With Mountain West Media Days past and the opening of fall camp nearing, we are getting a better idea of what rosters look like. We have some teams with established rosters, while others will have a number of position battles throughout camp. As per tradition, I will spend the next few weeks making final predictions for the upcoming season. I will look through schedules and determine my final predictions for each team. This week, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly predictions for the Mountain Division.
The Good (Bowl Eligible)
The Broncos return a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball. They should have one of the best secondaries and defensive lines in the conference, but there are some questions at linebacker. On the offensive side of the ball, the wide receiver group has big shoes to fill with Khalil Shakir off to the NFL. I like the depth and skill in that group and don’t see it as a major area of concern. The biggest question remains in the trenches. Can this group protect Hank Bachmeier and open up holes in the run game? If they can, the Broncos should be playing for the conference championship the first weekend of December.
Wins: New Mexico, TN-Martin, UTEP, Fresno State, Air Force, Colorado State, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah State
Losses: Oregon State, San Diego State, BYU
Final Record: (9-3, 7-1)
The Falcons bring back a ton of production, which usually means a successful season. However, recent reports of offseason surgeries for Haaziq Daniels and Brad Roberts are cause for concern. With that being said, I think this team competes for a championship and will be a part of some of the most entertaining games in the conference this season. The secondary does need to show some growth if Air Force is going to contend for a conference championship. After diving into the schedule, I think a 7-0 record heading into the game with Boise State is possible. The week two matchup with Colorado will be a big one.
Wins: Northern Iowa, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Navy, Utah State, UNLV, Army, Colorado State
Losses: Boise State, Army, San Diego State
Final Record: (9-3, 6-2)
Blake Anderson pulled off one of the biggest surprises in the country by leading the Aggies to a Mountain West Championship. Utah State was a vastly improved football team, but they also benefited by playing the softest schedule in the conference last season. The Aggies have a similar schedule this year, but I think some of the teams will be improved. Logan Bonner will be looking for some new targets at wide receiver, but Anderson and his staff did a nice job of addressing those concerns in the portal. Most of my concerns with the Aggies lie on the defensive side of the ball. They finish the season with Boise State, a game that could be for a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game.
Wins: UCONN, Weber State, UNLV, Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico, Hawaii, San Jose State
Losses: Alabama, BYU, Air Force, Boise State
Final Record: (8-4, 5-3)
The Rams are going to cause some problems for contenders in the Mountain West this year. At this point it is hard to predict them beating the teams listed above, but it would not shock me if they can pull off a win against one of them. The Rams are going to put up numbers on the offensive side of the ball. They have one of the best wide receiver groups in the conference, but there are some questions at the running back position. Knowing Jay Norvell and his offensive philosophy, they will be airing the ball out early and often. The defense will be a major question mark; I’m not sure this unit has the ability to propel Colorado State to a conference contender.
Wins: Middle Tennessee, Washington State, Sacramento State, Nevada, Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico
Losses: Michigan, Utah State, Boise State, San Jose State, Air Force
Final Record: (7-5, 4-4)
The Bad (Barely Misses a Bowl Game)
No teams in this category.
The Ugly (Not Even Close)
Craig Bohl is a good football coach. But it would be hard for any coach to overcome the losses that the Cowboys had in the transfer portal. This team will have a defense that will keep them in football games, but the offense is going to struggle. When your solution at quarterback is landing the backup at a conference rival, you are in trouble. This is going to be a long season for Wyoming and its fans.
Wins: Northern Colorado, New Mexico, Hawaii
Losses: Illinois, Tulsa, Air Force, BYU, San Jose State, Utah State, Colorado State, Boise State, Fresno State
Final Record: (3-9, 2-6)
This football team has a long way to go before it can be competitive, and this year’s schedule does not bode well for the Lobos. This team needs to focus on being competitive and battling against the better teams on their schedule. There are some winnable games (Wyoming and UNLV). If they can win those 50/50 games, they should be able to use that as motivation for the 2023 season. I would consider a four-win season a success for this program.
Wins: Maine, New Mexico State
Losses: Boise State, UTEP, LSU, UNLV, Wyoming, Fresno State, Utah State, Air Force, San Diego State, Air Force
Final Record: (2-10, 0-8)
That is it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” How do you see things playing out in the Mountain Division? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.