LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Prove it. Then we’ll believe it.
That’s basically what the Mountain West Conference football media said to the New Mexico Lobos on Monday.
The Lobos have hopes of being a contender in the Mountain West this season, but for the fourth straight year they’ve been picked last in the MWC preseason poll – this time sixth out of six teams in the Mountain Division of the 12-team league.
UNM has shared the cellar in each of those previous three seasons, winning just one league game in each.
While the Lobos were much more competitive under first-year coach Bob Davie last year than in the previous two seasons under Mike Locksley, it didn’t make much of a difference in this year’s poll.
“We were a competitive team, we were in a lot of games last year,” says Lobo senior linebacker Dallas Bollema. “But we just have to come out with victories in those games and that will change a lot of the polls. For this year, we’re just viewing the picks as motivation. It is what it is, and we just have to go out and play and do what we do.”
Boise State is the runaway choice to win the Mountain Division, getting 40 of a possible 41 votes and 245 points. Utah State got the other first place vote and is picked second with 204 points, followed by Air Force (143) , Wyoming (116) Colorado State (90) and UNM (63).
With the addition of Utah State and San Jose State bringing the membership to 12 football programs, the league split into two divisions. Each school plays the five teams in their division and three of the six in the other. Teams alternate the three inter-division opponents each season.
Fresno State got 39 first-place votes and is picked to win the West Division with 243 points while San Diego State (181) and San Jose State (172) each got one of the other two first-place votes. Nevada is predicted fourth at 135 with UNLV fifth at 71 and Hawaii last with 59 points.
“I’m not surprised by the picks,” said UNM senior running back Kasey Carrier, who was named preseason all-conference. “But next year, we will think about it, because we don’t want to be in that position. And I don’t think we’ll be there as a team.”
While Carrier won’t be part of next year’s team, he hopes to help the Lobos leave a mark as a contender this year. He’s coming off a 1,469-yard, 15-TD junior year and was named along with San Diego State’s Adam Muema as the league’s top two running backs.
UNM had three players make all-conference preseason, the other two both coming on special teams: senior punter Ben Skaer and junior returner Chase Clayton. Clayton was preseason special teams player of the year.
Fresno State junior defensive back Derron Smith is preseason defensive player of the year and teammate Derek Carr – a senior quarterback – is preseason offensive player of the year.
Boise State has gone 13-2 in league play in its first two seasons, but has yet to win the title outright. It was second to TCU in 2011 and shared the title with Fresno State and San Diego State last year. The latter looked like it would be the Broncos’ farewell season in the league when it and San Diego State were invited to and accepted membership in the Big East.
But that deal fell through, and both teams are back in the Mountain West.
“The talk didn’t phase us at all,” says Boise State’s all-conference offensive lineman Charles Leno. “For the most part, it helped us to stay in the Mountain West for geographical terms. We’re all on the same side of the country.
“It helps us a lot and that the competition level in the conference is really high. We like to compete with the best, and we have a really solid conference this year. It will be interesting.”
Mountain West preseason poll