Normally the Mountain West has a sure-fire top tier team that will flirt with the top 10 if not break right through like it belonged there. We always had the Boise States and Fresno States and Hawaii that one time (you know, the year it looked like June Jones put nitro in his playbook and decided 70 points was a good goal to hit every damn game). But this year…meh. Nothing spectacular. Don’t get me wrong. There are some good teams here and one player (Chuckie Keeton) who could be another Group of Five Heisman darkhorse contender. But no big-time team. It’s almost sad. I yearn for a BCS-buster (I should wash out my mouth with soap for that language) from this conference but not this time around. Here are the predictions.
- Boise State Broncos (7-1 conference, 9-3 overall) – Chris Petersen? Who’s Chris Petersen? The Bronco faithful are hoping Bryan Harsin, fresh off his stint in the Arkansas State coaching merry-go-round, can start the process of bringing Boise State back up to the level they are used to…and that’s looking at a top 10 finish.
- Utah State Aggies (7-1 conference, 11-2 overall) – Yes the Aggies have Chuckie Keeton returning. Yes they arguably have the most talented team in the conference. Yes the Aggies will be golden at home. One problem…they have to go to the blue turf to play the Broncos. That should be the one thing that keeps Utah State from winning the division.
- Colorado State Rams (5-3 conference, 8-4 overall) – Wasn’t that an exciting New Mexico Bowl last year? The comeback of comebacks against the Wazzu Fighting Leachs. Expect the Rams to go back and do some more bowling this year as Jimmy McElwain has them trending in the right direction.
- Wyoming Cowboys (4-4 conference, 6-6 overall) – The Craig Bohl era begins in Laramie in a few weeks. Expect the same no-bullshit approach that he had while helming the future Mountain West member North Dakota State Bison to three straight FCS titles. Things are about to get crowded at the top of the Mountain Division but not until next season, although expect the Cowboys to slip into a bowl this season.
- Air Force Falcons (1-7 conference, 2-10 overall) – I do not remember the last time the Falcons were as bad as they were last season (it was 1980, under Ken Hatfield when they went 2-9-1…I was 2 at the time…no wonder I don’t remember). Unfortunately for Senor Hot Seat, Troy Calhoun, not a whole lot should change this season. Expect the Falcons to do some soul-searching (and new head coach-searching) after this season.
- New Mexico Lobos (0-8 conference, 1-11 overall) – As bad as things are in Colorado Springs, nothing compares to what is happening in Albuquerque. The Lobos are scary bad. Their offense looks to be even more abysmal this season than last. Well Bob, perhaps it’s time to find out if you can get your old job back at ESPN.
- Fresno State Bulldogs (7-1 conference, 8-4 overall) – No Derek Carr? No problem. Well, not exactly. There is a problem but Duke transfer Brandon Connette might just be the answer to keep them at the top. No chances at running the table but hosting San Diego State should be the one game that puts them over the hump.
- San Diego State Aztecs (7-1 conference, 9-3 overall) – It always seems like the Aztecs are soooooooo close to winning the conference. Then they run into Boise State. Or Fresno State. Or Utah State. Or some other school that’s not a state school. Expect the same this season. Strong school, but they have to go to Fresno which will be no easy task.
- UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (yeah I include the Runnin’) (5-3 conference, 6-6 overall) – So first the Rebs are not allowed to be in the postseason because of a low APR score. Then all of a sudden they are. What, did the UNLV administration bribe the NCAA with chips from the Mirage? Anyway, lucky for the Rebels, they should be just good enough to return to the postseason as Bobby Hauck (I promise, no more jokes about this guy) has done wonders in Sin City.
- Nevada Wolfpack (4-4 conference, 5-7 overall) – There are many that see the Pack as a big comeback story this year. I’m not biting. Nevada should be better than last season but they are still a season away from going to bowls and contending in this division.
- San Jose State Spartans (1-7 conference, 2-10 overall) – How the mighty have fallen. Well if you consider the Spartans mighty. They had one great season, one OK season, and now no David Fales. Unless the defense gets a lot better to keep SJSU in some games, this could be a long season in northern California (for San Jose State, not Fresno, they’ll do fine).
- Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (0-8 conference, 1-12 overall) – Ever since they shocked the world and went to the Sugar Bowl they have been mediocre at best and absolutely brutal at worst. Poor Norm Chow will take the fall for this season but there just seems to be no hope on the island to field a competitive team. They need to get a coach that had some of that June Jones magic (and I am not talking about the magic of creating that sweet mustache).
Unlike Conference USA, the Mountain West should have a bit more of a logjam at the top. I have picked my two division winners (Boise and Fresno) with two other teams (USU and SDSU) who could easily make an appearance in the conference title game. I have the Broncos winning the conference and continuing their ascent back up the ladder to national relevance but it really could go either way. I’m saying that just so when a team like Nevada fucks me over and wins the conference I can say I wasn’t feeling too hot about my Mountain West picks.