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.
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.
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.
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.
This Week: Coming off an absolutely disastrous 1-11 season, Norm Chow and Hawaii have their work cut out for them this week, when they host Chris Petersen and the No. 25 Washington Huskies on Saturday night. After losing their first 11 games last season, the Rainbow Warriors hope to claim their first victory a little sooner this time around.
BMOC: Joey Iosefa. Hawaii discovered this 245-pound running back late last season, as Iosefa rushed for 586 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and five touchdowns in the team's final four games. He'll be the offense's main contributor from the first snap this season.
Mike's Pick: If you're looking for a sure thing, this is probably it. The Rainbow Warriors lost 11 games this season, and the team still looks relatively unsettled and young at many positions heading into the 2014 season. Hawaii does play better at home. But even so, expect Washington to win handily.
This Week: Nevada crumbled in the middle of its 2013 season, losing five consecutive Mountain West games en route to a 4-8 campaign in head coach Brian Polian's first season. The Wolfpack hope to turn that around starting Saturday afternoon, when they host Southern Utah.
BMOC: Cody Fajardo. If you're shocked by this, you haven't been paying attention. Nevada's senior quarterback has thrown 39 touchdown passes and run for 31 scores in his electric three-year career. The best should be still to come in his senior season.
Mike's Pick: Southern Utah is no slouch as an FCS opponent, but don't expect the Thunderbirds to contend for too long on Saturday. Nevada's pistol offense should batter Southern Utah, and Fajardo will put up some big numbers in a fairly relaxing win.
This Week: Is this the year New Mexico finally breaks out? After losing nine games in each of the last two seasons, Bob Davie's team hopes to get off on the right foot when it hosts UTEP on Saturday. The Lobos defeated the Miners 42-35 in overtime last season.
BMOC: Brett Bowers. If you're looking to find New Mexico's pass rush, look no further. Bowers — a 6-3, 260-pound senior defensive end — produced six of the Lobos' 16 sacks in 2013, all while facing consistent double teams. Hopefully he'll receive more help along the line in his senior season.
Mike's Pick: The key, for New Mexico, is depth. The Lobos had the fewest scholarship players in the country when Davie arrived, and he has slowly been building his program ever since. New Mexico seems to have a few talented running backs, and expect them to control the temp in a season-opening win over UTEP.
San Diego State
This Week: San Diego State managed to win eight games again last season, despite falling to FCS Eastern Illinois at home in its season opener and starting the year 0-3. Rocky Long's team will look to avoid digging a similar hole when it hosts Northern Arizona on Saturday.
BMOC: Quinn Kaehler. San Diego State's senior quarterback had his coming-out party last season, passing for 3,007 yards and 19 touchdowns despite not beginning the season as the starting quarterback. He should be a reliable cog in the Aztecs' attack in 2014.
Mike's Pick: Don't expect deja vu. The Aztecs may have lost to an FCS opponent to start the 2013 season, but they closed the year by winning eight of their final 10 games. Long's team will not take the Lumberjacks lightly, and San Diego State will take care of business in its 2014 debut.
San Jose State
This Week: After finishing 6-6 in its first season under Ron Caragher, San Jose State returns for its second season in the Mountain West without its star quarterback, David Fales. The Spartans will kick off the Blake Jurich era by hosting North Dakota on Thursday night.
BMOC: Tyler Winston. Winston exploded onto the scene as a true freshman wide receiver last season, recording 858 receiving yards and scoring five touchdowns despite missing the first three games. The Spartans' goal on offense will be to get Winston the ball in space.
Mike's Pick: This will serve as a good dress rehearsal for San Jose State. Jurich should feel comfortable in his first start under center against North Dakota, an FCS opponent that won only three games last season. If all goes to plan, the Spartans will score early and often, and this game will be over by halftime.
This Week: UNLV emerged from the dead last season, winning seven games in a make-or-break year for head coach Bobby Hauck. Will that momentum continue? The Runnin' Rebels face an immediate test this week when they travel to play at Arizona on Friday.
BMOC: Shaquille Murray-Lawrence. UNLV's senior running back rushed for 418 yards and two touchdowns last season, but was overshadowed by longtime starter Tim Cornett. Now, it's Murray-Lawrence's show, and the Runnin' Rebels will count on him to carry the load on the ground.
Mike's Pick: This week, the Runnin' Rebels meet their buzz saw. UNLV may be moving in the right direction, but their defense is still spotty at best. And if there's one thing Arizona is known for, that's moving the ball and scoring points. The Wildcats will conquer the Runnin' Rebels in a high-scoring affair.
This Week: Utah State isn't afraid to schedule a big non-conference test early on. After falling to in-state rival Utah in its season opener last season, the Aggies travel to play SEC power Tennessee on Sunday night. Coming off a conference title, Utah State will enter Neyland Stadium with confidence.
BMOC: Chuckie Keeton. When healthy, Keeton is probably the best offensive weapon in the Mountain West. The senior quarterback threw for 18 touchdowns and only two interceptions before tearing his ACL midway through the 2013 season. He knows the offense like the back of his hand, and he's ready to execute it on Sunday night.
Mike's Pick: Can you smell an upset? After an impressive Mountain West debut in 2013, Utah State returns Keeton as well as a host of physical linebackers on the defensive end. Meanwhile, Tennessee finished 5-7 for the third consecutive year last season. I like Utah State to pull off a huge upset in the season debut.
This Week: Welcome to the Craig Bohl Era. After Wyoming failed to reach a bowl game for the second consecutive season in 2013, Dave Christensen was fired and Bohl brought a stellar resume from North Dakota State. His credentials get put to the test on Saturday when the Cowboys host Montana, ranked No. 5 in the preseason FCS standings.
BMOC: Eddie Yarbrough. Yarbrough racked up 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in his sophomore season, earning First Team All-Mountain West honors in the process. Wyoming's senior defensive end should run wild against Montana's shaky offensive line.
Mike's Pick: If you aren't scared, you should be. Weird things are known to happen in first games under new head coaches, and Montana is more than capable of pulling an upset on the road. However, I think Wyoming will run the ball and use play-action effectively, and the defensive line will cause enough pressure to help the Cowboys pull out a close victory.