The Mountain West media days signal the unofficial beginning of UNLV’s football season, and major questions face the conference and the Rebels.
Here are 10 as media days take place Tuesday and Wednesday at Green Valley Ranch Resort:
1. What’s up with the TV/multimedia deal?
It figures to be the topic of conversation when commissioner Craig Thompson addresses the media Tuesday morning. No big deal. The next set of contracts will only shape the league’s future.
2. Where is the conference on a national scale?
It’s fallen behind the American Athletic Conference, and if the Mountain West is not careful, it might not be a temporary slide. That said, three MW teams ended last season ranked, so it’s not like the conference is bereft of talent and facing a hopeless future. The conference’s issue isn’t so much with other Group of Five leagues, but the growing divide between the Power Fives and the rest. That trend is not going away.
3. How wide open is the conference?
Very much so. Last season’s top teams have major questions after major personnel changes, and Utah State also has a new/old coaching face in Gary Andersen. If there is a season for a long shot to rise to the top of one of the divisions, this is it. An experienced Air Force team, for example, finding a way to win the Mountain wouldn’t be shocking.
4. Who are the favorites?
Probably Fresno State and San Diego State in the West and Boise State and Utah State in the Mountain. Those are the programs that are best able to reload and remain viable even with personnel changes. Boise State, in particular, put together a historically good recruiting class by Group of Five standards.
5. Could a Mountain West team make a New Year’s Six bowl?
Boise State is the conference’s best hope, but American member Central Florida has the inside track.
6. What are the likely Mountain West bowl teams?
Boise State (Las Vegas), Utah State (Famous Idaho Potato), Air Force (Armed Forces), Fresno State (New Mexico), San Diego State (Arizona) and Hawaii (Hawaii).
7. Does that mean UNLV won’t make a bowl?
Not necessarily. The Rebels have the talent to get there, but face a challenging schedule and will need to win more of the 50-50 games that have often gone the other way. An upset victory here and there would help as well.
8. Where does UNLV fit in the Mountain West picture?
The Rebels probably will be picked fifth in the West, though they could be fourth. Either way, it’s an indication that most conference media don’t have high hopes for them this season.
9. Could the media be wrong about the Rebels?
Perish the thought. Actually, it can be comical comparing preseason predictions to end-of-year results. Hawaii was picked fifth in the West last season, but finished tied for second with UNR and made its hometown bowl.
10. What do the Rebels need to do to compete in the West Division?
Quarterback Armani Rogers must stay healthy, and their defense needs to noticeably improve.