July 22, 2009

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) - TCU coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday he was happy that the media picked his Horned Frogs as the preseason favorite to win the 2009 Mountain West Conference.

But after going 7-1 in the conference and 11-2 overall only to lose the title to undefeated Utah last season, he said he told his players it's not where they start, but where they finish.

"We'll take it as a compliment that people voted for us," Patterson said during MWC football media days at the Green Valley Ranch resort casino in Henderson. "But it's not what they say in August, it's what they say in November."

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The 24 media members contributing to the poll picked BYU second, with 190 points, and undefeated 2008 MWC champion Utah third, with 179.

Air Force, UNLV and Colorado State each drew more than 100 points in the survey, trailed by New Mexico, San Diego State and Wyoming.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, who said he was disappointed his Utes didn't get to play for a national championship last year, said he wasn't surprised by the vote going into 2009.

"Every year is its own separate entity," he said. "If I had a vote I'd probably vote for TCU as well. They've got a lot of speed coming back, a lot of athleticism, and an excellent quarterback in Andy Dalton. It's very easy to see why they were picked first."

The conference announced the Horned Frogs drew 15 first-place votes and 207 overall points on the strength of a season that sent them to a 17-16 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl victor over Boise State.

Utah beat Alabama 31-17 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Media picked BYU senior quarterback Max Hall as their preseason pick to be Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Hall was a first-team all-MWC honoree as a junior in 2008, with a conference-leading 35 touchdowns and almost 4,000 yards passing.

Patterson's team swept three other best-of categories, with senior defensive end Jerry Hughes projected as Defensive Player of the Year, after a season that had him picked as a consensus All-American and MWC defensive player of the year in 2008.

TCU teammate Jeremy Kerley, a junior kick returner, was projected as Sspecial Teams Player of the Year, and TCU running back Ed Wesley, tabbed as preseason Freshman of the Tear, is from MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas.

TCU last won the league championship in 2005, and Patterson remembered watching BYU win in 2006 and 2007, and Utah win in 2008.

"We've been right up there with them," Patterson said of BYU and Utah. "But the thing about this conference is all the teams are very tough. You don't have a game off, especially when you're playing on the road."

"If we're going to win the conference, we're going to have to take it," he added.