Last week, we revisited my crystal ball predictions for the Mountain Division, where my picks were pretty spot on. This week, we will revisit my crystal ball predictions for the West, where my picks were, um...not so great. Let’s take a look at my good, bad, and ugly crystal ball picks for the West.
San Diego State
I thought the West Division title would come down to Fresno State and San Diego State. It turns out I should have replaced Fresno State with Hawaii. The Aztecs’ season finished with the outcome that I expected, but how they got there was significantly different. I thought Juwan Washington was a candidate to win Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, but health issues and inconsistencies in the passing game held him back. With that being said, great defensive play propelled the Aztecs to another season with double digit wins.
The writing was on the wall heading into the season for the Rebels. Their potential success hinged on two things: Could Tony Sanchez prove he is capable of being a college football head coach? And could Armani Rogers develop as a passer? Neither of those things really panned out for UNLV, but at least they finished the season with a victory over their rival, Nevada.
San Jose State
I struggled with this pick; I think some people give the Spartans too much credit for their performance in 2019. They had a nice win over Arkansas and finished the season with a victory over Fresno State, two wins that were unexpected before the season started. But, they had the best quarterback in the conference and still managed to miss a bowl game. However, the Spartans did exceed my expectations, and Brennan seems like a great fit for the job in San Jose.
I didn’t think the Wolf Pack had what it took to be a bowl team in 2019; I was wrong, They were far and away the most inconsistent team in the division, but they were able to piece together a respectable record. The Wolf Pack will be a trendy pick to win the West Division in 2020, but it will all hinge on the development of quarterback Carson Strong.
Honestly, this was far and away my worst prediction of the season. I thought that Fresno State and former head coach Jeff Tedford were building a program that would reload on an annual basis and would be in contention for the Mountain West title. Boy, was I wrong. The Bulldogs looked like a team that was searching for their identity, and it got worse as the season progressed. They showed flashes against teams like Minnesota and Hawaii, but then they lost games to teams like San Jose State and Nevada. I think the Bulldogs will be improved in 2020, as the young team will have more experience and should be better at the quarterback position.
I thought the Rainbow Warriors would take a significant step back in 2019 and would be a fringe, bowl team. I was very wrong. While Hawaii did struggle with inconsistent play at points, they were much better on the defensive side of the ball than I thought they would be. They struggled against well rounded teams like Boise State and Washington, but a division title and two PAC-12 wins is nothing to frown at. I do think Hawaii will take a step back under their new head coach in 2020, but I think Graham will keep the Hawaii program in the title discussion when the 2021 season comes around.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Next week we will be taking a look at the recent coaching hires.