This week’s question is simple and straight to the point. 10 wins is usually the benchmark for what separates a good team from a great team in a season. For the 2021 football season, how many 10-win teams will there be in the Mountain West?
Zach: I think it’s one or none. On paper, Wyoming has the schedule to get it done. I don’t think they have the quarterback though. Boise State will need to probably win 2 out of 3 against BYU, Oklahoma State, UCF. I think there are a lot of 7 to 8 win teams. But I will go with Boise State as the only 10 win team.
Jeremy: Hmm, define 10 wins. I’m guessing this is just the regular season? Meaning 10-2 (or 10-3 in Hawaii’s case). I will say none. Boise State, Nevada, San Jose State, and Wyoming all have the potential for it, but I see all finishing somewhere in the 8-4 or 9-3 range. Wyoming’s schedule is just awful, this could be the breakout season. Boise State, even if it flourishes come conference play, needs to win 1/3 against @ UCF/Oklahoma State/@ BYU to reach 10-2. That’s asking a lot. Nevada and San Jose State will each drop a game or two against West foes. Hawaii, Fresno, and San Diego State will play saboteur. So call me negative Nancy, but I’m saying zero reach 10, several reach 8-4/9-3. Darkhorse: Air Force.
Mike: Looking into this year, there are no locks as there usually are. I think two teams reach that peak, but I can’t venture as to which teams actually will. A case can be made for a few teams. Boise State, San Jose State and Nevada are all talented enough to reach that plateau but their schedules are difficult. On the other end of the spectrum, Wyoming has an extremely easy schedule on paper, but may not have the talent to put it together. Air Force is only two seasons removed from a 10-win season themselves and they have a defense that was one of the nation’s best last year and will probably get better next this year. Is the answer as clear as mud? Good.
Alex: It is hard to say if there will be any 10-win teams in the Mountain West this season, there are not any sure-bet, slam-dunk, candidates like there might be in years past. Given the parity among teams in the Mountain West and the challenging West Division, I say there will be zero teams that get to 10 wins in the regular season. To put a positive spin on things, there are three teams that have a chance to get to 10 wins, Boise State, Wyoming, and Nevada. The Broncos are consistently the best, or one of the best, teams in the conference and they also have much more talent than other teams, but they have non-conference games against UCF, Oklahoma State, and BYU. Wyoming has an easy non-conference schedule, if they start 4-0, they could have a chance, but they will have to face Boise State, Hawaii, Fresno State, and San Jose State. The last team, Nevada, could do it because they have the best quarterback in the conference. However, they are in the challenging West Division and also face Boise State. While I do not think the Mountain West will have a team in the regular season that gets to 10 wins, they might get a team or two that gets to 10 wins from bowl wins or a win in the conference title game.
Vic: To make it quick and easy, a gut feeling is Nevada based on QB Carson Strong and a very strong receiving corp. They’re well intact like many other teams and glancing at their conference and non-conference games, it seems plausible. Also, gut feel says they can get by Boise in their first conference game, which is my anchor point to this 10-win question. But at the same time, it’s not to say they can win the conference title.
Graham_Gibson: Last season, the Mountain West didn’t have any 10 win teams because none of the teams in the conference played 10 games. However, looking at the 2019 season, the Mountain West had a lot of success. Boise State grabbed wins over Florida State and Marshall. Air Force had wins over Colorado, Army, and Washington State (bowl game) while Hawaii had wins over Arizona, Oregon State, Army, and BYU (bowl game). San Diego State beat UCLA, BYU, and Central Michigan (bowl game). The Broncos (12-2; 8-0), the Falcons (11-2; 7-1), the Warriors (10-5; 5-3), and the Aztecs (10-3; 5-3) all had over 10 wins and grabbed important non -conference wins. In 2018 the Mountain West had three 10 plus win teams in Boise State, Utah State, and Fresno State and in 2017, the conference also had three 10 plus win teams that included Boise State, San Diego State, and Fresno State. In 2016 there were two teams that had 10 or more wins (Boise State and San Diego State) and in 2015, San Diego State was the only team to reach that achievement. During the 2014 season, the mountain division was on fire, producing four 10 win teams in Boise State (12-2; 7-1), Colorado State (10-3; 6-2), Utah State (10-4; 6-2), and Air Force (10-3; 5-3) and the conference also saw Boise State take down Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2013, Fresno State was the only team to get 10 wins or over, going 11-2 (7-1) and losing to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.
That’s just a little history. Now back to the question: How many 10 win teams is the Mountain West going to have this year? Well the conference usually produces two, sometimes even three 10 win teams. I think Boise State is a lock, they have a very difficult out of conference schedule but they haven’t had less than 10 wins since 2015. The question is who the other two or maybe three teams are. Nevada, San Diego State, Hawaii, and Air Force should all have chances to get there. If Hawaii can get a win over UCLA and wins over San Diego State and Fresno State in conference play, they should have a good chance. San Diego State has out of conference games against Arizona and Utah, both should pose challenges. Nevada has out of conference games against Cal and Kansas State and must also face Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State on the road not to mention the games against the Bears and Wildcats will both be on the road. Air Force doesn’t have as big of a challenge as other Mountain West teams out of conference so if they can win big in conference, they will be in good position. My prediction is that there will be three teams that will have 10 or more wins and those teams will be Boise State, Air Force, and San Diego State as those teams are consistently competitive in their respective divisions. The Mountain West also turns out about three 10 win teams each year as already mentioned so three 10 win teams is quite reasonable.
Matt Hanifan: I am not sure there are any concrete 10-win teams, but I believe that Boise State has the the best odds. I strongly considered Wyoming and Nevada as well. The Cowboys received consideration because of their undemanding non-conference schedule coupled with the amount of production it returns on both ends of the football. But road contests against Boise State, San Jose State and Air Force plus a home affair against Fresno State rest in their path. Nevada’s schedule isn’t much easier, either; it will have road dates with Kansas State, California, Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State as well as a home contest against San Jose State. The Wolf Pack return 10 starters on offense — including the reigning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year Carson Strong and Elijah Cooks, who was limited to just one half last year; they also return a majority of their important defensive cogs within their front-seven and should have a formidable secondary. But it left the Silver State just twice in 2020 and have a much tougher road ahead in 2021. Both Wyoming and Nevada are capable of 10-win seasons, especially with a bowl game or a potential Mountain West Title berth. But both will have to be near-perfect to achieve 10 wins. Boise State has a tough path as well (as mentioned above) with BYU, UCF and Oklahoma State, the former two away from home. The Broncos are an overwhelming favorite to earn its fifth-straight Mountain West title bid and have posted 10-win campaigns in 15 of the last 18 seasons (min. 10 games played), including at least 11 wins in 12 of those seasons. It could very well add to that mark in 2021, too.
Adam: I think the only 10 win team that comes out of the conference this season will be Nevada. The Pack have 20 starters returning this season, and do not have a daunting out of conference schedule to deal with. I mean Cal, Idaho State, Kansas State and New Mexico State, all winnable contests. Big games in conference against Boise State and San Jose State, but the Pack should be in those games, if not favored going into them. This should be a 10 or 11 win ball club.