UNLV was picked to finish fifth out of six teams in the West Division in the annual poll at Mountain West media days Monday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
The Rebels, 2-11 last season, were chosen to finish ahead only of Hawaii.
Saying the media had “no other choice than to pick us like that,” UNLV senior running back Tim Cornett still didn’t like it.
“I feel they disrespected our team,” he said.
Rebels senior linebacker Tim Hasson said the low expectations are a source of motivation.
“It’s something I like to put in the back of my mind,” Hasson said. “The preseason means nothing. Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the picks because nobody’s played a game yet.”
Fresno State was picked first in the West, receiving 39 of 41 first-place votes. The other two first-place votes when to San Diego State, which was second in the poll, and San Jose State, which was third.
Boise State, with 40 first-place votes, was tabbed to win the Mountain Division. No. 2 Utah State, picked second, was given the other one.
No UNLV players were selected to the preseason all-conference team.
■ THEY NEVER REALLY LEFT — Last year was thought to be the final appearance for Boise State and San Diego State at Mountain West media days.
Both programs appeared headed for the Big East Conference, but decided to remain in the Mountain West when circumstances changed late last year.
“I’m glad to be back,” San Diego State senior safety Nat Berhe said. “The Big East is fun and it’s all fine and dandy, but I think the real competition is in the Mountain West at this point.”
Boise State senior quarterback Joe Southwick agreed.
“I think it’s the right fit for the program moving forward,” Southwick said. “Geographically, it works out obviously very well. ... I think there are so many positives right now going on in the Mountain West.”
■ NEW FORMAT — Players voiced their approval of the conference’s split to two divisions with a championship game at one of the home sites.
Three teams — Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State — shared the conference title last season.
“We love that we don’t have to share,” said Fresno State senior quarterback Derek Carr, voted the preseason Offensive Player of the Year. “Every player probably feels that way at the end of the year. You don’t want to say co-champs. I mean you’ll take a championship, don’t get me wrong. If you have a conference championship game, it doesn’t get much more pressure than that.”
■ RETURN OF THE OC — UNR junior quarterback Cody Fajardo knew he would be working with a new head coach when Chris Ault retired after last season, but he didn’t want a new offensive coordinator.
Fajardo reached out to Nick Rolovich, who had agreed to become offensive coordinator at Temple, but changed his mind to remain in Reno.
“I’m so happy he stayed,” Fajardo said.
Though the Wolf Pack will retain the Pistol offense, Fajardo said Rolovich will incorporate more of the run-and-shoot he ran as Hawaii’s coordinator in 2010 and 2011.
“Just seeing it in spring, this Pistol offense is going to be pretty dynamic this year and should put up some good numbers,” Fajardo said.
■ NAME CHANGE — Hawaii will be called the Rainbow Warriors this season after being known as the Warriors for 13 years. The football team was called the Rainbows before that.
“There’s so much tradition with it,” junior quarterback Taylor Graham said. “When I got to Hawaii, I didn’t really understand where it came from. But I live in Manoa Valley, and I see literally seven rainbows every day.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@review journal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.