only school from a non-major/non-BCS conference to produce a Heisman winner (remembering also that Ivy League schools and the service academies were major players back in the old days). And besides Ty Detmer's 1990 win, Cougar quarterbacks have also finished third in 1979 (Marc Wilson) and 1981 (Jim McMahon), second in 1983 (Steve Young), a third in 1985 (Robbie Bosco) and 3rd in 1991 (Detmer).

So the tradition of BYU quarterbacks challenging for the Heisman is quite rich.

Hall's got his work cut out for him, that is for sure. Especially with names like Tebow, McCoy and Bradford coming back. But if there is to be any sort of non-BCS presence in the Heisman race this year, Hall has the best shot at getting it done.

The big reason for this: BYU's schedule.

It's a high-risk/high-reward opportunity for Hall. He'll get a chance to go up against the reigning Heisman winner, Sam Bradford, and Oklahoma in the opener on Sept. 5 in Dallas. If BYU somehow pulls off the upset, Hall will be instantly vaulted into the Heisman conversation. Of course, if the Cougars lose, he'll be instantly relagated to the Heisman ash heap.

Beat the Sooners, however, and two weeks later Hall again has a chance to shine against Florida State. The Seminoles may not be the elite team they once were, but they are still a ‘name' opponent. If BYU wins again, then Hall would have to be considered a serious Heisman contender.

He'll have two more legitimate chances the rest of the way to make his case against respected teams (TCU and Utah). It would obviously help if BYU won all its games and if some of the other top contenders stumbled a bit.

I don't see all this as likely, but stranger things have happened. One thing is for sure: Hall will put up big passing numbers and since he plays for a team that has some cache among the Heisman electorate, he can't be completely discounted as a candidate."



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