Today we take a look ahead. All off-season we’ve talked about the MWC needing to be more successful. What exactly will that look like in 2018? Some might be funny. Some might be very important. Some we might forget to write on here. Anyway, here is what we think will make for a successful MWC season:
Strong Showing Against Power 5 Teams
This year, the MWC has 17 games in their non-conference slate against teams from power 5 conferences. Some of these games are just a bit one-sided on paper, like Washington State vs SJSU or UNLV vs USC. However, there are some games that look winnable or competitive. These would include (but are not limited to): SDSU vs Arizona State, Colorado vs Colorado State, Boise State vs Oklahoma State, and Fresno State vs Minnesota.
If MWC teams can 4 or 5 of these games, they will definitely leave their mark and be successful in this category.
Bowl Eligible Teams
Last season, the Mountain West produce 6 bowl teams. The year before it was 7. In this day and age, making a bowl basically means you were an above average team over the course of the year. The number of bowls or bowl teams isn’t the point here, but the MWC should strive to have above average or better teams at the end of the year.
It’s pretty automatic the conference will end up with at least 5 teams in bowls this season. But to be considered successful, they need to return to 7 bowl eligible teams at the close of the regular season. That would mean the usual suspects took care of business and 1-2 teams surprised or over-achieved or won some close games.
Of course, getting to a bowl game isn’t enough on its own really. It’s nice, but most people remember who won and who lost. 3-3 last year was a bit disappointing as two teams lost very winnable games. For the MWC to be considered a success in bowl season, they need to be above .500 That means at the very least 4-3 (or 4-2 if they only have 6 teams going bowling), pulling off some upsets or taking care of business on national TV with people looking on.
Feel Good Storylines
By this I mean the kind of stuff that might gain national attention or at least make the conference relevant outside of itself. For example, two years ago it was the game against Boise State where Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich removed the benches on the sideline during halftime. Last year it was the surprising success of Jeff Tedford and Fresno State. Both years it was the national attention Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was receiving. Whether you love or hate those teams, positive attention for any is good for the conference.
Here are some positive storylines that could (not saying will, but could) be played up this season:
- QB Brett Rypien having a good enough year to receive a few Heisman votes (Like Penny did last year)
- A surprise team (maybe Nevada or Utah State) becomes a media darling
- Boise State, SDSU, or Fresno State make a strong run to be the representative in the NY6 bowl
- A player is chasing a singe season or career conference record
- A freshman phenom or breakout player. Bonus points for a fun nickname
- Quotable coach moments (we’re looking at you Rolo)
- A game for the ages. Like a triple overtime shootout, a stunning upset capped off by a game-winning FG as time expires or nail-bitter to go to the championship game.
Top Teams Playing Like Top Teams
Conferences are often judged based on the top teams. Some years the SEC hasn’t been all that great, but they have Alabama to carry them year in and year out, so people don’t always notice or remember. For years the Big12 was perceived as strong or weak depending on how good Texas and Oklahoma are. Fair or not, that’s usually how it goes.
For the Mountain West, Boise State and San Diego State are strong teams each year. Fresno State came out of nowhere last season, but have been good more often than not and there’s not reason to think they won’t be again. Apparently, Colorado State can be pencilled in to go 7-6 from now until the end of time. Wyoming’s defense is top tier, but there offense is a bit of a question mark.
Still, it’s clear to see there are three very strong teams in the MWC and it isn’t much of a stretch to believe one of the last two mentioned (or even another surprise team) make it four. For the MWC to be successful in terms of league strength, they need four teams to be very good (8+ wins should qualify).
Here are just some of the factors that could make or break the 2018 Mountain West football season in terms of success. What are some other factors that weren’t listed here? What needs to happen for you to consider the season a successful one for the MWC?