Spring is in the air and so are a bunch of pointless predictions that are sure to be wrong. This week, we are going to take a break from out preview series (don’t worry special teams fans, I will get to you) and look at ESPN’s Football Power Index preview for the 2021 season. The numbers displayed are the ranking and projected wins and losses. Let’s take a look at the Good, Bad, and Ugly of ESPN’s FPI.
Nevada (75, 7.8-4.6)
Nevada might have the best quarterback in the conference, but the best team? That might be a stretch. With that being said, I think ESPN nailed both the ranking and the win projection for the Wolf Pack. I just think there should be a team or two higher than them.
San Jose State (83, 7.3-4.9)
The Spartans lose a lot with Tre Walker and Billy Gaither gone, but this is a fair ranking and win projection. The West is going to be brutal this year. It wouldn’t shock me if the winner was 8-4 or 7-5.
Fresno State (94, 6.5-5.6)
The Bulldogs are going to have a really good offense, but there are plenty of questions on the defensive side of the ball. They should be a bowl team and could be a team that spoils the championship hopes of their division rivals. FPI nailed this projection.
Colorado State (106, 5.0-7.1)
The Rams showed flashes in their very limited action last year. I think there are some teams in front of them that they would beat, but the win projection is fair. I’m curious to see how they stack up with Air Force and Wyoming this year.
New Mexico (117. 5.5-6.5)
The win projection is probably a little on the high side, but the Lobos are going to be improved this year. This projection is fair.
Utah State (120, 4.7-7.3)
We keep hearing from Aggies fans that they are going to surprise a lot of people this year. That may be the case, but I just can’t see it. Utah State is hinging their hope on hitting the grad transfer jackpot. I’m skeptical and think this projection is fair.
UNLV (122, 2.5-9.5)
The Rebels have been recruiting well. Recruiting eventually pays off, but it is hard to see more than two or three wins on their schedule. If they manage four or five wins, give Marcus Arroyo an extension.
Hawaii (84, 8.5-4.8)
FPI has a lot of faith in the Rainbow Warriors. Giving them the second best odds to win the West is a bit of a reach. I think they are a bowl team, but the highest win total in the Mountain West? That’s a stretch.
Air Force (98, 7.3-4.9)
I don’t have a problem with the win-loss projection, but the ranking is disrespectful. Maybe the projections aren’t accounting for all of the talent coming back for the Falcons. They are a top 80 team at least.
Boise State (78, 6.8-5.6)
When I saw this, it gave me a good laugh. Is it a coincidence that Boise State’s level of respect has diminished since ESPN quit carrying their games? Yes, this is probably the toughest schedule in school history and losing three out-of-conference games is not a complete stretch. But, Boise State could lose every moderately questionable game on their schedule and still go 7-5. Plus, like the other teams in this category, the defense alone is worth seven wins.
San Diego State (92, 7.2-5.0)
I don’t necessarily have a problem with the win total, but the Aztecs being the 92nd best team in the country is a joke. I’m confident that San Diego State would handle the Sun Belt and MAC teams that are ranked in front of them. An elite defense goes a long way.
Wyoming (100, 6.9-5.3)
I think the Cowboys are probably an eight win team with their schedule, but the top three teams in the Mountain should be really good next year, so seven wins might be fair. But like the Aztecs, I have plenty of issues with the ranking. Wyoming should be improved and will be better than a number of teams in front of them.
One thing is clear, the Mountain West is getting zero respect from the FPI. These rankings put them at the same level as the Sun Belt. Do we really think Troy would beat Boise State or Nevada? Hopefully the conference can silence the doubters and have a strong 2021 season. That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Next week, we will be wrapping up our preview series as we look at the special teams units for each team in the Mountain West.