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2015 College Football Preview: MWC Mountain

Boise State looks to continue their dominance in the Mountain West during the 2015 season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)
Boise State looks to continue their dominance in the Mountain West during the 2015 season. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

2015 College Football Preview: MWC Mountain

Part 3 of the 2015 College Football Preview dives into the Mountain West. Specifically, the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference will be previewed. Below is a look at the entire 2015 College Football Preview schedule:

MAC East Division – July 1

MAC West Division – July 3

Mountain West, Mountain Division – July 7

Mountain West, West Division – July 10

C-USA East Division – July 14

C-USA West Division – July 17

The American East Division – July 21

The American West Division – July 24

Sun Belt – July 28

FBS Independents – July 28

Big 12 – July 31

ACC Coastal Division – August 4

ACC Atlantic Division – August 7

Big 10 West Division – August 11

Big 10 East Division – August 14

Pac-12 North Division – August 18

Pac-12 South Division – August 21

SEC East Division – August 25

SEC West Division – August 28

Now, let’s take a look at the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division preview.

1. Boise State Broncos

The first year for head coach Bryan Harsin was a major success for Boise State, as the Broncos went 12-2 and won the Mountain West’s inaugural Championship Game. Year 2 under Harsin will them poised to continue the success.

The offense will have 9 starters back from last year’s unit that put 39.7 points and 494 yards per game. The losses are at key positions, however. Quarterback Grant Hedrick and running back Jay Ajayi are both gone. Ajayi’s departure is offset by the addition of Kelsey Young as a transfer from Stanford. Quarterback will likely be played by Ryan Finley who saw action in five games in 2014. He will have his entire offensive line returning and some top targets in Thomas Sperbeck (51 catches for 877 yards and 3 touchdowns), Shane Williams-Rhodes (68 catches for 585 yards and 7 touchdowns, and tight end Jake Roh (35 catches for 408 yards and 2 touchdowns). The offense may not put up as many points, but it will still put up more than enough to outscore most opponents.

Boise State sees 8 starters return on defense including the top 5 tacklers from a season ago. The losses are spaced out evenly with one at each level. Middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo will be leading the defense again after recording 100 tackles, 3 sacks, and 13.5 tackles for loss. On the defensive line, Kamalei Correa looks to have another double digit sack season after recording 12 sacks in 2014. The defense gave up 26.8 points and 375 yards per game in 2014 and similar numbers, or better, can be expected.

Boise State starts the season with a match up against former head coach Chris Petersen and the Washington Huskies at home. They then have a road trip to BYU, are home against Idaho State, and travel again to face Virginia. Their Mountain West schedule sets them up nicely for a shot at an undefeated conference season. Their toughest games will be at Utah State and home to Air Force, but they draw Hawaii, UNLV, and San José State from the West. Those are three teams the Broncos should crush. The Broncos should have a relatively easy time winning their division and reaching another MWC Title Game.

2. Air Force Falcons

2014 was a major turnaround season for Air Force. In 2013, the Falcons went 2-10 with their only triumphs being against FCS Colgate and Army. In 2014, they went 10-3 with their three losses all coming in Mountain West play (Wyoming, Utah State, and San Diego State).

In 2015, Air Force has 7 starters returning on offense led by running back Jacobi Owens and wide receiver Jalen Robinette. Owens led the Falcons with 1,054 yards and 5 touchdowns rushing while Robinette had 43 catches for 806 yards and 4 touchdowns. The offensive line has to replace three starters, but as usual, it will be upperclassmen filling the vacancies. At quarterback, Nate Romine is expected to return to start. He started 5 games in 2013 and one game in 2014. The offense averaged 31.5 points per game a year ago and could come close to that in 2015.

The major area of concern for Air Force is on defense where only 4 starters return. The last time they had this few starters return was in 2012 with 2 and gave up an average of 29 points per game. Alex Hansen will anchor the defensive line after garnering 2nd Team All-Mountain West honors in 2014 with 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6.5 tackles for loss. Connor Healy will be the star linebacker after finishing second in tackles in 2014 with 90. Weston Steelhammer is back at strong safety after he made the 1st Team All-Mountain West in 2014. He had 51 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 6 interceptions. This unit lost a lot in the way of experience and will probably suffer a bit.

Air Force stars off with a game against FCS Morgan State before starting conference play at home against San José State. Next up is a road trip to Michigan State before a bye and another road trip to Navy. The reason they are put second on this list is due to the Mountain West schedule. They will have to face Fresno State at home, but get a road trip to Hawaii and have the aforementioned game against San José State. That is not the toughest West draw and with a win against Utah State on November 14 at home, the Falcons could be sitting behind Boise State when all is said and done.

3. Utah State Aggies

2014 produced a surprisingly good year for Utah State despite a few negatives. They entered 2014 with only 7 returning starters and lost star quarterback Chuckie Keeton after 3 starts, but were able to finish 10-4. 2015 looks even better for the Aggies.

On offense, the Aggies return 9 starters including Chuckie Keeton. Keeton was given a 6th year of eligibility after being injured last season. He will have running back LaJuan Hunt back as well after he ran for 540 yards and a touchdown. Keeton will also have the top two receivers from last year (Hunter Sharp and JoJo Natson) as well as four starters back on the line. After averaging 26.9 points and 379 yards a game in 2014, the Aggies should have better output in 2015.

As previously mentioned, 2014 was a big year for Utah State and the defense was a massive part of the reason. Despite only having 4 starters back, the unit gave up 19.7 points and 356 yards per game. In 2015, they will have 6 starters returning. The strength of the defense will be at linebacker with three of the four starters returning including Nick Vigil, who recorded 134 tackles, 7 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, and an interception a season ago. The defensive line has to replace two starters as does the secondary. The defensive line should do well while the pass defense may have some struggles this season.

Utah State has a rough out of conference schedule after their opener against Southern Utah. They face back-to-back Pac-12 foes on the road in Utah and Washington. Their last non-conference game is against BYU at home in the regular season finale. During Mountain West play they will have a rough time as well. They get Boise State at home and travel to Air Force, but the teams from the West Division is what really hurts. They face three of the top teams in Fresno State (road), San Diego State (road), and Nevada (home). Utah State will make another bowl game in 2015 and they could surprise with a winning record against the 5 aforementioned Mountain West foes.

4. Wyoming Cowboys

Craig Bohl‘s first season in the FBS in 2014 was not kind as Wyoming finished 4-8 with the offense averaging only 21.1 points per game and the defense surrendering 32.8 points per game. 2015 may a bit better for Wyoming despite only 9 starters returning.

The Cowboys will have 5 starters back on offense and one of them is not at quarterback. However, that may not be a problem as they have Cameron Coffman who transferred from Indiana. Coffman threw for 2,734 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 2012. The top two running backs also return in Brian Hill (796 yards and 7 touchdowns) and Shaun Wick (753 yards and 6 touchdowns). Wyoming does lose their top two receivers, but those two only combined for 86 catches, 1,172 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Despite the losses, the offense should perform better with a year of Bohl’s system under their belts.

The defense returns only 4 starters, but one of those is 1st Team-All Mountain West defensive end Eddie Yarbrough. He finished 2014 as the second leading tackler with 63 and also recorded 4 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. 2 other projected starters on the defensive line have experience starting as well. The linebacking unit has only 1 returning starter, but Lucas Wacha started 11 games in 2013 and returns to start at the weak side. The secondary only returns one starter from 2014, but strong safety Chad Reese was a constant starter between 2011 and 2013 before missing all of 2014. The defense does not have a lot of starters returning, but they are in the second year of Bohl’s system and have several starters from years prior to 2014.

Wyoming has a relatively easy non-conference schedule with back-to-back home games against North Dakota and Eastern Michigan. They then travel to Washington State before starting conference play at home against New Mexico. Their non-conference schedule wraps up on October 3 with a road game at Appalachian State, which could see them sitting at 4-1 in early October. They have a rough conference schedule with road games against Air Force, Boise State, Utah State, and San Diego State. They also have Nevada and UNLV from the West division. The Cowboys will probably need an upset or 2 to reach bowl eligibility, but that is not out of the question for Craig Bohl.

5. Colorado State Rams

Colorado State has been on the up and up since Jim McElwain took over in 2012. They went from 4-8 in 2012 to 8-6 in 2013 to 10-3 in 2014. However, McElwain departed to take over at Florida and Mike Bobo was brought in from Georgia.

Bobo will have 7 starters back on offense including one of the best receivers in college football from 2014. Rashard Higgins caught 96 passes for 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns while making the 2014 1st Team All-American squad. He will not have his top quarterback, however, and that will probably hurt the output. Seth Grayson threw for 4,006 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. Also missing is the leading rusher from last year, Dee Hart, who ran for 1,275 yards and 16 touchdowns. After putting up 33.9 points per game in 2014, the offense will probably see a drop off despite the return of Higgins.

Defensively, the Rams have 8 starters returning, but two of the losses are the top two tacklers in 2014. The defensive line will be moving to a 4-3 from a 3-4, but they do return 3 starters, which should see them improve on the 201 rushing yards per game they surrendered in 2014. Linebacker is where the losses hurt the most with the two leading tacklers gone and there will most likely be drop off there. The secondary returns all four starters including the #3, #4, and #5 leading tacklers in 2014. This will be the strength of the defense and they only gave up 224 passing yards per game in 2014.

The Rams open the season with back-to-back home games against Savannah State and Minnesota before facing arch-rival Colorado in Denver. The wrap up non-conference with their first road trip outside of Colorado to face Texas-San Antonio. In conference, the Rams will have home games against Boise State and Air Force while drawing San Diego State, UNLV, and Fresno State from the West.

It might be a little harsh to put Colorado State 5th in the Mountain Division after their excellent season a year ago. They lose their quarterback, top rusher, top two tacklers, and have a new coach with new systems to install. Still, the Rams have an excellent shot at topping 6 wins and making another bowl game.

6. New Mexico Lobos

2015 will be Bob Davie‘s fourth season in charge at New Mexico. He has yet to do better than 4 wins, but will 2015 be different? To start, he will have 7 starters returning on offense including his top 3 rushers from his run based offense. Quarterback Lamar Jordan threw for only 895 yards with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, but was able to run for 612 yards and 3 touchdowns. Also in the backfield is Jhurell Pressley (1,083 yards and 12 touchdowns) and Teriyon Gipson (809 yards and 8 touchdowns). They also have 3 starters returning on the offensive line to pave the way. With the amount of talent and experience returning in 2015, the Lobos should be able to average at least the 310 yards rushing per game they did in 2014.

On defense, Davie will also have 7 starters returning and that is the most since he started at New Mexico in 2012. Two of the three defensive linemen return including Nik D’Avanzo who recorded 52 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss. Three of the four linebackers return with that unit led by the tackling machine of Dakota Cox. He finished 2014 with 116 tackles to lead the team en route to finishing on the 1st Team All-Mountain West squad despite only playing the first 9 games. The secondary returns two starters as well and should continue to improve. The defense will probably improve on their 35.9 points and 519 yards per game given up in 2014, but will need to do much better.

New Mexico kicks off the season with homes games against Mississippi Valley State and Tulsa before a road trip to Arizona State. They open their conference schedule at Wyoming before facing New Mexico State at home to finish the non-conference portion of their schedule. From the West Division, the Lobos will face Nevada and San José State on the road while getting Hawaii at home. The Lobos could possibly go 2-1 in those three games and combined with an expected 2-2 non-conference record, be just two wins away from bowl eligibility. The Lobos will come close to 6 wins, but may fall just a bit short in 2015.

Overview

The Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division is Boise State’s to lose. They have a solid offense and a strong defense that appears to be much better on paper than any of their conference opponents. With a few upsets, Utah State or Air Force could win the division, but that is unlikely with those two teams battling it out for second along with Wyoming and Colorado State. New Mexico will be close to getting back to a bowl game but probably needs another year. Below is the predicted order of finish.

1. Boise State

2. Air Force

3. Utah State

4. Wyoming

5. Colorado State

6. New Mexico

The Mountain West Conference West Division will be out on Friday, July 10 along with the Mountain West Title Game prediction.

House Of Cards Season 3 Predictions

Frank Underwood at the end of season 2 behind the President's desk (Netflix/House of Cards)
Frank Underwood at the end of season 2 behind the President’s desk (Netflix/House of Cards)

House Of Cards Season 3 Predictions

Before we get anywhere near the predictions, this post will be filled with spoilers. If you have not seen the first two seasons or do not want to know about the first two seasons, do not go any further. There are quite a few spoilers involved below.

* * * * * * Spoiler Alert * * * * * *

House of Cards has been an excellent show in its first two season with various twists, turns, and other activities (Frank Underwood, Claire Underwood, and Robert Meechum in “Chapter 24”) embedded throughout. Now, the attention turns to Frank Underwood after his ascent to become the President of the United States.

Frank has been manipulative throughout the first two seasons, but never more so than in season two when he shifted whoever he wanted as a pawn to get to his ultimate goal including former President Garrett Walker. We are left to wonder what else Frank is planning now that he is the President.

Below is a list of predictions for season 3, which may turn out be brilliantly correct or horribly inaccurate. Enjoy and feel free to comment below whether you agree or not!

1. Frank Underwood kills Rachel Posner

What is a season of House of Cards without Frank personally putting the finishing touches on someone’s life?

We certainly know that Frank does not mind getting his hands dirty as he has been personally responsible for two murders already (Congressman Peter Russo in “Chapter 11” and Zoe Barnes in “Chapter 14”). When we last saw Rachel Posner, she was being driven to a safe location by Doug Stamper, but she was worried she was going to be killed and ran into the woods. After Stamper went looking for her, she came out from behind a tree and hit Stamper with a rock repeatedly.

Frank was close with Stamper as his Chief of Staff so there is little doubt that he will want revenge for his death. She is the one link left to all the madness Frank has caused and if she tells the truth, it could spell trouble for the Underwoods. Frank will not let that happen.

2. House Majority Whip Jackie Sharp and Representative Donald Blythe form a Partnership Against Frank

Donald Blythe was nominated to be Vice President by Frank Underwood, which is a curious move considering how at odds the two were throughout the first two seasons (see “Chapter 17” for a great example when the two were quarantined). This could be Frank “keeping his enemies close” and that would make sense.

However, this prediction comes from a conversation that Jackie Sharp and Donald Blythe had in “Chapter 17” when Jackie says, “I’m not Frank Underwood.” Later, when Sharp and Blythe are talking about the devastation of Walker’s impeachment to the Democratic Party (“Chapter 26”), Blythe is clearly on Jackie’s side since he is not a fan of Frank Underwood.

It would not be House of Cards if Frank did not have someone to squash and it usually comes in the form of people in his own party.

3. Seth Grayson Becomes Frank’s Chief Of Staff….Gavin Orsay joins the Team

Alright, the first part is a gimme due to Doug Stamper’s untimely death at the end of season 2 (“Chapter 26”). It only makes sense that Seth moves up to fill the void created by Doug given the amount of promise and loyalty he showed in the second season.

The other part is a true prediction with no certainty of happening. The line of thinking here is that Gavin Orsay feels ignored by Doug after their meeting late in season 2 (“Chapter 26”). Gavin, unaware of Doug’s death, will push for a meeting with the President or unleash what information he has.

Remember, Gavin is aware of Doug’s relationship with Rachel (“Chapter 23”) but does not know the extent of how deep the conspiracy goes. Gavin could be a wonderful source of technological know-how for Frank, which makes him a natural fit to be included in his team… until he becomes a liability.

4. Remy Denton Continues to play both sides of the fence

Of all the characters in House of Cards, Remy Denton represents the one that is hardest to grasp for this author. Even though we are aware he used to work with Frank Underwood, their time together is still shrouded in mystery. Clouding any predictions about Remy is the fact he played both Raymond Tusk and Frank Underwood in season 2 as “insurance.”

Remy is a slippery person in House of Cards, but perhaps he is truly great at keeping his options open. His options here are going to be with whichever team wins and given his relationship with Jackie, it may just end up hurting him.

5. President Underwood and Ayla Sayyad get personal

For those who do not recognize the name Ayla Sayyad, she is a reporter at Wall Street Telegraph. When Frank was at the Civil War reenactment in Virginia (“Chapter 18”), Claire’s former Communications Director Connor Ellis fed her information about Xander Feng and Raymond Tusk.

Ayla later meets with Frank at his home (“Chapter 25”) to discuss the possibility of President Walker being impeached. Frank vehemently defends Walker, though we know this is just a ploy to get Walker back on his side and not on Tusk’s.

We know that Frank likes to have someone in the media to give information too, but that was when he had dirt to give to Zoe and wanted to further his plan. As President will he continue to use the media to his advantage?

Yes and he will have his own puppet in media once again, this time it will be Ayla Sayyad to report what he wants to further his agenda. If this happens, the only question remaining is will she end up like Zoe Barnes?

6. Frank Aligns Himself With Terry Womack and Catherine Durant

We know how Frank loves to play the quid pro quo card with his fellow party members and this will be no different. In season 1, Frank needed the Black Caucus, led by Terry Womack, to get his education bill through Congress. He eventually did and Womack was later made House Majority Leader as Frank positioned his pawns as needed throughout the first two season.

Catherine Durant was made the Secretary of State after Frank torpedoed President Walker’s original nominee Michael Kern. Durant was key in the fall of Xander Feng and Raymond Tusk as she went along with Frank and his plans to anger China.

While both are loyal to Frank, it is time they return their favors in season three for all that Frank has given them. While Womack can give Frank the legislative boost he needs, Durant provides international flavor to Frank’s arsenal. Do not be surprised if Frank starts using overseas actions to get what he wants stateside as we saw with Feng and the Chinese.

7. Garrett Walker, Linda Vasquez, and Raymond Tusk try to bring Frank down

Frank has this talent for irritating members of his party, though he is only doing so out of revenge. We learned in season 1 that Walker’s reason for reneging on his promise to make Frank Secretary of State was done at the behest of Raymond Tusk. Tusk wanted Frank to stay in the House to whip votes (“Chapter 12”), which obviously did not sit well with Frank. In turn, Frank destroyed them both, but now the tables have turned.

It is clear why these three would want to take Frank down. Garrett Walker lost the Presidency, Linda Vasquez was marginalized by Frank (“Chapter 21”), and Tusk is on the doorstep of prison if Frank does not give him the full pardon he promised.

With Frank as President, it would make sense of him to use his new found powers to keep tabs on these three. Frank would not be so ignorant to forget all the people he used and crushed on his path to the Presidency, would he?

Of course not, but that does not mean these three will not try and grind their respective axes with Frank. They will be valiant in their efforts, but ultimately will not succeed.

8. Claire Finally Cracks

As manipulative and domineering as Frank has been, Claire can also act the same way when she wants to be. Case in point was in season 2 (“Chapter 14”) when Claire told former employee Gillian Cole, “I am willing to let your child wither and die inside you, if that’s what’s required.”

At the end of season 2 (“Chapter 26”) we saw Claire breakdown over what has transpired in order for Frank to become President. This came on the heels of lying to Tricia Walker and seeing Megan Hennessey after she attempted suicide. Earlier in season 2 (“Chapter 22”) Claire’s former lover Adam Galloway was brought to Frank’s house to end the controversy over photos of Claire. At this point, it was clear Claire and Adam would not be seeing each other again.

If the road to get to this point has rattled Claire, Frank’s Presidency will only get to her further. It is difficult to say how Claire will crack, but it will be something drastic (not like a several day getaway to see Adam).

 

House of Cards Season 3 will be coming out Friday, February 27 on Netflix. Release time is at 12 AM Pacific time. Be sure to check back to see if these predictions were correct (or terribly wrong) and feel free to comment below with your predictions as well!