Troy Calhoun, MWC Coach of the Year.
Chad Hall, MWC Offensive Player of the Year.
John Rabold, MWC Defensive Player of the Year.
Let’s break them down one by one, from most likely to least likely.
He’s just about locked it up with the most impressive stretch of offensive performances in academy history. In the last seven weeks he’s averaged 244.9 all-purpose yards per game, rushed for 1,135 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.
He leads the conference in rushing yards per game (114.9) and all-purpose yards per game (203.0). He ranks ninth in receptions per game (3.91), third in punt return average (12.3) and ninth in kickoff return average (23.6).
No single player is more important to any team in the Mountain West Conference than Hall is to Air Force. It should be a lock.
Toughest Competition: I think the New Mexico skilled position players (quarterback Donovan Porterie, receivers Marcus Smith and Travis Brown and running back Rodney Ferguson) all are candidates, but they’ll probably take votes from each other. So Hall’s biggest competition is his namesake – BYU’s Max Hall, who has averaged 310 yards passing in nine games. But that might say as much about the BYU offense as it does about Hall.
If Air Force wins Saturday, he’s got a great case. The Falcons will be 9-3 and 6-2 in the league (which will be – at worst – tied for second). That’s a five-game turnaround. And Calhoun’s done it without an influx of talent.
Think about it: Inside linebacker Aaron Shanor is back after sitting out last year to boost his grades. And freshmen Reggie Rembert, Savier Stephens and Andre Morris all have played some. But none of the members of the Class of 2011 has made a huge impact. And, of course, there have been no impact transfers.
In fact, the argument can be made that Air Force lost more talent in the seniors that graduated from last year’s team than it added in freshmen.
It’s a point that most of the folks at Air Force won’t make out loud because it can be interpreted as a swipe at former coach Fisher DeBerry. But it cannot be ignored. Calhoun has taken a team that won four games last season and has doubled that total with one game to play.
His assistants deserve a lot of the credit, but assistants usually get a piece of head coaches’ coach of the year awards.
Toughest competition: Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. The Utes have won six straight to improve to 7-3. He kept his team from quitting despite a 1-3 start and a slew of injuries – most notably to standout quarterback Brian Johnson. Right now, Utah might be playing better than any team in the conference (see the Utes’ 50-0 drubbing of Wyoming yesterday). If Utah can knock off BYU, Whittingham might be the choice. Then again, if BYU goes unbeaten and wins a second straight crown, Bronco Mendenhall would be a natural choice too.
One could argue that inside linebacker Drew Fowler, strong safety Chris Thomas and cornerback Carson Bird are playing just as big a role for the Falcons.
But you can’t argue with Rabold’s stats. He’s made 70 tackles, including 15.5 for losses, forced three fumbles and recovered three – including one he took for a touchdown against Notre Dame.
He’s been a bit unsung this year, which could hurt him in voting, but for all-around defensive performance, few if any have been better than Rabold.
Toughest Competition: Defense is always harder to read. UNLV’s Beau Bell, the conference’s leading tackler, BYU’s Jan Jorgensen and TCU’s Chase Ortiz all probably will be in the mix.