Storylines can be unpredictable but they are sure fun. 2017 brought us a QB “battle” at Boise State, an amazing turn around at Fresno State, and off the field trouble for Bob Davie, which resulted in an off-season suspension. 2018 came Mike Bobo’s health and the Ram’s fall from mediocrity, Hawaii’s fun offense that placed them back into competitive relevancy, plus the Aggie’s (mostly) magical season. This week, the question is, what will be the biggest storyline for the 2019 season? Knowing we will all probably be wrong, but it is fun to take some guesses.
Mike: A few things come to mind for storylines this season, some good, others not so good.
- Coaching hot seat followings for Davie, Bobo, and likely Sanchez as well.
- Will the Aztecs have a bounceback season?
- Will any team play spoiler to Fresno State/Boise State round 3 in the MWC championship.
However, I think the biggest storyline this season will be the negotiations and rumors about the new media rights deal, which is sure to encompass most of the football season and well into basketball season.
Zach: This might be the most intriguing season in recent memory and Mike makes some great points above. However, some things I will be keeping a close eye on this season include:
-How will the quarterback situation play out in Boise and Fresno?
-Can Utah State build on the success of 2018?
-Is Hawaii the real deal?
For me, I will be keeping a close eye on the Aggies. I have been a vocal critic of Utah State and quarterback Jordan Love. I believe they were fortunate to have an easy schedule and an experienced offensive line. Both of those are out the door and a new (you could argue old) coaching staff has taken over. Well Mike Sanford keep the fast paced offense? Or will he go to a more pro-style offense. Love benefited from the fast paced style in 2018, he did not have to go through a lot of progressions or make many throws down the field. That is the opposite of what Sanford is known for.
Bruce: This could be a very interesting year for three teams in the conference. Like Mike state, there will be good and bad moments throughout the season.
-Will there be a surprising team shocking the conference?
-Will there be a team a team that can sneak into the Top 10 in the country?
-Is Boise State back like they were in the late 2000s?
As for me, I will be very scared of Fresno State this year. They proved themselves last season that they can compete for a top 10 spot for this season. After they beat Arizona State in 2018 Las Vegas bowl last year, it shows a lot of signs that the Bulldogs can be in a spot somewhere in the top 10-15. But they will have to prove themselves in a big way like taking down USC in their first game if they want to show the nation who they are as contenters.
Jacob McNeil: The biggest impact to the league will come off the field in the form of the new media rights deal. Can the MWC secure a more lucrative deal that will cement them as a power player among the G5 conferences? Craig Thompson’s negotiating history makes me JUST A LITTLE NERVOUS, but if the MWC can potentially pit networks against newcomers (Facebook, Amazon, NFL Network), maybe there is a sweet deal on the horizon.
In terms of on-field action, I think the MWC is in dire need of a NY6 representative. While the conference was better (according to S&P+) overall than the AAC last year, the top of the Mountain West has not been able to break through for a New Year’s bowl since Boise State attended in 2014. That is frankly unacceptable. There were four teams in the MWC that seemed to have separated themselves talent-wise from the rest of the conference last year (Boise, Fresno, SDSU, and USU). All of them face new challenges this year that could prevent a NY6 game. Can one of the four catch enough breaks this year to put the MWC on the biggest stage given to G5 teams?
Alex Wright: The biggest storyline heading into the 2019 season is the new TV deal for the Mountain West Conference. It will have a large impact on the conference and how the conference grows. If the conference can come to terms with a deal that gives the schools a fair amount of money and benefit the fans, then they need to sign it. What I mean by benefiting the fans is that fans can be able to watch their teams on TV and have games at reasonable times. 9 P.M. local time games on CBS Sports Network is not an ideal time to help the conference grow. The Mountain West needs to extensively research all these available deals to find the best one that benefits all parties.
Two other storylines that follow the new media deal are coaches on the hot seat and will the conference have similar success they had last year. After difficult seasons last year, some coaches are on the hot season, one notably is Tony Sanchez. Sanchez basically has an ultimatum, either make a bowl game or get fired. It will be interesting to see who on the hot seat rises to the occasion and who will be looking for a new head coach. Another storyline is can the conference be as strong as they were last year? Last season three teams had 10 or more wins. The Mountain West is vying for that Group of 5 spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Will a team breakout with 11 or 12 wins and take that spot? Can the league get those same results? Or with the conference take a step back?
Toby: The biggest story is the TV deal, how long and how much? If it is a great deal it will help the conference with both revenue and national exposure. If it is a terrible deal, it could set the conference back for the next decade. Another story line is Jordan Love, if he plays well could he put himself in the Heisman and 1st round pick conversation? Third, can the bottom part of the conference pick up their play, San Jose State, New Mexico, talking to you? And finally, can someone from the Mountain West please play in a New Year’s Bowl game, would probably need to be Fresno or Boise with one loss. Of course, with Utah State’s schedule, if they have only one loss, they would make it as well.
Matt: Biggest storyline has to be who gets fired at the end of the year. The seat is getting pretty toasty for Bobo, Davie, Brennan, and Sanchez, and one more bad season could spell the end for all 4. Plus, we get to see what the return tour for Gary Andersen looks like. Everyone else has covered the media deal, so I won’t cover that one in my storylines, but we know that Thompson needs to hit that out of the park if he doesn’t want the tide to turn even more against him.
Personally, the Fresno State reload is a huge storyline. After monumental success in his first two years, now Jeff Tedford needs to replace almost the entire offense. The running game shouldn’t be a concern, but breaking in a new QB and multiple pass-catchers can be a bit harrowing when you have to go meet USC on Week 1. I have full faith in the coaching staff, but there’s definitely a lot of questions that the Bulldogs will need to answer if they want to repeat as conference champions.
Vic: Half fun, half-serious - the Aztecs have always been my Fresno State:) SDSU looks to be on similar trajectories with the Bulldogs and their paths will build up and cross later in the 2019 season, so it should be very interesting.
Last year was fairly disappointing for Rocky Long’s team and this season it looks like things are looking back up led by a slew of very good running backs, including Juwan Washington returning. Some early projections have the Aztecs favored to win most of their games...
But there are notable and needed changes with some unknowns that more say SDSU could falter again more than not. The DLine is rebuilt, they’re “having” to throw some spread into the offensive to mix it up, and the 3-3-5 defensive scheme should include needed new twists and improvements where it really stumbled the last part of 2018. So going against the grain a bit, the Aztecs may improve some from last season, but their high expectations won’t be met - meaning they won’t reach double-digit wins or 9 wins. Of course, 8 wins is still good, but not for Long.
Alex Valle: I believe three of the biggest storylines heading into the 2019 MWC football season are:
- Which coaches will be fired either during or after the completion of the 2019 season?
- Who will be the starting QB for Boise State?
- How will Fresno State look after such drastic changes to the coaching staff and the offense?
The QB battle at Boise State should be an interesting storyline to follow all season long between sophomore Chase Chord who is coming off a torn ACL and freshman Hank Bachmeier who was one of the most dominating QBs of his class.