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Peak Perspective: Realistic Four Year Cycle (Year 1 Check-In)

Last year, a column was dedicated to identifying four-year realistic cycles for each team. this year, a one-year check-in will take place to see how each team is doing so far. Check below for each team’s four-year win highs and lows, as well as their potential bowl and conference championship cycles.

Disclaimer: each team’s specific breakdown is meant to be examined in its own context, not in relation to every other team. This means that multiple teams may have the expectation of making a conference championship once every four years, even if it’s not possible for each team to do so over the same four-year period.

Air Force

  • Four year high: 11 wins
  • Four year low: 6 wins
  • Other two years: 8 wins (10 wins)
  • Bowl cycle: Four out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: The Falcons have a high ceiling but low floor given the uniqueness of their offensive scheme, which can lead to polarizing results. In the past few years, they have either had a dynamic offense or a stout defense, and when they have both, they are one of the best teams in the conferences. If they only have one or the other, Air Force becomes more the type of team that competes for bowl berths, which they should achieve every year.
  • Year 1: Air Force has a strong season, and that shows up in their ability to check some things off of their list of expectations. They made a bowl game and are above average in the win column, as far as what is listed here anyway. Although the Falcons fell just short of their four-year high for wins, next year’s team is supposed to be even better, at least on paper, so they will have a good shot to reach that eleven-win plateau.

Boise State

  • Four year high: 12 wins
  • Four year low: 9 wins (7 wins)
  • Other two years: 10.5 wins
  • Bowl cycle: Four out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • MWC Championship game: three out of four years
  • NY6 bowl: One out of four years
  • Bottom Line: The Broncos have the highest set of expectations, and for good reason. They have the most consistent track record on the field and bring in the most talent on the recruiting trail. Ten-win seasons are pretty much the norm, give or take a win depending on the year. There’s no reason they shouldn’t make a bowl every season and find themselves in the championship game nearly every year. Although they haven’t done so in quite a while, they should also be making a New Year’s Six Bowl appearance once a cycle.
  • Year 1: To be completely clear: there is a certain standard at Boise State. And they fell short of that standard in 2021. At the same time, they were still able to save their season by pulling out a few nice wins and making a bowl. They were not able to achieve their “four-year low” minimum number of wins. The Broncos have the highest set of expectations for Mountain West teams listed here, but they are called expectations for a reason. Things will have to change for them to achieve the rest of the goals placed on them.

Colorado State

  • Four year high: 7 wins
  • Four year low: 3 wins (3 wins)
  • Other two years: 4.5 wins
  • Bowl cycle: One out of four years (0 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: The Rams are transitioning into a young team looking for more future cornerstones. The next season or two figures to bring some low points in the cycle as they fully transition from the old regime to the current schemes under Steve Addazio. Expect a season or two with three or four wins to their name before a bowl berth at the all too familiar 7-6 benchmark.
  • Year 1: The Rams hit their win-floor this year, and hopefully, that will remain their floor going forward. Thankfully, the coaching change should help that. And that is the difficulty with these expectations; they are made for the current coaching staff, and the results will look different with a new coaching staff (see Utah State below). Due to that, Colorado State should have no trouble achieving the high end of these expectations and perhaps even eclipse some of them, such as bowl games.

Fresno State

  • Four year high: 10 wins (10 wins)
  • Four year low: 5 wins
  • Other two years: 7.5 wins
  • Bowl cycle: Three out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • MWC Championship game: one out of four years
  • Bottom Line: The Bulldogs were a tough team to place, as they have had more extreme highs and lows than other teams, making it difficult to establish a true base. They appear to have another special season on the horizon with the way they recruited and hit the transfer portal, thus the reason for listing the ten wins and conference championship appearance. However, they are also prone to misfiring out of the gate and not being able to recover, so they have a low floor listed as well. For bowls, it seems like a safer bet they clinch one more often than not.
  • Year 1: After the first year of this cycle, the Bulldogs are right on track. They reached the ten-win mark following their victory in the bowl game and are still primed to make a run next season as well, so they have the potential to exceed their expectations. Fresno State, like any of these teams, is difficult to predict year to year, but with a good core, talented recruits, and a coaching staff that is good with developing players, they are as good of a bet as any over the next three seasons.

Hawaii

  • Four year high: 8 wins
  • Four year low: 4 wins
  • Other two years: 5.5 wins (6 wins)
  • Bowl cycle: Two out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: The Rainbow Warriors took a gentle step back from the championship appearance the year before, but more challenging times may be coming up ahead for them. They have entirely changed their schemes, and thus, the roster needs a makeover to find players who fit those schemes. It would be expected to see some middling years, low highs and high lows, with no extreme season on either end. Hawaii should be a good bet to make at least one bowl, however.
  • Year 1: Hawaii usually plays an extra game compared to their peers, but they are not handicapped for that as far as expectations go. They reached six years, even in a trying season, which helps them out when it comes to meeting expectations. Especially because lean years seem to be on the horizon. The eight-win mark may seem like a pipe-dream right now, but reaching a bowl game sometime in the next three years should not be an issue for the Rainbow Warriors.

Nevada

  • Four year high: 9
  • Four year low: 5
  • Other two years: 7.5 (8 wins)
  • Bowl cycle: Three out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • MWC Championship game: One of our four years
  • Bottom Line: The Wolf Pack have earned the benefit of the doubt here as they have raised their standard already the past few seasons with three straight bowls. It seems fair to expect them to finish above .500 and reach a bowl three out of the next four years, and it’s not too much to ask to win the West division of those seasons. No one has raised their floor more than Nevada these past four years, which is reflected here.
  • Year 1: This was the year for Nevada and although they fell short of their expectations and just short of the high mark listed here, it was a soft landing for them with eight wins. The Wolf Pack appears on track to stay within the range laid out for them here, but with the coaching change and a rebuild on the horizon, that is now in jeopardy. However, the games are played for a reason and they could surprise and rise to the challenge.

New Mexico

  • Four years high: 6 wins
  • Four year low: 2 wins
  • Other two years: 4 wins (3 wins)
  • Bowl cycle: One out of four years (0 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: As a team in the beginning stages of a complete rebuild, there is no need to set expectations that have no chance of being completed. That being said, the Lobos were reasonably impressive in their first season under Danny Gonzales, competing in almost every game and getting in the win column twice. Reaching six wins and a bowl game does not seem out of the question for them in this cycle, and raising their floor with a few four-win seasons also seems attainable in the back of half the four years.
  • Year 1: The Lobos are more or less on track with the expectations laid out for them. They are trying to climb up the win column slowly. They still have some wiggle room for a down year, but hopefully, it won’t come to that. 2022 should show more growth and competitiveness, although that remains to be seen. The things listed here are pretty achievable; just make a bowl by 2024. Otherwise, no one is expecting too much from New Mexico.

San Diego State

  • Four years high: 10 wins (12 wins)
  • Four year low: 7 wins
  • Other two years: 8.5 wins
  • Bowl cycle: Four out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • MWC Championship game: One out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: The Aztecs have long been considered the most consistent team in the conference, which carries positive and negative connotations. Their expectations in the next cycle reflect much of what they’ve already done; they have a higher floor than most but a lower ceiling compared to some. This results in expecting SDSU to have solid but not spectacular seasons, which annual bowl appearances and hopefully a conference title appearance along with it.
  • Year 1: The Aztecs cleared the bar and then some during 2021. They already achieved a conference championship appearance as well as double-digit wins. Now, most of what they do going forward can basically be a bonus. San Diego State doesn’t really have down years, so their floor is higher than most, and it is hard to see them doing worse than that. They are set up pretty well in the years to come.

San Jose State

  • Four years high: 7 wins
  • Four year low: 4 wins
  • Other two years: 5.5 wins (5 wins)
  • Bowl cycle: Two out of four years (0 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: It remains to be seen if 2020 is the high point for the Spartans or the start of a new wave of competitiveness. Due to that, their expectations are set somewhere in the middle. They likely have another bowl season or two in them, and their floor embraces a likely fallout as this wave of players phases out. They were difficult to figure out but will be among the most interesting to follow.
  • Year 1: The Spartans came back down to earth in 2021, but thankfully for them, their four-year expectations prepared for that. Still, they have their work cut out for them still and will need to rebound going forward. They should be right around a bowl team every season in the near future, and their range of expectations is pretty narrow, so they are still in a good position to continue to meet them.

UNLV

  • Four year high: 4 wins
  • Four year low: 1 win
  • Other two years: 3.5 wins (2 wins)
  • Bowl cycle: One out of four years (0 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: The Rebels get some leeway with their expectations as they are a rebuilding program. Their high win total is the benchmark goal for year three or four, and making a bowl game at some point in this cycle would be a major boon for the program. Incremental success is the name of the game for Arroyo and his program, for this cycle anyway.
  • Year 1: The team with the lowest expectations still isn’t guaranteed to meet them. 2022 is the year the Rebels need to start showing improvement. Thankfully, it will be easy to build upon the two wins from last season. UNLV still has a shot at reaching these goals, but next year will show how optimistic to be about reaching their goals.

Utah State

  • Four year high: 5.5 wins (11 wins)
  • Four year low: 2 wins
  • Other two years: 3.5 wins
  • Bowl cycle: One out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • MWC Championship game/champions
  • Bottom Line: It doesn’t seem that long ago that the Aggies were not only in the top of the conference standings but also nationally ranked. Times have changed, and expectations along with it. With a rebuild appearing likely and necessary, Utah State falls into a grouping with other teams looking to start from the ground up. Preparing for lean years with only two or three wins seems like a safe bet, with reaching a bowl or falling just short feeling attainable on the back end of the cycle.
  • Year 1: As stated in quite a few previous articles, our estimation of Utah State in 2021 was extremely off-base. They have already blown through the glass ceiling of the expectations laid out for them last season and are set up to be competitive for the foreseeable future, even if they won’t always be able to match last year’s pace. Regardless, they are almost certain not to be at the bottom of the conference.

Wyoming

  • Four year high: 9 wins
  • Four year low: 6 wins
  • Other two years: 7.5 wins (7 wins)
  • Bowl cycle: Three out of four years (1 out of 1)
  • Bottom Line: Under Craig Bohl, the Cowboys have achieved something they have never experienced before: consistency as a good but not great team. Expect more of the same going forward because there is no reason to believe anything different. They should make a bowl game at least three of the next four years if not all four. They will likely be in the seven or eight-win range, give or take a win on either end. While the hope is there is still a special season to be had one of these years, having a high floor is much better than the alternative of years past.
  • Year 1: Wyoming turned in a season basically in the middle of their stated expectations. They reached seven wins which is more or less their average. Plus, they got to a bowl game right away, giving them some wiggle room over the next three seasons. Basically, the Cowboys are right on track with their expectations, at least for the time being.