TCU picked to win Mountain West Conference

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) TCU was named the preseason pick Monday to win the Mountain West Conference football title, and a conference media poll also picked Horned Frogs running back Aaron Brown and defensive end Tommy Blake as preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.

BYU, the 2006 conference champion, was picked to finish second in the writers' poll released during MWC media days.

Utah was picked third, New Mexico fourth and Wyoming fifth, followed by Colorado State, Air Force, San Diego State and UNLV.

Teams in the conference open the season Aug. 30 when UNLV visits Utah State and Utah travels to Oregon State. Conference play begins Sept. 8.

``It's not what you say in August, but what you say in December, and how your team does things,'' said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs were picked to finish first in the MWC in 2006 but finished second 11-2 overall, 6-2 in the conference and No. 25 in the AP Poll. TCU went on to win the Poinsettia Bowl 37-7 over Northern Illinois.

``There's a lot of things ahead of us,'' said Patterson, whose team entering its third year in the Mountain West drew 18 of 23 first-place votes and 202 points in the survey. He pointed toward games against in-state rivals Baylor and Texas before TCU plays its first 2007 MWC conference game Sept. 13 against Air Force.

``You've got to have luck,'' he added, ``and also you have to stay healthy.''

Defending conference champion BYU drew three first-place votes from writers who cover the conference after going undefeated in conference play last year and 11-2 overall. The Cougars, who finished No. 19 in the AP Poll, beat Oregon 38-8 in the Las Vegas Bowl.

BYU enters the 2007 season with a 10-game winning streak and returns six starters from an offense ranked nationally among the top five last year in scoring, passing and total yards.

TCU's Brown, who met the media Monday with Patterson, downplayed his choice as preseason offensive player of the year.

``It won't matter if I don't do what I have to do,'' he said. ``Right now, everyone is going off last year's stats and games and wins and losses.''

Brown's teammate Blake was a first-team all-MWC selection on the defensive line a year ago after collecting 54 tackles while leading the league with 16.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks in 13 games.

Utah kicker-punter Louie Sakoda earned preseason special team player of the year honors, and Colorado State linebacker Ricky Brewer was named preseason freshman of the year.

TCU led all schools with seven selections on the preseason all-conference team. BYU and Utah each had four players picked, followed by New Mexico and Wyoming with three apiece. Colorado State and UNLV each had two players chosen, and Air Force had one.

The conference's annual meeting with the media continues through Tuesday at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa in Henderson, outside Las Vegas.

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