Can't wait to see these things this fall

Originally Published: May 17, 2007
By Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

Three Things I Can't Wait To See This Fall In The Mountain West
Ivan Maisel
Mark Schlabach
1. The key numbers for TCU are nine and eight. The Horned Frogs have nine returning starters on defense, led by end Tommy Blake, in a conference where defense is traditionally an afterthought. And TCU ended last season with an eight-game winning streak. The combination makes the Horned Frogs the top candidate to crash the BCS party. One danger: TCU gets so wrapped up in making the BCS that anything less would be considered a disappointment. It's tough to fill an inside straight.

2. Fourth-year sophomore Max Hall replaces John Beck as BYU quarterback. Fourth-year sophomore? Yes -- Hall redshirted at Arizona State in 2004, went on an LDS mission in 2005 and transferred to BYU in 2006. The nephew of former Cowboys quarterback Danny White looked good in the spring game (15-19-1, 139 yards). With an opening schedule of Arizona, at UCLA, at Tulsa, Hall has no time to ease into starting.

Rodney Ferguson3. New Mexico tailback Rodney Ferguson started slowly and finished fast last season. The Lobo junior led the conference in rushing with 1,234 yards, averaging nearly five yards per carry. Ferguson may be a better back this year and have nothing to show for it. Coach Rocky Long said after the spring game that the offensive line looked "a little shaky." New Mexico will find out early enough. It plays five games in September, including road trips to UTEP and Arizona and a home game against BYU.
1. Will TCU be this season's Boise State? The Horned Frogs bring an eight-game winning streak into the season and return nine starters from one of the best defenses in the country. Led by defensive end Tommy Blake, the Horned Frogs finished second in total defense and third in scoring defense in Division I-A in 2006. They allowed seven points or fewer in five of 13 games. TCU will be tested early with its first two games against Big 12 Conference foes: vs. Baylor and at Texas.

2. Can Max Hall keep BYU in the BCS picture? Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller is the Arizona State transfer getting much of the national attention during the preseason, but Hall has even bigger shoes to fill in Provo, Utah. Hall, the nephew of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White, hasn't played competitively in three seasons. He redshirted at Arizona State in 2004, served a Mormon mission in 2005 and then sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules. Still, he beat out a pair of junior college transfers in the spring to win an opportunity to replace John Beck, a second-round choice in the NFL draft.

Shaun Carney3. Air Force will be attacking opponents through the air, rather than on the ground this season. With Fisher DeBerry retiring after 23 seasons as the academy's coach, former Falcon quarterback Troy Calhoun takes over at his alma mater. Calhoun plans to ditch the triple-option offense and have a more balanced attack. He was previously the offensive coordinator of the NFL's Houston Texans and also worked for the Denver Broncos. Senior quarterback Shaun Carney is an underrated passer, throwing for 1,192 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2006.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

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