Wow! “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” has been going strong for over a year now. I just want to take a quick moment to thank everyone who has been reading; it has been a ton of fun. With that being said, my favorite GBU of 2018 was the “Crystal Ball” edition. Last year, I predicted strong seasons from Utah State and Nevada and poor seasons from Colorado State and New Mexico. This year, I am going to take a bit of a different approach, as I will be previewing both divisions. This week is the Mountain Division.
Boise State Reloads
There are plenty of questions surrounding the Bronco offense. They are replacing Brett Rypien and Alexander Mattison, two of the best players to don the blue and orange. But there are capable replacements at both positions. The Broncos have multiple quarterbacks vying for the job, but it will likely come down to Chase Cord and Hank Bachmeier. Cord is coming back from an ACL injury, but I expect him to be ready to go by fall camp. Bachmeier is the highest rated recruit to ever sign with Boise State. Expectations are sky high for the true freshman. Whoever wins the battle will have plenty of weapons at the wide receiver position, as the Broncos have at least six receivers that are expected to be key contributors.
Boise State has a history of relying heavily on one running back. I think that changes in 2019. The running back room is loaded with talent and depth; that hasn’t been the case for quite some time. Andrew Van Buren will likely be the featured back, but Robert Mahone, Danny Smith, and George Holani will all compete for carries.
Wyoming Battles for the Mountain
Look at their schedule. It is super favorable. Eight or nine wins seems realistic for the Cowboys. Last year, it was the Aggies that benefited from a favorable schedule. This year, it is Wyoming. The Cowboys spent the majority of the season trying to solve their issues at the quarterback position. Late in the season, it looked like they found their guy in Sean Chambers. Chambers isn’t going to blow anyone away with his arm, but his ability to run the ball will help the Cowboys to a second place finish in the Mountain and a return to a bowl game.
Air Force Gets Back on Track
Air Force football has struggled the past few seasons. Last year, they had some significant struggles on the defensive side of the ball and did some juggling at the quarterback position. While I wouldn’t say their schedule is easy, there is room for improvement. They face Fresno State, Hawaii, and San Jose State from the West. If they can go 2-1 against those teams and split their games against Wyoming and Utah State, I think they will be able to secure a spot in a bowl game.
Utah State Takes a Step Back
Do I think Utah State is going to be a bad team in 2019? No. Do I think they are going to take a significant step back? Yes. Utah State is getting plenty of preseason love, especially with the return of quarterback Jordan Love and elite linebacker David Woodward. Love will be the preseason Mountain West offensive player of the year and Woodward has a chance to get the defensive nod. However, the Aggies have a ton of questions, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Jordan Love will be playing with an entirely new offensive line. He is also replacing the majority of his receivers. My biggest cause for concern when it comes to the Aggies is their schedule. They have three tough out-of-conference games in LSU, BYU, and Wake Forest. Not to mention the toughest conference schedule of any Mountain West team (Boise State, Wyoming, Air Force, Fresno State, San Diego State, and Nevada). They will need to go at least 4-2 if not 5-1 against those teams. That’s a tall task.
The Bob Davie Era Comes to an End in New Mexico
New Mexico has been a puzzling program to watch the past few seasons. In his first few years at the helm, Davie had the Lobos looking like a program on the rise. Financial issues in the athletic program, some issues with players, and a change in offensive philosophy have put the Lobos back at the bottom of the Mountain. That’s not going to change in 2019; the Lobos will finish the season 4-8 and Bob Davie will likely be out of a job.
The Colorado State Defense Costs Them a Bowl Bid (Again)
Mike Bobo’s Colorado State team took an interesting turn in 2018. The Rams had built a reputation for being a solid team that just couldn’t take the next step to the top. Well, they took some significant steps backward in 2018. The defense was awful and the offense wasn’t quite strong enough to keep up. I expect much of the same in 2019. The Rams will be solid on the offensive side of the ball, but they will struggle to stop their opponents. The Rams have a brutal schedule this year; a 1-5 start is not out of the picture. Will another year without a bowl game cost Bobo his job?
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Stay tuned for next week’s edition where I make my predictions for the West Division.