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MWC Roundtable: Most Improved Team in 2018?

Our team takes a stab at who will make the biggest jump forward.

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Fresno State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

This week the MWCConnection team tackles the topic of which football team will be the most improved in the conference in the 2018 season? Will it be Hawaii with their new offensive and defensive schemes? Will UNLV finally have a breakout season under Sanchez? Will Nevada or SJSU make a big jump in year two?

Matt (godogs13)- Easy answer is going to be Nevada. Their offense finally started to come around in the back half of the season, and all they’ll need is a competent defense to out-gun some of the weaker offensive units in the MWC. I don’t think we’ll see a huge jump up for them, but getting back to bowling would definitely be a good step, I can see Nevada winning 6 or 7 games. Portland State was dreadful last season, Oregon State is starting over, Air Force is a wild card, Hawaii could take another step back in Year 3 under Rolovich, and SJSU doesn’t look to be going anywhere fast. If they can steal a game against UNLV or someone like CSU or Toledo, they could be bowling in Year 2 of Jay Norvell. Let’s also remember they were close to 6 wins last year. 2 points to both Colorado State and Idaho State, and 3 points to Air Force. 3 field goals put the Wolf Pack in a bowl game last season, easy to see them getting those extra points this year

Mike (Wittmann): Nevada may seem like the obvious, safe answer, but it is also the most realistic one. A quick look at their schedule and 6 wins and a bowl birth seems extremely likely and if i put some optimistic blinders on, I could go as high as 8 wins. It is year two of their system and by the end of the season, they found the player to plug in and build upon going forward. I also believe they will get a nice boost from their recruiting class, which I really liked how they were able to load up on skill position players who fit their system. If 2 WRs and 2 DBs can come in a play right away, it will only aid them in their quest to compete. They will surprise a few teams this year and force their way into the top-half of the MWC.

Jeremy: Piling on: Nevada is the obvious answer because of how their 2017 season panned out. The pre-Gangi Wolf Pack were the conference doormat. The Pack with Gangi at QB finished much better, even if the defense couldn’t stop anyone. That defense will prevent the Wolf Pack from chasing Fresno State and San Diego State in the West Division race, but they should win 6-7 regular season games. Utah State by default of returning so many players is another possibility. Wild card: could 2018 be the year UNLV finally makes the jump? Outside of Boise State, the Rebels were the only other Mountain West team to beat Fresno State (and in this case, at their place) in 2017. There is a boy who cried wolf factor to Rebels football, so I’ll keep them in the wildcard category, but they have improved their overall talent and could surprise this season (again, I realize this has been said eleventy billion times over the years).

Vic: San Jose would have to be my easy, obvious and sentimental pick and Nevada would be my obvious pick. But New Mexico sticks out and would be my early choice for most improved this season. The Lobos started fairly well last season coming off their 2016 bowl win before the wheels started coming off, as they were bit pretty hard by injuries and Bob Davie’s conduct issues were becoming known. The struggles and losses just kept piling up from there. Their 2018 turnaround would be triggered from the same factors: Davie needs to coach up to save his job this year and that will be the harbinger that opens the gates for New Mexico (so, I’m banking on the quasi-Jeff Tedford effect and Davie’s accusations were for not). Also, his defense played well for him last season and more than 50% of his players are returning on each side of the ball. Hopefully, it all outweighs the inexperience and tough schedule.

Stubbs: Yes, the easy answer is Nevada. Not only are they the easy answer, but they are most likely the correct answer, but I don’t care. I, as per the usual, am defying conventional wisdom. I believe the most improved team for the upcoming season will be Hawaii. Yeah, you read that right...Hawaii. Maybe this is more heart than head, but I am ok with that. Rolovich is a hero and he deserves our support. The man called out Oregon State for sending recruiting letters to his players - unabashedly - on twitter. Can you imagine any other MW coach doing this? Exactly. There is more to this pick than just my man crush on Rolo though. It has to do with the fact that Hawaii is returning to its roots - at least offensively. They shackles have seemingly been taken off, and we may get to experience some old school run-and-shoot magic on the islands. Do I think the run-and-shoot (RAS) is sustainable long-term? No. Do I think it may be enough to take a sneaky talented Hawaii roster to eight or nine wins this season? You bet. Maybe I am wrong, maybe Hawaii is destined for destitute, and my love for Rolo is blinding me. Once again, I am ok with that. Hawaii will be your most improved team this coming season.