Nevada Wolf Pack picked to finish 4th in MW West Division | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Wolf Pack picked to finish 4th in MW West Division

Nevada Appeal staff report

LAS VEGAS — Boise State was chosen to finish atop the Mountain Division, while two-time Mountain West champion Fresno State was predicted to win the West Division title, as announced Tuesday by the Mountain West at its annual Media Summit, being held at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Boise State, which has been predicted to win the Mountain Division the last five seasons, finished 2017 with a 7-1 Conference record and defeated Fresno State in the 2017 Mountain West championship game, 17-14. The Broncos were a unanimous first-place pick, garnering all 22 first-place votes and 132 total points. Fifth-year head coach Bryan Harsin returns 18 starters from 2017, including six on offense and 10 on defense.

Fresno State earned 16 first-place votes in the West Division, earning 126 total points. The Bulldogs, who ended the 2017 campaign with a victory over Houston in the Hawaii Bowl, return 17 starters from last season.

San Diego State picked up six first-place votes and 116 total points, good for second place in the West Division. UNLV was third with 78 points, followed by Nevada (72), Hawaii (45) and San Jose State (25).

The Wolf Pack placed three players on the Mountain West Preseason All-Conference team.

Sophomore receiver McLane Mannix, a freshman All-American in 2017, was picked for the team, which honored 25 players with 11 on each side of the ball and three specialists. Mannix caught 57 passes for 778 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman last year.

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Senior safety Dameon Baber was picked on the defensive side along with senior linebacker Malik Reed. Baber is a two-time All-Mountain West selection, earning the honor as a true freshman in 2015 and again last season as a junior. Reed, also a two-time all-conference pick, was selected as he converts from defensive end to linebacker for his senior season.

Boise State senior quarterback Brett Rypien was named Preseason MW Offensive Player of the Year, while Wyoming senior defensive back Andrew Wingard has earned Preseason MW Defensive Player of the Year accolades for the second consecutive year. Boise State sophomore return man Avery Williams garnered Preseason MW Special Teams Player of the Year honors.

Rypien enters the 2018 campaign as the nation's active leading passer, throwing for 9,876 yards and has thrown the fourth-most touchdown passes among active FBS quarterbacks (60) in 37 collegiate games. The native of Spokane, Wash., earned All-Mountain West first team honors in 2015 and 16, and second team accolades in 2017. Last season, Rypien threw for 2,857 yards and 16 touchdowns. During the past week, Rypien has been named to the preseason watch lists for the Davey O'Brien Award, which is given to the nation's best quarterback, and the Maxwell Award, given to the best overall player nationally.

Wingard, who has earned first-team all-conference honors in back-to-back years, enters his senior season averaging 9.4 tackles per game, which ranks as the third-most among active FBS defenders. The native of Arvada, Colorado, enters 2018 with 367 career tackles. Wingard is just 88 tackles shy of setting the Mountain West record for career tackles, which is currently held by New Mexico's Carmen Messina (2008-11). Last week, Wingard was named to the Bednarik Award Preseason Watch List, which is given to the top defensive player nationally.

Williams finished the 2017 campaign ranked 13th nationally in punt return average (11.2 yards), while returning two punts for touchdowns. Additionally, the native of Pasadena, California, averaged 24.7 yards per kick return on his way to earning All-Mountain West second team honors last season.

MEDIA POLL

MOUNTAIN DIVISION

Rank Team (first-place votes) Points

1. Boise State (22) 132

2. Wyoming 95

3. Colorado State 82

4. Utah State 78

5. Air Force 52

6. New Mexico 23

WEST DIVISION

Rank Team (first-place votes) Points

1. Fresno State (16) 126

2. San Diego State (6) 116

3. UNLV 78

4. Nevada 72

5. Hawai‘i 45

6. San José State 25