Tuesday, July 21, 2009 | 11:47 a.m.
It was no surprise that TCU grabbed 15 of 24 first-place votes in the Mountain West Conference's preseason poll, but UNLV landing in fifth turned some heads.
The Rebels, who return several key pieces off of last season's 5-7 squad -- which started the year 3-1 with wins over then-ranked Arizona State and Iowa State -- received 108 points in the media poll. That's one point ahead of Colorado State, who was picked sixth after winning the New Mexico Bowl and finishing 7-6 a year ago.
This is the highest the Rebels have been picked since 2004, when they were tied for fifth with BYU in the preseason poll. The Rebels highest slot ever in the preseason poll was back in 2001, when they were predicted to finish second.
BYU came in second, grabbing six first-place votes, while Utah took the other three and is predicted to finish third.
Air Force comes in one spot ahead of the Rebels, while Mike Sanford's club is followed by CSU, New Mexico, San Diego State and Wyoming, respectively.
"I'm enouraged that the media sees there's progress in the program," Sanford said. "On the other side of the scale, it doesn't mean anything. It's all about what we do on the field. However, I'm very excited about our football team."
UNLV opens its season on Sept. 5 at home against Sacramento State.
For full coverage of MWC media day today and tomorrow, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com.