For the past two seasons, Utah State’s football team has finished higher than it was expected based off the Mountain West preseason poll.
It’s fair to say Aggie fans will be enamored if their team exceeds expectations for a third straight year.
That’s because USU was picked to place second behind Boise State in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West. The Mountain West released its preseason all-conference teams and polls Tuesday morning as part of the league’s annual Football Media Days, a two-day event being held at Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada.
The Broncos picked up 15 of the 21 first-place votes and racked up 120 points, while the Aggies received the other six first-place votes and 108 total points. It’s the 12th consecutive season Boise State has been favored to win its division or conference.
Air Force was projected to finish third in the Mountain Division and received 73 points. Wyoming was fourth (66), followed by Colorado State (52) and New Mexico (22).
For the second year in a row, Fresno State was tabbed to win the West Division. The Bulldogs tallied 17 first-place votes and 122 total points. San Diego State received three first-place votes and was second with 106 points. Rounding out the field was Nevada (74), Hawaii (67, one first-place vote), UNLV (51) and San Jose State (21).
The Aggies were well-represented on the preseason all-MW teams as they matched the Broncos with a conference-high five selections. USU, BSU and San Diego State accounted for 14 of the 25 honorees.
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love was tabbed as preseason Offensive Player of the Year. The junior was joined on the team by Aggie teammates Tipa Galeai (senior defensive end), David Woodward (junior linebacker), DJ Williams (senior cornerback) and Savon Scarver (junior kickoff returner).
The other specialty awards went to Boise State junior defensive end Curtis Weaver (MW Defensive Player of the Year) and Wyoming senior kicker Cooper Rothe (MW Special Teams POTY). Of the 25 players named to the preseason all-league squad, 16 of them garnered first- or second-team all-MW accolades in 2018.
USU leads the way with three defensive selections on the preseason all-MW squad. It’s the most preseason picks for the Aggies since joining the conference prior to the 2013-14 academic year.
Woodward led the Mountain West a year ago in tackles with 134. The third-team AP All-American also finished in the top 10 in the conference in tackles for loss (seventh, 12.5) and sacks (10th, 5.0).
Galeai claimed the Mountain West sack title last season with 10.5. Additionally, the TCU transfer ranked among the league leaders in tackles for loss (sixth, 14.5) and forced fumbles (three-way tie for second with three).
Williams and a handful of players paced the Mountain West with four interceptions in 2018. No. 7 also finished third in the conference with 15 passes defended and tied for the No. 4 position with 11 passes broken up.
Love secured the top spot in the MW in passing efficiency a year ago (158.3). Despite sitting out several quarters in blowouts wins last season, No. 10 ranked second in the league in touchdown passes (32), third in passing percentage (.640) and fourth in passing yards (3,567).
Scarver was a consensus All-American in ’18 after leading all Division I players in yards per kickoff return (33.7). The Las Vegas native scored on kickoff returns against New Mexico State and Wyoming, and had 50-plus-yarders against Hawaii and Colorado State.
Teams from the West Division met with the media Tuesday, while the Mountain Division will take center stage on Wednesday. The Aggies are represented at the annual event by head coach Gary Andersen, Love and Woodward.
Craig Thompson, the commissioner of the Mountain West, spoke Tuesday morning. Here were some of the highlights of his address:
• The league will be locked in for six guaranteed bowls — provided there are six bowl eligible teams — starting in the next bowl cycle, which will run from 2020-25. The Mountain West currently has five contracted bowl tie-ins in the Las Vegas, New Mexico, Famous Idaho Potato, Hawaii and NOVA Home Loans Arizona bowls.
• Thompson said there have been “zero conversations” about any of the current Mountain West programs leaving the league.
• Thompson said conversations have been held about expanding the College Football Playoff to eight teams. Thompson did, however, add “I don’t know if it will expand.”
• A new Mountain West football TV contract should be finalized this fall, Thompson said. The contract will start in 2020 and will be shorter than the current 10-year deal that expires after the 2019 campaign.
Boise State will continue to get a larger chunk of the profit, Thompson confirmed Tuesday. Idaho Press sports writer B.J. Rains reported BSU’s home games “are again being negotiated separately from the rest of the league’s package,” and that the Broncos will continue to get an additional $1.8 million in revenue per year.
Under the current TV deal, BSU will receive around $2.9 million this year. Conversely, the rest of the teams in the conference each receive $1.1 million.
Hawaii’s head coach continues to add flair to the Mountain West Media Days. The former Hawaii quarterback brought a Las Vegas-based fortune teller named Samani with him to Tuesday’s festivities.
A year ago, Rolovich, who is entering his fourth season at the Hawaii helm, was accompanied by a Britney Spears impersonator. Rolovich’s plus one two years ago was an Elvis impersonator.