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MWCConnection Roundtable: Which team will take a step back in 2023?

Let’s ask the team.

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Fresno State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s question is similar to last week’s but now focuses on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of discussing the most improved team, the question is: which team will take a step back in the 2023 season?

Mike: It might be the easy answer for some, but I’m picking Fresno State, although I did consider San Jose State. What is interesting is I’m seeing some of the experts and oddsmakers predicting the Bulldogs will have another strong season. However, I don’t see them being able to reload so quickly after losing so much from last year’s team. Needing to replace their starting quarterback, running back, top two wide receivers, second-leading tackler, and sack leader may be too much to overcome. They will still have talent and should not have an issue making a bowl game. But Fresno State is more likely to be a second-tier Mountain West team rather than one at or near the top of the conference like last year.

Jeremy: An annual question for the off-season features the usual answer: go to the top of the standings from the previous season. Find the team that won big, but is on the verge of experiencing turnover that everyone faces eventually. Boise State loses several key defenders, but returns what’s likely to be the MWC’s best offense. Fresno State, however, is losing key personnel on both sides of the ball from their championship team, including stars Jake Haener and Evan Williams. I still think Fresno will be plenty good this upcoming season, but after finishing with 10 wins, there’s very little room for growth. Best case scenario is breaking even with a stellar 2022 season. A slight step back appears to be in the cards. I’ll throw out San Jose State as another team that could regress after losing key figures on defense.

Matt: I think Air Force might be a rarer choice for this. Life without Brad Roberts might be tough for the Falcons. Academy teams tend to go in cycles, so this might be the time where they move back down a bit. I still think bowl eligibility is on the cards for them, but I don’t see them competing for the conference title this year. They should be stout on the defensive side, but I wonder if the offense will be as potent in 2023 as it was in 2022.

Jack: Wyoming hasn’t had a sub .500 season (excluding 2020) in seven years, but they may be due for some regression. First off, let me say this defense is no joke. Braden Siders and DeVonne Harris lead a stacked DLine, and the secondary has lots of talent. The trouble lies on the other side of the ball. Andrew Peasley struggled last year, but he’s a solid dual threat who will hopefully take the next step. The Cowboys have to replace their top two receivers, in addition to 1,000 yard rusher Titus Swen. The offense wasn’t pretty to begin with, but it may be even worse if several players don’t grow into key starters for Craig Bohl. The schedule will also be much harder, with out-of-conference opponents Texas Tech, Texas on the road, and Appalachian State in front of them. It’s an uphill battle for this team to get to their third straight bowl game.

Adam: No Brad Roberts and Haaziq Daniels in Colorado Springs makes me think that Air Force will be the one to take a step back this season. A step back in my mind, from a 10-3 season, is more along the lines of 8-5, or 7-6. They do have an out of conference schedule that paves the way for another winning season, but another 10 wins will be hard to accomplish. The defense is stacked and that’s why I think it won’t be too much of a regression.