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 2019? Some might be funny. Some might be very important. Some we might forget to write on here. Last year was a definite success for the conference, as we outlined in our review article from January. Anyway, here is what we think will make for a successful MWC season. We used pretty much the same categories as last year but switched up the standards in each:
Strong Showing Against Power 5 Teams
This year, the MWC has 18 games in their non-conference slate against teams from Power 5 conferences, which is one more than last year. Some of these games are just a bit one-sided on paper, like San Jose State vs. Arkansas, Oregon vs. Nevada or New Mexico vs. Notre Dame. However, some games look winnable or competitive. These would include (but are not limited to): Hawaii vs. Oregon State, Colorado vs. Colorado State, Fresno State vs. Minnesota, and Utah State vs. Wake Forrest. Plus, upsets can happen, as Fresno State and Colorado State showed against UCLA and Arkansas last year.
There appear to be 6 games that MWC teams could or should win against Power 5 opponents. If they can manage to notch 5 or 6 wins, they will definitely leave their mark and be successful in this category.
Bowl Eligible Teams
Last season, the Mountain West produced 6 bowl teams, with 7 who were eligible. 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 4 teams in bowls this season (Boise State, Fresno State, SDSU, and most likely Utah State). But to be considered successful, they need to get to 6 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. It’s nice, but most people remember who won and who lost. 3-2-1 (or whatever we are calling the First Responder Bowl) last year was pretty good despite losing very winnable games. For the MWC to be considered a success in bowl season, they need to be above .500 once again. That means at the very least 4-2 (or 3-3 at the absolute minimum) with preferably one or two of those wins coming against power 5 teams.
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, last year it was Hawaii capturing national recognition by winning in the week 0 game everyone seemed to be watching. It was Jordan Love leading the Utah State Aggies to an 11 win season. It was Fresno State getting a win over Chip Kelly’s completely lost Bruins team. 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:
- The Jordan Love Heisman campaign. It will be great for the MWC if he can maintain his status as a dark horse candidate all season.
- The MWC is better when Hawaii is relevant. Can they repeat their play from last year?
- Boise State, SDSU, or Fresno State make a strong run to be the representative in the NY6 bowl
- A player is chasing a single season or career conference record. Logan Wilson’s attempt to become the conference’s all-time leader in tackles comes to mind.
- Curtis Weaver continuing his dominance this season and becoming a first-round NFL draft pick.
- 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.
Last year the Mountain West nailed this. Fresno State, Utah State, and Boise State all had over 10 wins, forming an excellent trio at the top. That, plus surprisingly good years from Hawaii and Nevada overcame a down year from San Diego State (which was still able to produce 7 wins). All in all, the conference was strong at the top and middle, and the bottom was very bottom.
This year, it is unlikely three teams will get to 10 wins again, but the Mountain West can still be considered strong at the top regardless. It’s safe to say Boise State, and one/both of Fresno State and San Diego State have strong years. Utah State probably isn’t too far behind, if they are behind at all. Having one or two of them rise above the rest and be in the hunt for a New Year’s Six bowl would be great, but have all four, or another surprise team, look strong won’t be bad either. Two ranked teams meeting in the conference championship would be the best-case scenario to give the Mountain West some national attention.
Figured this would be as good of a spot as any to officially go on record with some predictions. Note that all of these are just personal opinion and not hating or favoring any one team. I’d be happy to be wrong about some of these. Just what I think will happen. In January, when we revisit this entire post, I’ll own up to everything I got right or wrong.
- There will be two coaching fired/asked to resign by the end of the year, with one being New Mexico.
- UNLV will not make a bowl game.
- Hank Bachmeier will make at least one start this season.
- San Jose State will be improved, but it won’t really show in the record. Still, they get 3 wins.
- Wyoming will make a bowl game this season. They’ll be one of six teams.
- There will only be one MWC team with 10+ wins this year (don’t know who)
- Fresno State and Boise State go for round 3 in the MWC Championship game.
- Air Force will not win the Commander in Chief Trophy this season.
Here are just some of the factors that could make or break the 2019 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?