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Around the Mountain West: A preview of this week’s match ups

By | August 27, 2013 | Sports

After 248 days, college football has returned. With a full load of games this week, the Mountain West Conference (MWC) will see a variety of contests. Some matchups will have rivalries renewed, while others will see first-time showdowns. Here is a rundown of the week one games:

Thursday, August 29
UNLV vs. Minnesota
UNLV, which finished with a 2-11 record, will head to TCF Bank Stadium to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Seeking to end a streak of nine straight losing seasons (and three straight seasons with only two wins), UNLV will face a Minnesota team that finished 6-7 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten Conference. This will be the second game ever between the two teams. The first contest, held nearly a year ago, ended in a 30-27 triple-overtime victory for Minnesota.

Utah State vs. Utah
The Utah State Aggies and the Utah Utes will battle for the 111th time, dating back to 1892. This game will be the first football game televised on the new Fox Sports 1 channel, which launched on Aug. 16.

The Aggies are two wins away from hitting an even record overall (they are 506-508-31). Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keaton will enter the season first all-time in Utah State history in career completion percentage (.656), ninth in passing yards (4,573) and ninth in completions (381).

The Utes are opening their third season in the Pac-12 Conference and are 5-2 against the Aggies in home openers. Starting behind center for Utah is sophomore Travis Wilson, who became the starter midway through his freshman season last year. The San Clemente, Calif., native threw for 1,311 yards in 12 games with seven touchdowns.

Sacramento State vs. San Jose State
The San Jose State Spartans and Sacramento State Hornets will clash at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans are newcomers to the MWC, after 17 years in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). In 2012, they had an 11-2 record and No. 24 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).

Adjustment is in process for the Spartans as head coach Mike MacIntyre left for Colorado. Former University of San Diego head coach Ron Caragher will replace MacIntyre. Caragher went 8-3 last year in the Pioneer Football League for San Diego, and is 44-22 all time as college head coach.

USC vs. Hawaii
The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors will face the USC Trojans for the first time since 2010, when USC head coach Lane Kiffin made his debut.

The Rainbow Warriors will try to bounce back after a dismal 3-9 season last year, and they have the opportunity for an upset to start. USC has never lost to Hawaii in eight meetings and has only lost one game in Aloha Stadium (Citrus Bowl, 1987). Hawaii is entering its second year with head coach Norm Chow, a former offensive coordinator at USC.

Saturday, August 31
Colgate vs. Air Force
Colgate University, based in Hamilton, N.Y., will fly to Colorado Springs to visit the Air Force Falcons. The Falcons, who finished 5-3 last year in the Mountain West, will seek to extend their streak of 15 straight home opening wins against unranked teams. Overall, they are 31-8 in season openers at home and have won seven of the last nine. Returning to lead the Falcons is their head coach, Troy Calhoun, who has a 47-31 career record in seven seasons.

UTSA vs. New Mexico
The UTSA Roadrunners, members of Conference USA, head to Albuquerque, N.M. to visit the New Mexico Lobos.

The Roadrunners are in their third season ever in football and posted a record of 8-4 in 2012. Despite their novice status in NCAA football, the Roadrunners boast an experienced head coach in Larry Coker. Coker was head coach of the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, who won the national championship.

Bob Davie, another former BCS head coach (Notre Dame), returns as head coach of the Lobos, who finished with a 4-9 record last year.

Wyoming vs. Nebraska
The Wyoming Cowboys will open their 120th season on the road, facing the No. 18 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska is undefeated against Wyoming, winning all six contests. Their last match was in 2011, when Nebraska visited Wyoming for the first time and won, 38-14.

The Cowboys, who finished 2012 with four wins and eight losses, will play in their fifth season with head coach Dave Christensen.

Eastern Illinois vs. San Diego State
San Diego State will open its season playing the Eastern Illinois Panthers for the first time since Oct. 6, 2001, when the Aztecs defeated the Panthers 40-7. It will be the second game between the two teams and the first at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

The Aztecs finished with a 9-2 overall record last season and were MWC co-champions with Boise State and Fresno State. It will be the 91st football season for San Diego State and third under head coach Rocky Long. The Panthers won the Ohio Valley Conference championship last season, finishing with a 6-1 record in conference play.

Boise State vs. Washington
The Boise State Broncos will have to wait a week before playing on their notorious blue turf as they will play week one in Seattle against the Washington Huskies. This game will be a rematch of the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, in which Boise State defeated the Huskies, 28-26. It will also be televised on Fox Sports 1.

The Broncos enter the season ranked No. 19 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the USA Today polls. Junior quarterback Joe Southwick will start for the Broncos. Southwick ended 2012 on a high note, throwing for nine touchdowns and no interceptions over Boise State’s last four games.

Nevada vs. UCLA
Pasadena’s Rose Bowl will open the season with an MWC team for the first time since 2009 (San Diego State).

The Wolf Pack, which opened 2012 with a win against California, will begin its first season under new head coach Brian Polian. Quarterback Cody Fajardo will return to the Wolf Pack for his junior year. In 2012, he ran for 1,121 yards and threw for 2,786 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Sunday, September 1
Colorado State vs. Colorado
The Rocky Mountain Showdown will be the lone Sunday game, as the Colorado State Rams will begin their 116th football season in Boulder, Colo., against the Colorado Buffaloes. The Rams, who ended last season on a high note with a victory against New Mexico, will look to win the showdown for the second straight year. This will be the second year for Colorado State under head coach Jim McElwain.

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