There have been many off-season tweets and articles floating around this summer. Quite a few have named one team or another the best defense in the Mountain West Conference. Wyoming, Fresno State, Boise State, and San Diego State have all been mentioned at various times. Who do you think will have the best defense in the conference this season?
Jeremy: The easy answer is Wyoming, simply because it’s preseason and we have nothing but last season minus departures to grade these defenses on. Fresno State was menacing on defense in 2017, but loses a ton of production on the defensive line and lost defensive coordinator Orlando Steinauer to the Canadian Football League. Boise State returns a ton of talent, but losing a linebacker that went in the 1st round of the NFL draft is obviously notable. San Diego State, despite some personnel losses, has a decent argument for the top spot as well. Holding opponents to 20.2 points per game is hard to do, but the Aztecs seem to be taking a back seat this off-season after getting pummeled at home by the brass of the conference. Wyoming loses...Rico Gafford? They held opponents to an astonishing 17.5 points per game last season and hardly lose anyone of consequence, unlike Boise State, Fresno State, and San Diego State who do have some important losses. Utah State might be able to crawl into this conversation for now, but Wyoming to me feels like the answer to this question in July of 2018. That said, Cowboys fans...that +24 turnover total is coming back to Earth. Bank on it.
Zach: This is a tough one to answer. The Mountain West has become a conference known for its defense, I didn’t see this coming. Wyoming has an unbelievable defense returning. However, it feels like it will be nearly impossible to replicate. San Diego State always has a solid defense, but lost some key contributors last year. SDSU also benefits from the smash mouth style of football that they play on offense, by spending less time on the field. Fresno State will have a good secondary, but there are some questions on the defensive line and they will be breaking in a new coordinator. Boise State battled with inconsistency on defense last year, but started zero seniors and will have a defense that returns ten starters. While I think Boise State has the most NFL talent on the defensive side of the ball, I think Wyoming will have the best defense in the conference by a slim margin. I see lots of 14-10 games in their future.
Matt: Yeah, I’m going to take the easy answer and say Wyoming. It’s a split between Wyoming and Fresno State, since they had the top two defenses last year. Fresno State has questions along the front four, but are absolutely locked in for the back 7. They should have the best LB corps and secondary in the conference, but losing 3 starters and 5 role players on the front four will put them down a bit. Not really going to put too much stock into the changeover at DC, since Watts was on staff last year, and is using the exact same schemes as Steinauer. Wyoming loses one starter from last year’s defense, so they have a lot less questions than Fresno State. I have a feeling the Fresno State/Wyo game is going to be a 10-7 game, or something wacky like 9-6.
Mike: While up to four teams can and should be involved in discussion, I see it as a two-team debate between Boise State and Wyoming. Although Boise State laid some eggs against Virginia and Colorado State, they were flat out dominant against San Diego State, the option teams, and Fresno State. Wyoming’s defense was a masterpiece last year, keeping them in almost every game and carried a struggling offense. While the Broncos return 10 starters, they lose their star in Vander Esch. On the other hand, the Cowboys return all of its star power from last year and the bulk of their starters. They have two players in Granderson and Wingard who are in the discussion for DPOY, plus other all-conference types in Wilson, Ghaifan, and others. Wyoming goes into the season with the title of best MWC defense.
Vic: At this time, I’m going with the Aztecs because that’s what my heart and my summer taro cards say:) Mainly too, they have a top-notch D-Line and return at least seven starters who overall only gave up a little over 20 points a game - just a mere field goal more than Wyoming’s average. Plus, I would favor a team who has a good chance to be in the running for the conference title. Plus, it helps that SDSU is legitimately in the mix anyways along with Boise, Fresno and of course, Wyoming, who are obviously the easy favorites here. Plus, I also choose the Aztecs because their defense will help them win the conference...maybe against Fresno when they meet in mid-November.
Next week we will move to the other side of the ball and discuss which team has the best offense.
Your turn: Who got it right and who got it wrong? Weigh in with your thoughts on the best MWC defense below.