Analysis:

Bern’s-Eye View: Mountain West Best Bets Week 1

As the 2014 season begins, we start a new feature picking every league game against the spread

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John Bazemore / AP

Boise State defensive tackle Armand Nance (40), center, huddles with his teammates before the first half of an NCAA football game against Mississippi, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Atlanta.

The Rebel Room

Under the Tucson Sun

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With UNLV football entering game week for the 2014 season opener at Arizona, Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Case Keefer dust off the Rebel Room to break down UNLV's first game and the season outlook.

The 2014 Mountain West slate kicks off with a bang tonight on ESPN as Boise State begins the post-Chris Petersen era with a neutral-site game against No. 18 Ole Miss.

Week 1 caps with the league’s game of the week Sunday evening when Utah State goes to Tennessee looking for the upset. In between there’s the usual mixed bag of intrigue and likely blowouts as several teams start off with Division I-AA foes.

In what will hopefully be a very profitable new venture I’m going to pick every Mountain West game this season, keeping track of my record at the bottom. For the I-AA games I’m using lines from Covers.com since most of them don’t appear on the boards in town.

Everyone got it? Good, then let’s get to it:

Note: UNLV picks will appear in the live blog on the day of games.

TONIGHT

Boise State (plus-10) vs. No. 18 Ole Miss

5 p.m., ESPN • In Atlanta

• Former Boise State player and assistant coach Bryan Harsin has a chance to make a decent splash in his debut and a lot of people think the Broncos are capable of doing just that. I’m not buying it.

Pick: Ole Miss

North Dakota at San Jose State (minus-24)

7 p.m., ESPN3

• Forget that San Jose State is replacing six offensive starters, including quarterback David Fales. The entire defense is back and North Dakota is awful.

Pick: San Jose State

FRIDAY

Colorado State (plus-3) vs. Colorado

6 p.m., Fox Sports 1 • In Denver

• If coach Jim McElwain’s team is going to make the leap forward that many expect this season, this would be a good place to start. The Rams’ Garrett Grayson is the Mountain West’s top returning quarterback by the numbers.

Pick: Colorado State

SATURDAY

Nicholls State at Air Force (minus-20.5)

11 a.m., ESPN3

• The Falcons are going to be a more competitive team than last season. Will that translate to a three-touchdown victory against a middling Division I-AA foe? I’m not so sure.

Pick: Nicholls State

Southern Utah at UNR (minus-23)

Noon, Mountain West Network

• I’m not as high on the Wolf Pack as many others around the league but I think this should be at least a three-touchdown game. Covering the number is going to come down to avoiding the backdoor cover.

Pick: UNR

Montana at Wyoming (minus-12.5)

1 p.m., Root Sports/MWN

• This season I expect either Colorado State or Wyoming to break through, but not both. I’m leaning towards CSU being that team in part because I think first-year Wyoming coach Craig Bohl is going to have his hands full with the Grizzlies.

Pick: Montana

Northern Arizona at San Diego State (minus-20)

4 p.m., CBS Sports Network

• Late in the season I usually feel good on the same side as San Diego State coach Rocky Long. To start, though, I think the Aztecs are going to have some kinks to work out and it’s hard to erase the memory of last year’s 21-point loss to Eastern Illinois.

Pick: Northern Arizona

Fresno State (plus-21.5) at No. 15 USC

4:30 p.m., Fox

• In one week, the Trojans lost a starting defensive back after he made up a story about saving his drowning cousin and a fifth-string running back after he called coach Steve Sarkisian. One of those losses obviously hurts the on-field product more but both have created a big enough distraction that the actual game seems like an afterthought.

Pick: Fresno State

UTEP at New Mexico (minus-7.5)

5 p.m., MWN/Campus Insiders

• With two teams this bad I’ll take the points and avoid watching the game.

Pick: UTEP

No. 25 Washington (minus-17) at Hawaii

7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

• Yeah, I know how much trouble teams often have with this trip, but until I see Hawaii be anything besides awful I’m laying the points.

Pick: Washington

SUNDAY

Utah State at Tennessee (minus-6)

4 p.m., SEC Network

• I’ll gladly take the points because at the window I would take Utah State for the outright victory.

Pick: Utah State

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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