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Lobos: Nowhere To Go But Up

UNM Picked Last In MWC Football

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The 2010 University of New Mexico football team received some bulletin board material early.
The Lobos finished dead last in the Mountain West Conference preseason media poll, released Tuesday. The last time UNM had that dubious honor was 2000.
That team finished tied for fifth. This year’s team likes the fact that it has nowhere to go but up.
“The preseason polls are an indication of how you did last year,” second-year Lobo coach Mike Locksley said. “That’s the one good thing about football — is that every year is a different year. We’ll be a different team than we were last year. (The vote) has given us a little edge in focusing on the process of winning.
“I like the temperament of our team. They understand we’re in year two of the process, of our philosophies. We know our players a lot better. Those experiences will allow us to maybe prove some people wrong.”
Middle linebacker Carmen Messina, UNM’s player representative alongside offensive tackle Byron Bell, said the team can and will use the poll to its advantage.
“Once those locker room doors are closed, you’ll definitely use it as motivation,” he said. “I’m sure we’re going to have that posted up in the locker room so we don’t forget.”
Bell made note that the MWC media haven’t always been the most accurate prognosticators.
“Look at the (Lobo men’s) basketball team last year,” he said “They were picked fifth, and they ended up winning the conference. You don’t think about the poll. You just go out and play football at the end of the day.”
Defending champion TCU, which returns 16 starters — nine on offense, including the 2009 Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Andy Dalton — was a unanimous choice to win the conference again.
It’s the first time since the inception of the MWC that a team was a unanimous pick. In 2004, Utah garnered 15 of 16 first-place votes and went on to win the league.
The Utes, who finished second in this year’s preseason poll, are entering their final season of MWC play before bolting for the soon-to-be Pac-12 in 2011.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was asked who had the bigger target — the Horned Frogs, or the Utes, who are moving on to a Bowl Championship Series league.
“That’s a no-brainer,” Whittingham said. “TCU, without a doubt.”
The preseason all-conference team was a bit kinder to UNM, naming Messina and defensive end Johnathan Rainey on the squad.
“It’s a pat on the back and nice to be acknowledged as one of the better players,” Messina said, “but it doesn’t really mean anything in the preseason.”
BELL APPEAL: Locksley and Bell confirmed that UNM is appealing Bell’s 2007 season not counting as a redshirt season. Bell was in for 14 plays in the fourth quarter of a 58-0 Lobo blowout over Sacramento State, and that counted toward his eligibility. He now is classified as a senior, rather than a junior.
The MWC denied Bell’s original request for Bell’s medical hardship. Locksley said the conference gave no indication on when it would rule on the appeal.