In this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly,” we are going to be focusing on the biggest storylines heading into the 2020 season. Some of these storylines look at what I think will be positives (hard to do that right now) while others focus on the negatives.
Boise State Looks For Four
The Broncos are on a quest for their fourth consecutive division title. Boise State will look to stake their claim on the Mountain. It is important for the rest of the division to step it up. Boise State is on the verge of leaving the rest of the teams in the dust. If the Broncos manage to make the conference championship for the fourth consecutive year, the rest of the Mountain will need to take a long look in the mirror.
All the Running Backs
The conference is completely loaded with elite running backs; it is probably the deepest position in the Mountain West. There will be a number of 1,000 yard rushers including George Holani, Charles Williams, Xazavian Valladay, and Ronnie Rivers to name a few. The race for first team running back should be a fun one.
The Wild West
The West Division is going to be wide open, or it appears that way, at least. Hawaii will probably take a step back. They are replacing a ton of talent at skill positions and an NFL quarterback in Cole McDonald. Fresno State should be vastly improved with Jake Haener under center. He should provide some stability to an offense that sputtered in 2019. But the favorite is probably San Diego State. The Aztecs will have the best defense in the conference, and they have a talented stable of running backs. The biggest question for SDSU is quarterback; if they can even be average at that position, they will be dangerous. Nevada is also a trendy pick. They return most of the talent off of a team that went bowling in 2019.
Half of the conference will be under the leadership of new coaches. Some situations (SDSU, Fresno State) are better than others (New Mexico, UNLV). New coaches usually go one way or the other. The team bonds behind new leadership and exceeds expectations (New Mexico might fit this mold), or the talent struggles to meet expectations under leadership that did not recruit them (Colorado State might meet this criteria). Every year there are new coaches, but with all of the challenges that 2020 has thrown our way, these coaches will have their hands full.
Lack of Elite Quarterbacks
The Mountain West might be full of elite running backs, but we can’t say the same for quarterbacks. Hank Bachmeier looked special before going down with an injury. Donald Hammond is the most proven quarterback in the conference, but he does not fit the traditional mold of a college quarterback. I think there will be a few surprises at the quarterback position, like Jake Haener at Fresno State and Carson Strong at Nevada. But overall, it is hard not to consider quarterback play a weakness in the Mountain West.
Donald Hammond III
Will the Air Force quarterback play this season? News recently broke that he has gotten into some trouble. This would be a huge hit to an Air Force program that appeared to be in contention for a conference title.
I probably don’t even need to say anything here. At the time of this writing, the Big 10 and PAC 12 have both announced they will not play non-conference games this season, and multiple FCS conferences said they will look into playing football in the fall. If we are being honest, it doesn’t look like football will happen this year, and it will impact a handful of Mountain West teams that rely on the big paydays from out-of-conference games.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Next week we will be continuing our preview series.