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MWCConnection Roundtable: Which coach has the most to prove in 2021?

Mountain West Football Championship - Boise State v San Jose State Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

One of our favorite annual Roundtable posts is discussing which coach is on the hotseat this upcoming year. However, with 8 coaches either in their first or second season at the helm and the remaining four all enjoying varying degrees of success, no one is really on the hotseat. Instead, we adjusted the question to: Which coach has the most to prove this upcoming season?

Zach: Craig Bohl. The Cowboys have high expectations this season and their OOC slate is among the worst I’ve ever seen. If Wyoming can’t manage 10 wins this year, it will never happen.

Vic: First coach that immediately comes to mind is UNLV’s Marcus Arroyo. There are millions of reasons that lean into him. Arroyo’s five-year $7.7 million deal makes him the third highest paid Mountain West football coach and the new $34.8 million athletic facility needs its ROI in wins nearly right away.

Arroyo’s $1.5 million-a-year salary not only makes him the highest-paid coach in UNLV’s football history but also the highest paid for any coach in any sport in the state’s history. It’s more than double the yearly salary of previous head coach, Tony Sanchez. It’s also Arroyo’s first head coaching job.

Expectations are high as is the pressure, which means Arroyo’s year-two absolutely needs to show consistent signs-of-life at the very least.

Mike: I think Bohl will be a popular choice for this roundtable, and it’s likely the right choice. Outside of a year with a first round QB, he has been pretty consistent with 6-8 win teams built on running backs, stout defenses, and an inconsistent passing game. With their schedule this year, they should have a strong year. If they don’t, then Bohl has officially reached his ceiling, which is still very good.

However, I think Jay Norvell and the Wolf Pack arguably have the most to prove this season. They have improved each season under Norvell, and are fresh off their best season. They have some national hype, including some potential first-round buzz with QB Carson Strong, and are build on a high-powered offense. Expectations are as high as they have been around Nevada since the Kaepernick days and it will be up to Norvell to guide his team to live up to it. Other coaches may have a bigger need to be successful, but the Wolf Pack possibly have the biggest weight on their shoulders this upcoming year.

Alex: The coach with the most to prove this year is Marcus Arroyo. There was a lot of hype around him coming into his first year and the Rebels went winless in six games. Now, COVID did have an impact on Arroyo and his staff to implement their systems, but the Rebels were bad in all six games last year. UNLV has a very challenging schedule, so there is no pressure to go to a bowl game this year, but there is pressure on him to show a drastic improvement from year one to year two. If the Rebels can find three or four wins, the program will have the momentum to compete for a bowl spot in his third season.

Graham_Gibson: With all the talk of San Jose State last season and moving forward to this season, it isn’t impossible to think that the Spartans could have another successful season and still have a lot to prove. If San Jose State had just missed out on the conference championship game or lost in the title game, I would say that coach Brett Brennan still has a lot to prove. Craig Bohl has a lot to prove as he had high expectations coming to Wyoming but hasn’t quite delivered the past two seasons. Andy Avalos certainly has a lot to prove as a new head coach for Boise State and Todd Graham also has a lot to prove, improving off of last season and keeping Hawaii competitive in the division. However, there is one team that just missed out last year and that coach has a lot to prove.

Nevada did pretty good last season and was one win away from being in the conference title game, so they might have the most to prove of any of the Mountain West teams. Jay Norvell is 25-22 through four seasons as the head coach of the Wolfpack. In his first season the Wolfpack went 3-9 (3-5) and finished fourth in the West division. In 2018 Nevada put up a record of 8-5 (5-3) and finished tied for second in the division while picking up a bowl win over Arizona. During the 2019 season, Nevada posted a record of 7-6 (4-4) and the Wolfpack would finish third in the west, losing in the Idaho Potato Bowl. Norvell had his best season during the shortened 2020 season, going 7-6 (6-2) and finishing second in the division. This time around, Nevada would pick up a win in the Idaho Potato Bowl. Looking at how Nevada has fared in the division the past few seasons, not counting 2017, Nevada has been competitive but hasn’t quite been able to get the wins they needed to make it to the conference championship game. LAst season it was a loss to San Jose State and the season before it was a loss to Hawaii and UNLV late in the season. Jay Norvell has the most to prove because he has a consistent quarterback and a team that brings back experience and will likely be a force in the West division. The schedule isn’t a cakewalk with games against Cal and Kansas State, but Norvell has the pieces to make a run at Nevada’s first ever Mountain West Championship appearance.