With only 46 days until the first Mountain West football games, it is time that we start taking a peek at the upcoming season. It seems that every year there are lots of surprises within the conference. In 2022 we saw a Fresno State team recover from multiple injuries to win the conference, a shockingly bad Colorado State offense, and a New Mexico offense that will go down in football history as especially bad. We also saw Boise State fire their offensive coordinator and lose their starting quarterback while still managing to win their division and 10 games. I don’t expect 2023 to be any different. With that being said, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly surprise predictions of this coming football season.
Colorado State Makes a Bowl
Every Year there is a team that surprises and the Rams will be that team in 2023. I’m not expecting a San Jose State 2020 or Utah State 2021 type of surprise, but the Rams will be significantly improved on offense. If there is one thing that Jay Nrovell knows how to do, it is recruit skill talent. The Rams are going to make a bowl and fans will feel good about where this team is headed.
A Darkhorse Makes Things Interesting
San Jose State is going to be another team that surprises. They are led by one of the best quarterbacks in the conference in Chevan Cordeiro and have a talented, yet unproven, crop of skill players around him. The Spartans will ultimately fall short, but they will be in the championship conversation until the end of the season.
Young Guns Ignite Boise State’s Defense
It feels a little weird to say this, but Boise State has far more question marks on the defensive side of the ball than they do on the offensive side. But, the Broncos have some players that are poised for a breakout season. Linebacker Andrew Simpson, cornerback Jaylen Clark, safety Seyi Oladipo, and linemen Herbert Gums and Ahmed Hassanein are all candidates for a breakout season.
Fresno State Quarterback Surprises
Jake Haener was far and away the best quarterback in the conference last season. He won’t be easy to replace, but I think Mikey Keene is going to come in and have a dynamite season. While this offense won’t be quite as dynamic as it was when Haener was under center, an improved defense will help them contend for a championship once again.
Craig Bohl is a magician who doesn’t get the credit he deserves. No team in the conference has been hit harder by the transfer portal than Wyoming has, and recruiting high school kids to Laramie is not an easy task. However, Craig Bohl has turned Wyoming into a perennial bowl team. But, I think the losses this team has suffered and their inability to develop a top quarterback will finally catch up with the Cowboys this year.
Hawaii Still Has a Way to Go
Timmy Chang inherited a program that was in complete shambles. Rebuilding projects like this takes years to fix. A four or five win season would be a huge success for this team. Expecting anything more from Chang and his staff is completely unrealistic. Give the guy some time and he will shine.
Air Force Offense Sputters
The Falcons have lost their quarterback, top rusher, and now their best offensive lineman. This Air Force offense will not have the same success it had in 2022. Luckily for the Falcons and their fans, their defense is elite and will lead them to plenty of victories this fall. However, I’m just not sure the Falcons offense is good enough for them to contend for a conference championship.
Aggies Fall Short of Expectations
Utah State fans are a confident bunch. From what I have been seeing, they are extremely confident in this team. I’ve looked over the Utah State roster multiple times and I just don’t see the offensive talent needed for the Aggies to return to their 2021 form. I expect another down year for the Aggies where they are fighting for a spot in a bowl game as the seasosn winds down.
The Aztecs Have a Rough Year
It was clear throughout last season that the Aztecs were not the team we have become accustomed to seeing. I have a tremendous amount of respect for quarterback Jalen Mayden and what he did for the Aztecs last season. However, there is a reason he switched positions before moving back to quarterback. Mayden will do enough to keep the Aztecs relevant, but they won’t be in the championship conversation as the season wears down.
UNLV Makes a Mistake
Barry Odom was one of those coaching hires that came out of nowhere. Odom has been around college football for a long time and has plenty of experience, but he strikes me as a coach that just can’t find success as the head guy. I have said it before, and I will say it again. Marcus Arroyo had this program trending in the right direction and firing him was a mistake.
Wolf Pack Fans Are Frustrated By Lack of Progress
The University of Nevada has a rich tradition of success in football. Last season was a humbling experience for the Wolf Pack fan base after Jay Norvell left to take the head coaching job at Colorado State and decimated the roster in the process. The Wolf Pack did make some solid additions from the transfer portal, but this team has a long way to go before they return to a winning program.
New Mexico Is Looking For a New Coach
I thought Danny Gonzales was the right guy for the job when he took over as the head coach, but it has been a rough road for the defensive minded coach. He has not been able to put a respectable offense on the field since taking over as head coach. The Lobo offense was especially bad in 2022. Dylan Hopkins is an improvement at quarterback, but he won’t be enough to help this team win many games.
What kind of surprises do you expect? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.