The college football season went by like a blur and the bowl season is already upon us. There has been no shortage of drama in the last few weeks with coaching changes and the transfer portal, but now we are back to football. Let’s take a look at each of the seven Mountain West bowl games and what you should keep an eye on.
Saturday December 16th
Isleta New Mexico Bowl (New Mexico State vs. Fresno State)
- Fresno State’s Strength: Pass offense. The Bulldogs have weapons all over the field and have a quarterback that can sling it. Fresno State has one of the best passing offenses in the Mountain West and their running backs are excellent catching the ball out of the backfield. Mikey Keene has battled injuries throughout the season; if he is 100% in this game, the Bulldogs should light up the scoreboard.
- Fresno State’s Weakness: Rushing defense. Fresno State finished in the bottom half of rush defense in the conference. Their defensive line has been the biggest weakness on this team. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they are excellent at forcing turnovers, and the Aggies like to air it out.
- New Mexico State’s Strength: Rush offense. The Aggies had one of the most balanced offenses in the country. They rushed for over 200 yards per game this season. It will be a tough test for Fresno State’s defensive line.
- New Mexico State’s Weakness: Forced turnovers. The Aggies may not turn the ball over much, but they also don’t force many turnovers. Their defense will probably need a few turnovers to beat the Bulldogs.
- Key Position Battle: A battle in the trenches. If New Mexico State can get to Mikey Keene, the Bulldogs are in trouble. If Fresno State can protect Keene, I think they will win this game with relative ease.
- Players to Watch:
- Erik Brooks (Fresno State WR). Brooks started the year on a tear but slowed down as the year progressed. He needs to have a big day if Fresno State is going to come away with the win.
- Keyshaun Elliot (New Mexico State LB). Elliot finished the season with over 100 tackles. He is an opportunistic linebacker that can pressure the quarterback and drop into coverage.
Starco Brands LA Bowl (UCLA vs. Boise State)
- Boise State’s Strength: Rushing offense.The Broncos have one of the best running backs in college football in Ashton Jeanty. They also have one of the best backups in George Holani. The Broncos averaged 215 yards per game on the ground this season.
- Boise State’s Weakness: Pass defense. The Broncos have looked better in the secondary in recent weeks, but this was a glaring weakness the majority of the season. The Broncos have a tendency to give up big plays in the passing game. They will need a great performance from the secondary if they want to pull off the upset.
- UCLA’s Strength: Rush defense. The Bruins rank third in the country in rush defense. It will be interesting to see if the Bruins can force the Broncos to go pass heavy.
- UCLA’s Weakness: Pass offense. Bruin quarterbacks have been very inaccurate this season, and it has really prevented their offense from taking that next step. Can the Bruins capitalize on the biggest weakness of Boise State’s defense?
- Key Position Battle: UCLA’s wide receivers vs. Boise State’s defensive backs. The Bruins have some athletic wide receivers. The Bronco secondary will need to have a great performance from guys like A’Marion McCoy and Jaylen Clark.
- Players to Watch:
- CJ Tiller (Boise State quarterback): The true freshman will receive his first significant playing time on a big stage. Tiller has been thrust into a starting role after Taylen Green entered the transfer portal.
- Ethan Garbers (UCLA quarterback): Like Boise State, UCLA has been impacted by the transfer portal with freshman quarterback Dante Moore leaving the team. Garbers has received significant playing time but has been inconsistent throughout the season.
Saturday December 23rd
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (James Madison vs. Air Force)
- Air Force’s Strength: Ball control. Air Force wants to control the clock, and the best way to do that is by eliminating turnovers and running the ball effectively. The Falcons do both of those things as well as anyone in the country.
- Air Force’s Weakness: Pass offense. In the last month of the season we saw what happens when the Falcons fall behind. This team does not have a passer that is capable of getting them back in the game if they fall behind by more than one score.
- James Madison’s Strength: Pass offense: James Madison has had one of the most prolific passing attacks in the country this season, but with Jordan McCloud in the transfer portal, their passing attack might take a hit.
- James Madison’s Weakness: Pass defense. The Dukes have struggled to slow down opposing passing attacks giving up more than 260 yards per game. Luckily, they won’t have to worry about Air Force throwing the ball much.
- Key Position Battle: James Madison’s offensive line vs. Air Force’s defensive line. The Falcons love to hit the quarterback and run a lot of elaborate blitz schemes to make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable. The Dukes will need to keep their quarterback clean if they want to win this game.
- Players to Watch:
- Zac Larrier (Air Force quarterback): Larrier missed the last month of the season with an injury. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun was optimistic that Larrier would be able to play in the bowl game.
- Jamree Kromah (James Madison DL): Kromah is a prolific pass rusher and a solid tackler. If James Madison can force the Falcons to pass the ball, Kromah should have a big day.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Georgia State vs. Utah State)
- Utah State’s Strength: Pass offense. It didn’t matter who played quarterback, the Aggies found success through the air. Injuries at quarterback plagued Utah State late in the season. It will be interesting to see who starts at quarterback against Georgia State.
- Utah State’s Weakness: Rush defense. The Aggies surrendered more rush yards than any team in the Mountain West. Their defensive line will need to have a big day if they want to finish the season on a high note.
- Georgia State’s Strength: Rush offense. Georgia State wants to dictate the flow of the game with their rushing attack. With Utah State’s struggles stopping the run, it will be critical for the Panthers to have a big day on the ground.
- Georgia State’s Weakness: Pass defense. The Panthers have one of the worst pass defenses in the country, giving up nearly 300 yards per game. Georgia State has to clean this up if they want to have a chance against Utah State’s prolific passing attack.
- Key Position Battle: Georgia State’s secondary vs. Utah State’s wide receivers. As we stated above, the Panthers have been awful against the pass and the Aggies have had a great season throwing the ball. If Utah State comes to play, they should have a big day through the air.
- Players to Watch:
- Darren Grainger (Georgia State Quarterback): The Panthers lost their leading rusher to the transfer portal and their quarterback has been their second best runner. Grainger will need a big day through the air and on the ground if Georgia State is going to come away with the win.
- Jalen Royals (Utah State wide receiver): Royals was one of the biggest surprises in the Mountain West this season. He has the ability to stretch the field and can make all the catches.
EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl (Coastal Carolina vs. San Jose State)
- San Jose State’s Strength: Pass defense. It is going to be tough sledding for the Chanticleers in the passing game as they will be without their starting quarterback Grayson McCall who is transferring to North Carolina State.
- San Jose State’s Weakness: Rush defense. San Jose State finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the country, and their reward is a trip to paradise. This team does not have many huge weaknesses, but if there is one thing Coastal Carolina can capitalize on, it is the Spartans rush defense.
- Coastal Carolina’s Strength: Pass offense. Coastal Carolina will be without their starting quarterback, but backups Ethan Vasko and Jarrett Guest have been solid in relief. The question is, will either of these quarterbacks be ready for the spotlight?
- Coastal Carolina’s Weakness: Rush defense.The Spartans have been very effective running the ball and the Chanticleers have not been very effective at stopping the run. The Spartans will look to control the game with their rushing attack and use it to open up the passing game.
- Key Position Battle: Coastal Carolina’s offensive line vs. San Jose State’s defensive line. Anytime you have an inexperienced quarterback, the play of the offensive line is going to have a vital role in the outcome of the game. Coastal Carolina will need to protect their quarterback if they want any chance at winning this game.
- Players to Watch:
- Chevan Cordeiro (San Jose State quarterback): Cordeiro returns to his home state for his final college football game and will be determined to finish his career on a high note with many of his friends and family in attendance.
- Clayton Isbell (Coastal Carolina safety): The Chanticleers leading tackler will have his hands full with San Jose State’s receivers. Isbell will also be expected to play a big role in slowing down the Spartans’ rushing attack.
Tuesday December 26th
Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Kansas vs. UNLV)
- UNLV’s Strength: Pass offense. Jayden Maiava will look to make up for a rough performance in the Mountain West Championship game. I also expect wide receiver Ricky White III to have a big day for the Rebels.
- UNLV’s Weakness: Rush defense. UNLV’s rush defense was exposed in the last few weeks of the season. They struggled to stop Air Force, San Jose State, and Boise State on the ground. The Rebels will need a big day from their defensive line if they want to top the Jayhawks.
- Kansas’ Strength: Rush offense. The Jayhawks have an elite rushing attack and should be able to capitalize on the weakness of UNLV’s defensive line. Kansas averaged 5.5 yards per carry this season.
- Kansas’ Weakness: Pass offense. With Jalon Daniels hurt for the majority of the season, the Jayhawks have been inconsistent through the air. Jason Bean has been all over the place with his performance in relief of Daniels.
- Key Position Battle: Kansas offensive line vs. UNLV defensive line. This game is going to come down to whether or not the Rebels can slow down Kansas’ rushing attack. If this team hasn’t improved in that area since the Mountain West Championship game, it will be a long day for UNLV’s defense.
- Players to Watch:
- Devin Neal (Kansas running back): Neal had an excellent season for the Jayhawks averaging more than six yards per carry and finishing with over 1,200 yards. Slowing down Neal will be a tough test for the Rebels.
- Ricky White III (UNLV wide receiver): White emerged as the best receiver in the Mountain West. His ability to stretch the field helped freshman quarterback Jayden Maiava ease into the starting role. He will need to have a big day for the Rebels to pull off the upset.
Saturday December 30th
Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl (Toledo vs. Wyoming)
- Wyoming’s Strength: Rush defense. Wyoming’s play along the defensive line has been really good this year. The Cowboys have one of the top rush defenses in the league and should be able to force Toledo to pass the ball.
- Wyoming’s Weakness: Pass offense. Wyoming has been wildly inconsistent passing the ball this season. Toledo is capable of putting a lot of points on the board; they will need to find success through the air if they are going to come away with the victory.
- Toledo’s Strength: Rush offense. The Rockets have been able to run the ball efficiently the entire season averaging over 200 yards per game. The matchup in the trenches will be a fun one to watch.
- Toledo’s Weakness: Quarterback. The Rockets biggest strength now becomes a weakness with DeQuan Finn in the transfer portal. The dual threat quarterback was a huge part of Toledo’s offense.
- Key Position Battle: Toledo’s offensive line vs. Wyoming’s defensive line. The Rockets want to run the ball, and the Cowboys want to force you to beat them through the air. Toledo is without their starting quarterback and will need to find success running the ball if they want to come away with the victory.
- Players to Watch:
- Penny Boone (Toledo running back): Boone was one of the top rushers in the nation finishing the season with 1400 yards on the ground and averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
- Andrew Peasley (Wyoming quarterback): Peasley will look to finish the season on a high note and he will need to have his best passing game of the season if Wyoming is going to come away with the win.
Which bowl game are you most excited about? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.