With the season inching closer (finally!), it is time that we start breaking down the contenders and pretenders. In this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly,” we will be previewing which West Division teams have the best chances at success.
San Diego State
The Aztecs have the most talent in the West, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Their success will rely heavily on their ability or inability to pass the ball. SDSU has a bevy of talented running backs, but their inability to consistently throw the ball allows other teams to focus on the run. I think the Aztecs have a manageable schedule; they will finish the year 9-3 and represent the West in the Mountain West Championship game.
Revised: The impact of the restart is going to be felt by all California teams. I still think San Diego State is going to win the West, but there is going to be a lot of parity in the division. I think the Aztecs finish 6-2.
2019 was probably one of the more puzzling seasons for the Bulldogs. They were picked by many experts to represent the West in the championship game. I think 2019 was an outlier; this team was able to develop some young talent and should be vastly improved at the quarterback position. I think the Bulldogs are looking at a 7-5 season.
Revised: Fresno State may be taking the biggest hit here. They weren’t engaging in team activities and didn’t have all of their players on campus until after the announcement. I think this impacts the Bulldogs, and they finish the year 4-4.
I wasn’t really sure how to categorize the Wolf Pack, but I decided to put them in the “Good” category. I don’t think the Wolf Pack will meet the lofty expectations that some pundits have for them. I think they will probably have similar results to last season. I just can’t see them representing the West in the championship game.
Revised: Nevada and UNLV should be the most well prepared teams in the West. However, I’m still not sure that they have the talent to run away with the title. I think they go 5-3 and narrowly miss out on the Mountain West Championship Game.
San Jose State
The Spartans were a fun story last year. They were vastly improved and flirted with bowl eligibility. In 2019, they had a special quarterback talent in Josh Love. Love will be missed, but the Spartans still have their most talented player in wide receiver Tre Walker. The Spartans will be competitive again, but they will fall just short of a bowl appearance going 5-7.
Revised: This is going to hurt the Spartans. If they get to play a full season, I don’t think they reach .500. I have San Jose State finishing 2-6
Most of what I have seen and heard from Hawaii fans is cautious optimism. I’m not so optimistic about the future of the Hawaii football program and their new coaching hire in Todd Graham. I hope Graham can make it work; Hawaii had one of the more exciting teams in college football last season. Their success will all depend on Graham’s ability to adapt to an uptempo style of football. The Rainbow Warriors will take a step back in 2020; they will finish the season 6-7 and fall just short of a bowl berth.
Revised: Hawaii’s situation is interesting to say the least. A lot of turnover and plenty of uncertainty on the island. Hawaii finishes 3-5.
I love the Marcus Arroyo hire, and I love the recruiting class that they were able to put together. But we have to be honest here, have you seen UNLV’s schedule in 2020? It is brutal, and this team is going to be looking to develop young talent. Maybe they will get lucky, and Justin Rogers will be able to play. Even if that is the case, it is hard to see this team getting anywhere close to approaching bowl eligibility. UNLV will finish the season 3-9, but their play will give the fans hope for the future.
Revised: I’m going to bump UNLV up to the “Bad” category. I think they will be one of the more prepared teams in the division and will put up a good fight. The Rebels will finish 3-5 and build some hype heading into the 2021 season.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Next week, I will be making my big predictions for the coming season.