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MWCConnection: Which team will be the most improved in 2022?

Let’s ask the team

Mountain West Football Championship - Boise State v San Jose State Photo by David J. Becker/Getty Images

As we set our sights on the upcoming football season, one of the questions that come to mind is: which team will be the most improved in 2022? After seeing teams like Hawaii, San Jose State, and Utah State seemingly come out of nowhere to have successful seasons, who will this year’s team be?

Lute: I’m obviously biased, but Colorado State seems primed for a breakout season. CSU has a completely new coach and new system that fits very well with the current roster. They essentially took the best pieces left on Nevada’s roster, and added them to the best pieces on Colorado State’s roster. Clay Millen at QB will be a huge upgrade over Todd Centeio, and the offense will finally be in the 21st century. At the very least, I think CSU scores a lot of points this year…

Jos: Now, I was going to say Fresno State in this answer originally then I thought, “Wait! They were good last year, they wouldn’t be a surprisingly successful team. I mean they beat UCLA last year for Christ’s sake,” So, I’m going to have to agree with the Colorado State answer above. The Rams made some upgrades this off-season with, like it was said above, essentially taking Nevada’s best pieces and their coach. What Norvell did in Nevada, he could easily do again with Colorado State. I would not be surprised if Colorado State takes down a big competitor in the Mountain West this year. If not this year, I think Colorado State will be a 2023 “success story out of nowhere” candidate.

Graham_Gibson: We’ve heard it said before: Nevada is a dark horse to win the West division in the Mountain West. Last year Nevada was not able to live up to those expectations and the loss of Jay Norvell to Colorado State doesn’t help for this year. Eyes will be on Fresno State and San Diego State like most years, which leaves room for Nevada’s long awaited chance to get into the Mountain West championship game. In comes Ken Wilson from Oregon, who coached linebacker for the Ducks. Wilson was a part of many very good Nevada teams in the mid 2000s and also coached for the Wolfpack in the late 80s and 90s so he is very accustomed to the winning prestige at Nevada. Nevada does lose Romeo Doubs and quarterback Carson Strong but in comes Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth, who has some experience and play makers around him. The defense for Nevada is stronger, with a secondary that has some experience and a defensive line that should be pretty stout with Dom Peterson leading that group.

Nevada should be able to start the season 3-0 before a rough stretch against Iowa and Air Force. An up side for Nevada is that they do avoid Utah State next season and they get San Diego State, Boise State, and Fresno State all at home in addition to Colorado State. One of the challenges though will be a road game against Hawaii, which is never an easy place to play.

Overall, Nevada could have the team and the schedule to make a strong run in the Mountain West this season.

Zach: Looking at returning production and success in the transfer portal leads me to believe that San Jose State could win quite a few games next year. The Spartans upgraded in a big way at quarterback and wide receiver thanks to the transfer portal. I could see the Spartans finishing in the 8 to 9 wins range and ruining some seasons for division foes.

NittanyFalcon: My first reaction would be Colorado State, but then I think about how undisciplined they have been for the last few years, and the huge change they will go through this year. They will be improved, but not enough to claim the title of most improved. I’ll go with San Jose State. They took a step back last year, but Coach Brennan is building a good program, and the schedule favors a better year.

Mike: Colorado State is the popular choice to be sure. And for good reason, but I still think they are a year away (and I’ve been wrong before). San Jose State is a nice pick by many other writers, as they still have quite a few pieces, but I’m not sold on them. I guess I’ll go on record saying I don’t think we have a truly surprising team this year in the same vein as the teams mentioned in this week’s question. However, I’m going pick UNLV as a team that will see the biggest win increase from last season. In 2021, they won two games. In 2022, I think they win five and possibly six games.

Aiden: Colorado State looks to be a safe bet as Jay Norvell takes over the program from Steve Addazio. That, and the infusion of top talent from Nevada should make the transition process that much easier. With a 3-9 record in the rearview mirror, a bowl appearance in Norvell’s first year would be a realistic objective, showing that the program is headed in the right direction.