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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: the State of Mountain West Football Programs

We take a look at each school and where they currently land in the Mountain West hierarchy

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State v Arizona State Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Mountain West has a rich football history, but consistency has always been a problem. This week on “the Good, the Bad, the Ugly,” I am going to focus on the current state of each program and what they need to do to sustain or improve their current status.

The Good:

Boise State

The Broncos may not be the powerhouse they once were. But they are the most consistent program in the Mountain West. They have a coach that appears to be in Boise for the long haul and they have the best roster in the league. They dominate the rest of the conference in recruiting. The biggest hangup of the Harsin era has been injuries and depth. This will be tested this upcoming season when the Broncos have to replace a four year starter in Brett Rypien.

Fresno State

Plenty of people questioned the Tedford hire and all of those people were wrong. Tedford has done an excellent job bringing the Bulldogs back to prominence. His coaching ability will be tested this year, as he has to replace Marcus McMaryion and a bunch of talented players on the defensive side of the ball. He hasn’t exactly been a dominant recruiter, but his coaching staff has done an excellent job finding guys that fit their system. The next step for Fresno State is some upgrades to a stadium that is in rough shape.


This one might come as a surprise to some, but the Cowboys program is in great shape and Craig Bohl looks like he might be there for a while. The Cowboys were going through a transition year, while trying to find their offensive identity. It looked like they had found a solution to the problem with Sean Chambers. The Cowboys have a favorable schedule in 2019 and should contend in the Mountain division.

Utah State

I went back and forth this one. I have been vocal about the Aggies being a product of an awful schedule last year and I am never a fan of recycling coaches. However, if the Aggies can pull off a 9-3 season this year, they will have earned my respect. I decided to put them in the “good” category because they are likely to be a bowl team for the next few years.

The Bad:


Jay Norvell deserves credit for what he has done in his short time in Reno. However, he is losing a ton of talent and I am not sure they have a quarterback on their roster that can run that offense. I think 2019 is going to be a step back for the Wolf Pack.


I have also been perplexed by the Tony Sanchez hire and I don’t see that changing. Maybe the Raiders coming to Las Vegas will be the boost this program needs. But the truth of the matter is, they need to invest more in the football program and it might need to start with a new coaching hire this winter. UNLV is and always will be a basketball school, but even the basketball program has a bumpy road in front of them.

San Diego State

I feel a little guilty about this one. I enjoy Rocky Long and his old school football approach, but he is part of a dying breed. Long is likely in the last few years of his tenure at San Diego and this might be his last chance to make a splash.


I originally put the Warriors in the “good” category, but after some further thought I had to move them. I think they are a victim of location and their inability to hold on to the best recruits in Hawaii doesn’t help. I think they have the ability to have good season here and there, but they don’t have the resources to maintain the success they had this season. It will be interesting to see if they can find the money they need to keep this coaching staff around. I’m not sure how long they will be able to get away with paying Rolovich an assistant coaching salary.

Colorado State

I’m giving the Rams a one year grace period, if they can’t figure out their defensive issues it could get ugly. They have all of the resources they need to have a successful program with that beautiful stadium. We know Bobo and company can recruit but can they pull it together on both sides of the field. 2019 is going to be critical for the Rams, they could finish 4-8 or 8-4 with the schedule in front of them. I think they need to make a bowl game for Bobo to keep his job.

Air Force

The Falcons are in a tough spot, the football program has fallen off significantly the last few seasons. But I am a Troy Calhoun believer, despite all of the obstacles that go with being the coach at Air Force, he usually finds a way to recover. Long term greatness isn’t likely, but I think he can get them back in the bowl picture. The Falcons have a manageable schedule in 2019 that should allow them to recover.

The Ugly:

New Mexico

The New Mexico football program is in shambles, there is no way around it. Bob Davie has be criticized for his treatment of players and the results on the football field have been rough. The Lobos need a fresh start and that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. The athletic program also needs to resolve their financial issues so they can invest in the program. Sorry Lobo fans, I don’t see things getting better any time soon.

San Jose State

I’m pulling for the Spartans, they are the ultimate underdog. But they are surrounded by a bunch of big programs and it is hard for them to break through. They need to do a better job of finding those diamonds in the rough and there is plenty of them in California. But it might be time for the athletic department to decide if the FCS is a better fit for them.

That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Stay tuned for next week’s edition as I take a look at my New Year’s Six contenders and pretenders.