The 2021 football season is officially over for the Mountain West. It ended with mixed results as the Mountain West had the best bowl record finishing 5-1. However, two bowls were cancelled due to COVID issues within the Boise State and Hawaii programs. For the next three weeks, we are going to focus on major storylines from each team and the conference as a whole. This week, we will focusing on the good, bad, and ugly storylines that impacted teams in the West division.
The Aztec Defense Dominates
The Aztecs are who they are and it works for them. They had a special defense and one of the best punters in college football history in Matt Araiza. Araiza’s ability to flip field position and the defense getting the opposition off the field in a hurry, allowed a mediocre offense to do just enough for the Aztecs to win the West division. This team returns plenty of talent in 2022, as they will look to repeat as division champions.
The Bulldogs Light Up the Scoreboard
This offense was a ton of fun to watch. Quarterback Jake Haener was one of the most dynamic players in league. His lightning quick release and amazing ball placement, helped Fresno State finish the season with 10 win. The return of Haener, Cropper, and Mims have left Bulldog fans with high expectations heading into next season. This team is an offensive line away from being a darkhorse for a New Years Six game in 2022.
UNLV Makes Strides, But Wins Are Scarce
The Rebels may have finished the season 2-10, but they were competitive in the majority of their games and it looks like they may be trending up under young head coach Marcus Arroyo. Six of the ten losses came by one score. Believe it or not, this team wasn’t that far from being a bowl team. I expect this squad to come closer to bowl eligibility in 2022.
Jay Norvell Leaves the Wolf Pack High and Dry
In one of the biggest shockers of the offseason, Jay Norvell accepted a job at Colorado State weeks after decimating them on the field. Not only did he leave the Wolf Pack, but he gutted their roster by having many critical Wolf Pack players leave Reno in favor of Fort Collins via the transfer portal. It was not the kind of move you expect within a Group of Five conference.
The Spartans Take A Significant Step Back
The magical 2020 COVID season that resulted in a conference championship feels like ages ago. This San Jose State squad did not come close to replicating the success it had in 2020. An early season injury to quarterback Nick Starkell exposed a Spartan offense that missed electric receivers like Tre Walker and Billy Gaither that left after their championship season. The Spartans will be an interesting team to watch next season, Hawaii transfer quarterback Chevan Cordeiro should have them trending in the right direction.
Controversy Surrounds the Rainbow Warriors
I’ve said it time and time again, but the hiring of Todd Graham made zero sense for a program that relies so much on finding the right cultural fit. Since the end of the 2021 season, 19 players have left the Hawaii program and Graham’s future is in doubt. For an athletic department that has financial trouble, they were very fortunate that Graham recently decided to step down and they are no longer on the hook for his hefty buyout.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Which moments from the 2021 season stood out to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.