Another week in off-season drudgery, but another week of roundtable discussions. This week, we are talking bowl eligibility. The question is simple but the answers may not be. How many Mountain West teams will be bowl eligible in the 2018 football season? Who will they be?
Matt: We’ll get 7 teams bowl eligible this year, but just barely. Boise State, Fresno State, and SDSU seem like safe bets, with Boise and Fresno angling for the NY6 bid. Colorado State, Wyoming, and Air Force will probably secure bids. The last one will be either UNLV or Nevada. Probably with one knocking the other out of eligibility in the Fremont Cannon game at the end of the year. New Mexico is missing a defense, Utah State will probably backslide and get Wells fired, Hawaii has no offense, and SJSU is SJSU. Hapless. The only question will be if CSU fans remain happy with only 6 or 7 wins under Bobo, and if Air Force can hold their gains from last year and give Troy Calhoun another turnaround season.
Duane: I see there being 6 teams getting in from the Mountain West this year. Boise State and San Diego State are my early predictions to play in the conference championship game. Colorado State to me should always be better than what they are, and they have another tough non-conference schedule, but I like them being the main challenger to the Broncos in the Mountain Division. I think Fresno State will regress some from last year’s surprising season, but I see them still challenging and being a good team. Those are my solid four. My Air Force squad under Troy Calhoun has never had back to back losing seasons, and I like them to be the third team out of the Mountain. In the West division, I see UNLV being the sixth team from the conference to make it into a bowl game. I think Wyoming will have a hard time adjusting to life without Josh Allen and Nevada will just not quite make it at 5-7. If a seventh team were to sneak in, I would say New Mexico might be my sleeper pick for the year.
Grant: I’d say we will get 7 teams to a bowl game this year. It seems like Boise State, Fresno State, and San Diego State are all but guaranteed 6 wins at this point. I think Air Force will bounce back from a mediocre season and find themselves in a bowl game. Colorado State is consistently a 6 or 7 win team, and even though they might struggle to find a quarterback I’d count them in. I might eat my words for this, but I have both UNLV and Nevada as my last two bowl eligible teams. Nevada’s biggest problem last year was their shaky defense, giving up 40 points per game. This year, I expect experience to help them out and push them over the 6 win margin. They return 6 of their 7 top tacklers, and as long as the offense can stay hot they should be more than capable of 6 wins. UNLV, on the other hand, has an easy out of conference schedule. They should start the season 3-1, with USC as their only loss, and get at least 3 wins in conference. I have Hawaii, New Mexico, and San Jose State out because, well, they are awful. Wyoming should have a rough season coping with the loss of Josh Allen, and consequently, miss a bowl game coming up a win or two short. Finally, my Utah State Aggies are just too inconsistent, and while I’d like to think they can repeat last seasons success I’m not sure they’ll hit the 6 win mark.
Mike: I’m torn between 5 and 6, so I’ll talk through it and see where I end up. Boise State, Fresno State, and San Diego State are as close to locks as can be. The Broncos and Aztecs go bowling on an annual basis and the Bulldogs, if they have any drop off at all, it will be minimal. Colorado State has been as consistent as one can be hitting the 7 win mark and there is no reason to believe they won’t hit that again. I have full confidence in those four teams. Wyoming certainly has a favorable schedule, but there unknown offense has me in wait and see mode with them. It wouldn’t shock me, but I’m not confident in them right now. I agree with Matt that it will come down to UNLV and Nevada, and although both wouldn’t surprise me, I could definitely see the Cannon Game turn into a de facto play-in. I’d actually want to see it, not to keep one team out, but just to add to the matchup. In a previous roundtable, I tabbed Nevada as my pick to see a big improvement. I think the Wolf Pack eclipses the 6 win mark and plays in a bowl game. I’d give UNLV a better chance than Wyoming, so is it possible to pick 5.5? 5 for sure and UNLV could definitely get there. I’ll categorize them as a hopeful pick for now.
Thomas:I am going to be the outlier and say that we will have eight or nine teams this season that have six or more wins. Think about it, there are three squads in the Mountain West Conference and everyone else. Out in the West division, Fresno State and San Diego State have no reason to go backwards in terms of talent but the rest of the conference looks like it will throw eight teams into the bowl eligibility picture. I was impressed at how close to Boise State, Fresno was playing towards the end of the season. Having watched the Championship Game live at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho, because I only live blocks away, I thought Fresno State had the game in the bag until the last couple of minutes, which shows that the team culture has went back to the days of Pat Hill in talent. I’d also add in my UNLV team that has been improving every season since Tony Sanchez has taken over. UNLV has put together some terrible teams during the past couple of decades save that one bowl season against North Texas. It is critical that UNLV goes bowling or it will be a tough call to keep Coach Sanchez. SJSU, Nevada and Hawaii are still trying to figure out what to do. Out of those three teams, I have a little bit of faith in Hawaii surprising us. It may still be too soon for the Warriors to dark horse this season.
Out in the Mountain Division, I predict we will see a whopping five teams become bowl eligible this season. Boise State will, of course, stay on top with the players that are staying with them. We should see a major drop off at Wyoming due to Josh Allen’s career moving over to the NFL. Utah State and Colorado State should keep in the picture because of their recent history of putting together mid-pack teams. With Wyoming, Air Force, and New Mexico all fighting for that 6th win to round out the pack. The way the schedules look I would put New Mexico and Air Force ahead of Wyoming right now. Eight teams seem like a lot to be bowl eligible but the Mountain division doesn’t have anyone else besides Boise to contend for this season. We should see Boise State University with a extraordinary record of around ten plus wins and the rest around 5 to 7 wins around the end of the regular season. We could indeed foresee a scenario where all of the Mountain teams could possibly be eligible. I am unset on New Mexico being horrible this year due to what is going on out there. New Mexico’s ability to surprise us with good or bad has left them as a fun team to follow since Davie took over in 2012.
Jeremy: Out of the Mountain Division, I expect Boise State, Wyoming, Colorado State, and Utah State to make bowl games. Yes, I know, the Rams lose a lot of production, but I think Mike Bobo’s recruiting gives them a higher floor than expected. Wyoming will finish with 6-8 wins, but don’t be stunned if it’s closer to 6 if the offense continues to sputter. Utah State managed a bowl last season, and Boise State is a near given.
In the West Division, San Diego State and Fresno State are locks. That puts my predicted total at 6 bowl teams. I think one of UNLV or Nevada makes a bowl game, but I go back and forth on which one. 7 bowl teams sounds about right, but I’ll include the disclaimer that some teams will disappoint (see 2017 Hawaii) and some might surprise (2017 Fresno).
Vic: There’ll be six teams and the first three are the most obvious - the Broncos, Aztecs & Bulldogs, respectively. Surrounding these programs are great coaches, systems and even crowd energy and support. These teams also have the most notable quarterbacks and a running game that keeps them tops in the Mountain West. And with each of these teams having lots of returning players on both sides of the ball, it’s just another factor why they’ll continue to be the most explosive teams going into the 2018-2019 season. Overall, it’s not too much of a surprise here.
The other three teams I have aren’t much of a reach to me as well - from the Mountain side, the Aggies, Cowboys and Rams are the next tier down who’ll get into bowls. Projecting their 2017 records, statistics and lineups seems to align them in the middle of the pack again in 2018:
- The Aggies, in particular, should be able to close the gap and win those close games that they would lose last year. They have a lot of players returning, along with previous first-time starters, including sophomore QB Jordan Love who had a productive freshman year. They all should be hardened enough to pull out close games this year and actually, I think, even making a run for the title game.
- The Cowboys also have a ton of players returning, led by what should be quite a formidable defense that will help keep them in games and an offense that’s only really missing a QB from the skills position side of things.
- The Rams might be missing a QB for now, but some may argue sophomore Collin Hill is more than able to pick up the slack. I’d have to agree even though he recently experienced another ACL injury that may have him miss the start of the 2018 season - also considering that the Rams have been pretty consistent as a 6-7 win team under Mike Bobo.
Zach: In the Mountain, I see four bowl eligible teams. Boise State is the obvious answer, I think Utah State is a safe bet as they looked like a team on the rise. I think Air Force will recover and make a bowl game. The winner of the Colorado State and Wyoming game will get the fourth spot.
In the West, SDSU and Fresno State are safe bets and I think Nevada will recover nicely for the third spot. As I mentioned last week, I think Tony Sanchez loses his job if UNLV falls short and I think they will miss out again.
Terrance: I believe there will be 6 possibly 7 bowl eligible teams in the conference. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the Poinsettia Bowl anymore because I believe it will create an issue on where to place teams. However the good news is that I don’t believe there will be any teams left out. I believe the Group of 5 representative in the New Year’s Six will be from the Mountain West (If its Boise, or SDSU.) I believe it will be a competitive season for the conference full of some surprises as well.
The bowl teams from the Mountain will be Boise State, Colorado State, Air Force, Utah State. We saw last season how Wyoming performed without Josh Allen, I personally believe they are in for a tough season. Air Force and Utah State will rebound from tough seasons last year to get back to bowl games. The West division will be where the surprises come from. San Diego State will go bowling, the other teams that will make bowls will be Nevada and Fresno State. I believe the winner of Nevada vs UNLV will go to a bowl. I predict that winner to be the Wolf Pack. If that happens Tony Sanchez could be out of a job. So all in all I expect a crazy unpredictable season, but I do believe the Mountain West will return to the New Year’s Six.
Your turn: Which teams do you think will make a bowl game this season? Do you have an idea for the future MWC Roundtable? Leave a comment below.