Scott D. Pierce: Analyst gives little respect to the MWC

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2007 12:00 a.m. MST

ESPN'S Jesse Palmer thinks the Mountain West Conference stinks, as he made clear on the network's "Bowl Mania" show on Saturday.
However, his ESPN colleagues don't think much of Palmer's bowl picks, even when they agreed with them.
Palmer was called on to pick the winners in all 32 bowls and then rank them from first to last in how certain the victory was. In this format, No. 32 was a "no brainer" and No. 1 was the "single most baffling" matchup.
The former Florida QB, a backup for the Giants and briefly for the 49ers, is best known for appearing on "The Bachelor." He picked against three of the five MWC teams and showed little confidence in the two he did pick, BYU and Utah.
Palmer allowed that BYU QB "Max Hall ... is going to steal the show" at the Las Vegas Bowl but made that only his No. 10 pick. ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham strongly disagreed.
"I think they're (the Cougars) a lock. I would put them in the high 20s," he said. "Bronco Mendenhall has done such an amazing job and it's almost like nobody is paying attention to the Cougars.... I think BYU runs this. I think it's a blowout."
"I totally agree with you on that one," said ESPN analyst Mark May.
Palmer also picked 8-4 Utah to beat 8-4 Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl but was even less enthusiastic, pointing to Navy's triple-option attack and making the Utes No. 4 on his list.
"But Utah's won six of their last bowl games," Palmer said, apparently meaning to say that Utah has won its last six bowl games.
Cunningham agreed Utah would win but again disagreed with Palmer.
"I have way more confidence in that game," he said. "I just feel at the end of the season Utah was as good as any team in the non-BCS. They almost knocked off BYU, who I like an awful lot, in that Mountain West Conference."
Palmer was openly mocked by his colleagues for picking 6-6 Nevada to beat 8-4 New Mexico — and making it No. 25 on his list.
"How do you pick against New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl?" show host Matt Winer wondered as Cunningham and May both laughed.
"Head coach Rocky Long will have this team ready to play. I like New Mexico in that game," May said. And Cunningham agreed.
At No. 17, Palmer picked 8-4 Houston over 7-5 TCU in the Texas Bowl. But he was alone on that one.
"I think I would flop Houston and TCU," Cunningham said.
"They'll get ready and play hard in this game. I like TCU over Houston," May said.
Not only did Palmer pick 6-6 Cal over 9-3 Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, but he was rather confident about it — making it No. 20 on his list.
"This may surprise some. Cal has lost six of their last seven, but I've got to think Jeff Tedford is too good a coach with the weapons he has on offense to not be able to stop Chad Hall. Guys, tell me I'm right on this one."
His colleagues laughed at him again.
"I like Air Force a lot," Cunningham said. "As a matter of fact, I'm completely confident in this one. The wheels completely came off for Cal at the end of the season."
"I totally agree with you," May said.
In the end, the Mountain West got a good deal of respect from Cunningham and May, just not from Palmer. But then Palmer didn't get much respect from Cunningham and May.

E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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