HENDERSON, Nev. − The Mountain West will replace a bowl game in Las Vegas with Los Angeles starting next year.
The conference announced at its media day activities Wednesday at Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada,an agreement with a bowl game in Los Angeles at the new stadium of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers and Rams starting in 2020. That bowl will have the first choice from the MW. The date and opponent are unknown, although speculation and past reports have it as a team from the Pac-12.
The bowl in Los Angeles replaces the Las Vegas Bowl, which will end its tie with the MW and feature teams from the Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference at the new stadium for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders in 2020.
A new bowl cycle starts in 2020, and along with the bowl in Los Angles the conference will continue ties with the Arizona, Famous Idaho Potato, New Mexico and Hawaii bowls. The MW also will have a tie to an ESPN Events-operated bowl in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
As backup bowls, the MW will have an agreement with the Cheese-it Bowl in Phoenix and another bowl, which will be named at a later date.
“We’re going to be playing in some phenomenal places,” MW Commissioner Craig Thompson said.
Thompson wouldn’t say how much money a MW team will get to play in the bowl in Los Angeles, but said it would be the most lucrative other than playing in a New Year’s Six bowl.
The MW has been affiliated with the Las Vegas bowl since the league’s first year of football in 1999. Thompson said there have been initial discussions among the coaches and athletics directors about the possibility of moving the MW championship game to either Los Angeles or Las Vegas in the future. Currently, it is held on campus sites for the team that has a higher ranking of the two division champions.
Coming back home
When Gary Andersen was hired the first time at Utah State in 2009, the Aggies had 11 consecutive losing seasons. Andersen went 11-2 in his final season in 2012 before going to Wisconsin for two seasons and Oregon State from 2015-17.
Andersen was hired back at Utah State in the offseason after Matt Wells left for Texas Tech.
“Much of it is different, but much is still the same,” Andersen said. “The same is the culture of Logan, the culture of Utah State as far as a great place to go to school. (Logan) still has a small-town feel, although it continues to grow. I never sold my house. It was a place I saw my wife and I being in.
“What’s changed is the MW. It is a bigger stage, and that’s a good thing. Our goal, and we’re close to getting there, is that we don’t have a Power 5 tag on our name, but I believe we give our guys a Power 5 experience.”
Utah State went 11-2 last season, returns a Heisman Trophy candidate in junior quarterback Jordan Love and was picked to finish second in the Mountain Division behind Boise State.
Love the hype
Utah State is promoting Love’s Heisman campaign with heart-shaped candies with “Vote Love” on one side and “Heisman” on the other.
Players and coaches from the Mountain Division were made available to the media Wednesday, yet it was tough to get one-on-one time with Love.
One of his teammates said he’s handling the hype well, while Love sat next to him doing a phone interview and photo shoot.
“He’s very poised, and he still has a humble heart,” senior defensive end Tipa Galeai said. “I wish I had my own candy.
“Not every team has a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. The biggest thing for us growing the young guys and filling the spots we need to fill. Jordan Love helps with that. He does a lot more of things like that than one might think.”
Added Andersen: “He’s a great leader. He’s tough in his own way. He doesn’t jump up and down and yell, but he is consistent every day and demanding of his teammates on and off the field. I’ve never seen Jordan have a down day, but he doesn’t think he’s arrived. That’s what puts me at ease. Jordan is worried about producing, not about distractions.”
I remember him
University of Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers made his college debut last season as a true freshman against Utah State, and thanks mostly to his running abilities (19 carries for 100 yards), UW nearly upset the Aggies, but lost 23-16.
Galeai remembers Chambers well.
“We were getting kind of frustrated because we knew he was going to run the ball, but he would get three or four yards every time he ran it,” he said. “How was he dong this? I think he has a good chance of being good this year.”
UW plays at Utah State on Nov. 16.
Road to recovery
Colorado State coach Mike Bobo was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy in mid-August of last year, which caused numbness in his feet. Bobo coached in every game last season, but the effects on him both mentally and physically were evident.
Bobo said he’s not completely recovered, but he’s made a lot of progress.
“Mentally I am in a great place,” Physically, I’m close to 100%. My nerves are coming back, but I still don’t know how many were damaged.”
After losing seasons in his first three years at New Mexico, coach Bob Davie won 16 games during the 2015 and 2016 seasons and played in two bowl games. The Lobos went 3-9 over both of the past two seasons. The 2018 season was especially rough as the Lobos were ravaged by injuries, including their top two quarterbacks and two of their most productive and experienced defensive players.
When asked to describe this season, Davie used the word “redo.”
“We had kind of taken it and built it, and now we have to take it and built it again,” Davie said.
“I’m as anxious as anyone to see us because there is a lot of new energized pieces to it.”
Ask me later
Boise State must replace four-year starter Brett Rypien at quarterback, and when asked who that will be, coach Bryan Harsin said, “Good question.”
Despite having to replace such a proven starter, and likely with someone who has either taken limited snaps or no snaps in a game for the Broncos, Boise State was picked to win the Mountain Division by the media.
“It is definitely an adjustment a team has to make when you lose somebody like Brett,” Boise State senior defensive back Kekoa Nwahne said.
“It is a new challenge, but I am excited.”
Sophomore Chase Cord, true freshman Hank Bachmeier and senior Jaylon Henderson, a junior-college transfer who lettered last season, are the top candidates to be the starter.
Cord played some last season before suffering a knee injury.