LAS VEGAS (AP) — Boise State and Fresno State are projected to finish on top of the two new divisions of the Mountain West Conference this season.
The Broncos are picked to finish first in the Mountain Division, while the Bulldogs are the favorites in the West Division among members of the media who cover the league’s teams. It is the league’s first season of divisional play.
The two division leaders will meet in the inaugural Mountain West championship game, set for Dec. 7.
The league also announced its preseason all-conference team on Monday as part of the Mountain West’s annual media days in Las Vegas.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr was named preseason offensive player of the year, while fellow Bulldog Derron Smith, a defensive back, earned defensive honors and New Mexico kick returner Chase Clayton was selected top special teams player.
The Broncos are coming off an 11-2 season and were supposed to join the Big East this year. But the school backed out of those plans, opting instead to remain in the Mountain West Conference. Boise State beat Washington 28-26 last year in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Broncos received 40 first-place Mountain Division votes and earned 245 points in the media poll. The Broncos were followed by Utah State (204), Air Force (143), Wyoming (116), Colorado State (90) and New Mexico (63).
The Bulldogs finished 9-4 overall last season, their first in the Mountain West. Fresno State finished atop the conference with the Broncos and San Diego State, but ended last season with a 43-10 loss to SMU in the Hawaii Bowl.
The Bulldogs got 39 first-place West Division votes and 243 points, followed by San Diego State (181), San Jose State (172), Nevada (135), UNLV (71) and Hawaii (59).
The league added San Jose State and Utah State this year.
Carr, last season’s Mountain West offensive player of the year, threw for 4,104 yards and 37 touchdowns, with just seven interceptions.
He leads a list of the preseason first-team offensive players that includes: Fresno State sophomore wide receiver Davante Adams, San Jose State senior wide receiver Noel Grigsby, New Mexico senior running back Kasey Carrier, San Diego State junior running back Adam Muema, Boise State senior lineman Charles Leno, Boise State senior lineman Matt Paradis, Colorado State senior lineman Weston Richburg, Fresno State senior lineman Austin Wentworth, Utah State senior lineman Tyler Larsen and Fresno State senior tight end Marcel Jensen.
Smith, who ranked fifth in the nation with six interceptions last season, tops a first-team defense that includes: Boise State junior lineman Demarcus Lawrence, Fresno State junior lineman Tyeler Davison, Nevada junior lineman Brock Hekking, San Jose State junior lineman Travis Raciti, San Diego State junior linebacker Jake Fely, San Jose State senior linebacker Keith Smith, Utah State sophomore linebacker Kyler Fackrell, Fresno State senior defensive back L.J. Jones, San Diego State senior defensive back Nat Berhe and San Jose State senior defensive back Bene Benwikere.
In addition to Clayton, the preseason first-team specialists included New Mexico senior punter Ben Skaer and San Jose State sophomore place kicker Austin Lopez.