The Cougars have one thing that will put them on the list of top 25 status, and that is Heisman hopeful Max Hall. Hall threw for 35 TDs a year ago, but with the departure of Austin Collie and Michael Reed, they may not come quite as easy this season. Harvey Unga keeps the defenses honest, as the bruising back has topped the 1,000 yard mark in each of the last two seasons. Jan Jorgensen anchors the defense as he is the Mountain West career sacks leader with 24, and the unit is solid across the front seven. The weak link for this team will be in the secondary, where they have just one returnee. The schedule is loaded, as they must face Oklahoma and Florida State, but they do get both Utah and TCU at home. They will be in contention for the MWC title.
24. TEXAS TECH
Texas Tech will take some big hits as Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree have departed. Harrell threw for over 5,000 yards the last two years, and Crabtree had 93 receptions and 18 TDs. Taylor Potts will take over at QB, and if nothing else has been learned about the Mike Leach system, you can bet he is going to have some big numbers. The defense will be solid up front, but the secondary is depleted, and that will be a problem as the conference is loaded with star-studded QBs. The Red Raiders won’t match their run at the BCS Title game a year ago, but there is enough talent around to crack the top 25.
Coming off of last year’s win in the Sugar Bowl will be a tough act to follow. The Utes replace their QB Brian Johnson, have a new punter and place kicker, and various components of a tough defense. The biggest shoes to fill will be Johnson, and the likely candidates are junior Corbin Louks, or redshirt freshman DeVonte Christopher. The good news is that they have an outstanding offensive line, so if either steps up, they should be well protected. The defense will be the team’s strength, and be able to keep them in games. The bad news for the Utes, is their three toughest games all come on the road, at Oregon, BYU and TCU.