We have reached a point in the year where we have nothing to do but discuss the past or hypotheticals. I love numbers and I love predictions. We all know they are essentially meaningless, but they help keep us occupied during the doldrums of the offseason. Today we are going to dive into the good, bad, and ugly of ESPN’s FPI projections for the Mountain West.
Boise State (9.6-3.0)
The Broncos are projected to win between 9 and 10 games and have the best record in the Mountain West. If Boise State is a realistic contender, we will likely know by the end of week one when they travel to Corvallis to take on Oregon State. Boise State’s schedule is much more manageable this year, and most of their tough games are at home. This team could finish anywhere between 7-5 and 11-1.
Fresno State (8.2-4.3)
According to FPI, the Bulldogs are the favorites in the West. I have to agree. The Bulldogs have the best skill position talent in the league, and the West Division will not be as strong in 2022. The 8-4 projection seems fair, but it wouldn’t shock me if this team wins 10 games. It really comes down to whether or not they improve in the trenches. Do we get Boise State-Fresno State in the title game for the fourth time?
San Diego State (7.9-4.3)
Aztec fans are not a fan of this 7-5 or 8-4 projection. But the Aztecs were a couple of bounces away from this kind of record last year. Losing Araiza is huge for this team. They were able to control field position, which was huge for a struggling offense. I could see the Aztecs finishing with anywhere between 6 and 9 wins. But they should be the second best team in the West.
Utah State (6.6-5.5)
I know Aggie fans are going to destroy me in the comments, but 6 or 7 wins for this team does not seem unrealistic. Now, I want to make it clear that it would not shock me if they end up with 8 or 9 wins. But I can see Utah State losing to Alabama, BYU, Boise State, and Air Force. They will probably be favored in the other 8 games, but if they drop one, that puts them right at the 7 win mark.
San Jose State (5.8-6.2)
This is a really solid projection for the Spartans. They should be improved with Cordeiro at quarterback, and they bring back a fair amount of talent. This group doesn’t have the makings of a championship team, but they should be improved. I think Brennan rights the ship this offseason and the Spartans go bowling.
This has to be considered a disappointing offseason for Marcus Arroyo and the Rebels. They have lost some very talented players to the portal, including young quarterback Doug Brumfield. I used to think that UNLV had a chance to be a bowl contender, but now four wins seems about right. Would four wins be enough for Arroyo to keep his job?
New Mexico (3.1-8.9)
The Lobos are projected to finish with the worst record in the Mountain West. Considering what we saw late last season, it is hard to argue for more than 3 wins. The Lobos have two winnable games on their non-conference schedule, but are they talented enough to win a game in league play? Danny Gonzales needs to get this team trending in a better direction.
Colorado State (4.8-7.3)
Colorado State fans seem to think they have found a diamond in Jay Norvell. Norvell is coming off of what I would consider a disappointing season as the head coach at Nevada. With that being said, I think Norvell is an upgrade over Steve Addazio. But I don’t know if he has what it take to make the Rams a championship contender. However, I think he has what it takes to go bowling. The Rams should finish more in the neighborhood of 6 wins.
Air Force (7.9-4.3)
The Falcons deserve more respect than a prediction of 7 or 8 wins. This team is loaded, and I can understand why some people like them to win the conference. Air Force will be really good this season and possibly even better on the defensive side of the ball. I can also see why some people are hesitant to call them the favorites. They have only won the division once and have never won the conference championship.
I just can’t see this roster getting to 6 wins. Wyoming is projected to win 5.7 games according to FPI. I think they are more in the neighborhood of 4 wins. This team has very little talent on the offensive side of the ball and lost their best player on defense. Craig Bohl has managed to be a 6 or 7 win guy for the majority of his tenure in Laramie, but that will be a tough task this year.
Sorry Nevada fans, I just can’t wrap my head around how this team gets to the 6 wins that ESPN is projecting. Nearly all of their top production is gone and they will be relying on unproven talent at many important positions. I think a 3 or 4 win season is in the future for the Wolf Pack.
I’m going to echo a lot of what I said about Nevada. This team’s roster is decimated. I love the long-term potential of the Timmy Chang hire, but the fact of the matter is that this team does not have the roster to become bowl eligible. ESPN predicts 6.3 wins; I think 4 is a more realistic expectation. If I am a Hawaii fan, I would not focus too much on wins and losses and focus more on growth and development.
That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Do you think ESPN’s FPI is an accurate representation of where the Mountain West is headed in 2022? What changes would you make? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.