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Around the Mountain West: Week 1

By Mike Vorel

Star-tribune Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, Aug. 28 2014 3:22 p.m. MDT

Air Force

This Week: After faltering in a devastating 2-10 2013 season, Air Force looks to begin its climb back to the top of the Mountain West when it hosts Nicholls State of the Southland Conference on Saturday.

Big Man on Campus: Jon Lee. The Falcons are known for their running game, and they won't desert their bread and butter this season. Lee — a 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior — rushed for 429 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per rush in 2013. He could be the focal point of their triple-option attack.

Mike's Pick: While this is still not the Air Force Academy many fans of the Mountain West are used to, the Falcons will be too much for Nicholls State on Saturday. Expect Troy Calhoun's team to control the clock and wear the Colonels down with a variety of different rushers.

Boise State

This Week: As always, Boise State starts with a test. In Bryan Harsin's first game at the helm, the Broncos travel to play No. 18 Ole Miss on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome. If Boise State can pull an upset, the Broncos could be off and running in the Mountain West yet again.

BMOC: Jay Ajayi. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the best running back in the Mountain West. As a sophomore last season, Ajayi scampered for 1,425 yards and scored 19 total touchdowns, averaging 5.7 yards per rush. Ajayi should only improve as a junior.

Mike's Pick: In the first game with a new head coach, there always tends to be growing pains. Then, consider that Boise State lost high-profile season openers against Michigan State in 2012 and Washington in 2013, and I'll pick Ole Miss to escape with a victory in a nail-biter.

Colorado State

This Week: The Colorado State Rams kick off their 2014 season by hosting their other rival — the Colorado Buffaloes — on Friday night. And coming off an eight-win season and bowl victory under Jim McElwain, hopes are high that the Rams could pull out a victory for the second time in three years.

BMOC: Garrett Grayson. Colorado State's senior quarterback had a quietly productive season in 2013, throwing for 3,696 yards and 23 touchdowns. And with the departures of Derek Carr, David Fales and Brett Smith, Grayson should be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the conference this season.

Mike's Pick: This, my friends, is a tough one. Mike MacIntyre seems to be building something in Boulder, but that progress takes time. Colorado State, meanwhile, is a team on the rise. And with this game being played at home, I like the Rams to get the better of their in-state big brothers.

Fresno State

This Week: Fresno State is granted a rematch of its loss in last season's Las Vegas Bowl, when it travels to play in-state foe USC on Saturday night. The Bulldogs went 11-2 last season, but one of those losses came to the Trojans.

BMOC: Derron Smith. Without Derek Carr as the face of the program, Smith takes the mantle. And he's a worthy choice. Fresno State's senior safety owns 14 career interceptions, the most of any active FBS player. The preseason Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year should close his career with another spectacular season.

Mike's Pick: There's simply too much going against Fresno State in this game. The Bulldogs lost their quarterback and top receiver (Davante Adams), and they go on the road to play the No. 15 team in the country. Expect the Trojans to win by double digits.

Hawaii

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