Utah could surprise MWC, Pac-10 foes

Peering into the crystal ball revealed the following five predictions for the 2007 Mountain West season:

1. TCU will challenge Boise State for a BCS spot
The Horned Frogs return nine starters from one of the country's best defenses, led by ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz. A victory at Texas on Sept. 8 would go a long way in getting TCU into the BCS discussion, and a close loss might even keep their BCS hopes alive. The Horned Frogs will finish the regular season no worse than 10-2.

2. Utah will make Karl Dorrell's seat warmer
The Utes are potentially good enough to challenge TCU for the Mountain West title, and they're good enough to beat the Bruins in Salt Lake City on Sept. 15. With quarterback Brian Johnson returning from a knee injury that forced him to redshirt last season, the Utes offense might be among the most explosive in the country.

3. Air Force will throw the ball (and win)
Troy Calhoun replaces Fisher DeBerry, who retired after 24 seasons as coach at the Air Force Academy. Calhoun, a former Falcons quarterback and offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans in 2006, wants to throw the ball more. Air Force ran the ball nearly 82 percent of the time while running the wishbone last season, but Shaun Carney is an underrated passer and experienced quarterback. The Falcons will struggle early -- they face a tough four-game stretch in September (at Utah, against TCU and then at BYU and Navy) -- but they'll rebound late to make Calhoun's rookie season a success.

4. BYU won't slip much without John Beck
Beck, now a backup quarterback with the Miami Dolphins, was one of the country's most underrated quarterbacks last season. But Arizona State transfer Max Hall, who hasn't played since his senior year of high school in 2003, will flourish in BYU's pass-happy attack. Hall, the nephew of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White, spent the 2005 season on a Mormon mission and sat out last season after transferring.

5. Sonny Lubick will retire -- if Colorado State doesn't win
Lubick, entering his 15th season at Colorado State, put the Rams on the map as far as college football is concerned. He is one of nine active coaches to win 100 games at their current school, and the Rams have won six league titles under his watch. But the last three seasons have been hard. The Rams lost tailback Kyle Bell to a knee injury before the 2006 opener and finished 4-8, ending the season with a seven-game losing streak. With Bell and 17 other starters back, the Rams are poised for a big rebound. If not, Lubick might step down.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.