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CSU ranks fifth in Mountain West preseason football poll – Longmont Times-Call

Colorado State wide receiver Tory Horton (14) catches a touchdown against Nevada defensive back Devin Gunter (14) on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 18, 2023, at Canvas Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo. The Rams led 20-13 at halftime. (Michael Brian/For the Reporter-Herald)

Colorado State’s football team is expected to finish fifth in the Mountain West Conference this season, the league announced Wednesday at the start of its annual media days in Las Vegas.

Boise State was selected as conference champion for the 14th consecutive year. The Broncos received 38 of the 46 first-place votes and 543 points. Boise State was followed in the poll by No. 2 UNLV (four first-place votes and 471 points), No. 3 Fresno State (four first-place votes and 460 points) and No. 4 Air Force (384 points).

The Rams are ranked 5th with 337 points after going 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the Mountain West last season. The Rams were one win away from bowl eligibility but lost their season finale in Hawaii.

Behind CSU in the poll are No. 6 Wyoming (296 points), No. 7 Utah State (285), No. 8 San Diego State (251), No. 9 Hawaii (214), No. 10 San Jose State (185), No. 11 New Mexico (85) and No. 12 Nevada (77).

Four Rams were selected to the preseason All-Conference team: wide receiver Tory Horton, center Jacob Gardner, linebacker Chase Wilson and safety Jack Howell.

Horton, a 2023 All-Mountain West first-team member, led the Rams last season with 1,136 yards on 96 receptions and eight touchdowns. He had four games with over 100 yards, including a 227-yard performance against Utah Tech with three scores. His total yards ranked eighth and receptions ranked second in program history.

Howell, who was also named to the All-Mountain West first team in 2023, led the Rams’ secondary and defense as the second-leading tackler in the Mountain West with 114 tackles and 9.5 per game last season. He had 50 solo tackles, including eight at Wyoming (season high). He also recorded five games with double-digit tackles and made 16 tackles (season high) against Washington State in the Rams’ season opener.

Gardner anchored the Rams’ offensive line and earned All-Mountain West second-team honors last season. The graduate has started every game of his college career and will start 45 of them in the 2024 season. The center led an offense in 2023 that averaged nearly 400 yards per game and was No. 17 in the fewest sacks allowed.

Wilson is on the preseason roster for the first time in his career after being named to the All-Mountain West second team last season. He totaled 107 tackles in 2023, including 44 solo, to become the Rams’ second-leading tackler. The redshirt senior added 8.5 sacks and 3.5 TFL, the most in both categories behind the defensive line.

Boise State junior running back Ashton Jeanty is the preseason Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, while Boise State senior defensive end Ahmed Hassanein and UNLV senior linebacker Jackson Woodard share preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors. UNLV senior returner Jacob De Jesus is the preseason Special Teams Player of the Year.