With the season almost within reach, the questions are straight to the point. This week is the same question as last week, only looking at the other side of the ball. Which team will have the best defense in the Mountain West Conference this season?
Zach: This is a tough one. My heart says to go with a Boise State team that has endless potential on the defensive line, experience at linebacker, and a strong secondary. My head says to go with San Diego State. I am going to go with the Aztecs, even though I think they might take a step back without Rocky Long at the helm. Their secondary could end up being one of the best in the nation. They have three legit defensive player of the year candidates in Hall, Johnson, and Thompson.
Adam: There is a lot to replace this season for the Wyoming Cowboys, but they are still my pick for this category this season. Solomon Byrd and Garrett Crall will anchor the defensive line that will be constantly getting pressure without blitzing. Keyon Blankenbaker will be the x-factor on this defense as he can slide down and play linebacker and come back up to play safety or corner. He’s good enough to cover tight ends and receivers and can also help stop the run game. The question marks will be with their safeties, but there is talent there and by the end of the season they could be on par with the rest of the defense.
Back in August, my answer would have been Wyoming. They have stout defensive units year after year, and still might this year, but it’s a bigger question mark with three presumptive starters currently in opt-out mode for this season. One of which is star Solomon Byrd. No matter how you slice it, that unit takes a hit.
Similarly, Air Force had arguably their three best starters exercise turnbacks for this season, which means they have 11 new starters on their defense. On the other hand, that defense was formidable in an actual college football game played a few weeks ago, the only team with game experience thus far. On the other other hand, that game was against Navy, who isn’t good this season. The Falcon’s defense are also far from a lock at this point.
On paper, the best defense appears to be Boise State, but it’s more of a theory at this point. Especially after losing all four starters on the defensive line and both safeties from last year’s first game. Of course, San Diego State can never be counted out and they clearly have the best secondary entering the season. I’ll hedge my bets a bit and say it will be one of these four teams but I can’t narrow it down beyond this for now.
Short and sweet - San Diego State. The defensive backfield is one of the best in college football, and they won’t face any real formidable running attacks, except BYU. That’s not to say the defense against the run will be bad though, their defensive line is among the best in the Mountain West, too.