LARAMIE — Wyoming was picked to finish second in the Mountain Division in the Mountain West preseason poll released Tuesday.
Boise State was again pegged to win the division title while San Diego State was the pick to win the West Division. The predicted order of finish in each division was voted on by media members league-wide.
UW received 90 points and got one-first place vote. It’s only the second time since the league split into two six-team divisions in 2013 that UW has been picked to finish second or higher in its division (second in 2018).
UW, which is entering the seventh season of the Craig Bohl era, finished fourth in its division last season with a .500 conference record, but the Cowboys are returning more than 70 percent of their two-deep. UW has seven starters back on offense, including the conference’s reigning rushing champ, Xazavian Valladay; all five offensive linemen; and quarterback Sean Chambers, who will likely compete for the starting job with redshirt freshman Levi Williams after missing the final five games of last season with a knee injury.
Senior defensive end Garrett Crall, safety Rome Weber and nickel Keyon Blankenbaker are among the returning starters on defense, which had both of its linebackers, Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia, taken in the NFL Draft. The unit, which will be under the direction of first-year coordinator Jay Sawvel, finished in the top 4 in the league in points and yards allowed a season ago.
UW, fresh off an 8-5 campaign capped by a win in the Arizona Bowl, has put together four straight bowl-eligible seasons — the program’s longest such streak since the 1990s. The Cowboys are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 5 against Weber State at War Memorial Stadium.
Reigning conference champion Boise State, which has won three straight Mountain Division titles, was picked by the media to win the division for the seventh straight year. Air Force finished last season as the conference’s highest-ranked team — No. 22 in The Associated Press poll — after turning in the first 11-win season of the Troy Calhoun era, but the Falcons were dealt a potential blow over the weekend when the school announced that senior quarterback Donald Hammond III is no longer a cadet in good standing and “cannot represent the academy in outside activities,” according to The Gazette.
Utah State also has a major void to fill at quarterback with first-round draft pick Jordan Love off to the NFL. Meanwhile, Colorado State (Steve Addazio) and New Mexico (Danny Gonzales), which were picked to finish at the bottom of the division standings, are starting over with new coaches.
SDSU’s selection as the favorite in the West Division wasn’t a surprise even with the Aztecs transitioning into a new era under former coach Brady Hoke. SDSU, which received 19 of 21 possible first-place votes, shared the division title with Hawaii last season and returns key contributors from the league’s top defense, including Thorpe Award watch listers Tariq Thompson and Darren Hall.