With less than two weeks until kickoff, anticipation for the 2023 Mountain West football season is reaching its peak. I have spent the last two weeks breaking down each team, what their schedules look like, and how I anticipate things looking by the end of November. This week, I am going to make some more specific predictions and take a stab at who will take home the conference championship at season’s end. Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of what to expect for the 2023 Mountain West football season.
Boise State and Fresno State Fight For Another Championship
Fans outside of Boise and Fresno are probably tired of this, but it seems like a very real possibility that the Broncos and Bulldogs will face off in the Mountain West Championship yet again. I expect a higher scoring affair this year and the Broncos will walk away with the victory.
Now, if you asked me who I think could pull off a 2020 San Jose State or 2021 Utah State type season, I would have to go with the Spartans. If Chevan Cordeiro can stay healthy and that offensive line can take a step in the right direction, I could see them competing for a spot in the championship game.
The Mountain West Makes the New Year’s Six
It has been way too long since the conference has had a representative in a big bowl game. That is going to change this year. The AAC is significantly weaker, and Tulane or a team like UTSA would probably need to go undefeated to earn a spot. The Broncos and Bulldogs all have a far tougher schedule than the Green Wave. This is a big year for the conference and they need to seize the moment and prove that the Mountain West is now the premier Group of Five conference.
UNLV and Colorado State Go Bowling
After disappointing 2022 campaigns, the Rams and Rebels are going to both sneak into bowl games with 6-6 records. UNLV is going to benefit from a very manageable schedule and have their best season in years. Jay Norvell’s offense is finally going to click in Fort Collins and the Rams will be able to put some points on the board this fall. Neither team is going to contend for a conference championship, but their improvement will be significant.
Quarterback Play Improves in 2023
On paper, it seems like the Mountain West should be improved at the quarterback position. Dylan Hopkins should be a significant upgrade for the Lobos, a program that hasn’t had a great quarterback in years. The Bulldogs can’t expect their starter to live up to what Jake Haener did the past few seasons; we saw what that offense looked like when he was out with an injury. Clay Millen had a great completion percentage, but he rarely threw the ball downfield. Will Norvell take the handcuffs off the talented quarterback this year?
The quarterback position might be the biggest question mark in the conference this year. But with names like Doug Brumfield, Chevan Cordeiro, Taylen Green, Clay Millen, Dylan Hopkins, and Jalen Mayden, I think the quarterback play will be much better this fall.
Utah State Takes a Major Step Back
Last season Aggie fans said I was crazy when I predicted that they would not be a legitimate contender for a conference championship. With their current roster, I feel the same way about this season. In fact, I think the Aggies are going to be hardpressed to make a bowl game. We are going to learn early what this team is made of. They don’t face any great teams in non-conference play. However, Iowa, James Madison, and even an improved UCONN squad will all be tough games for the Aggies. If they don’t go at least 2-2 (preferably 3-1), they aren’t going bowling.
Conference Realignment Continues to Distract
Conference realignment will always be a thing in the national media because it garners views. This fall will be no different, but unlike recent seasons, Mountain West schools are going to be far more involved. You would like to think that rumors and speculation would not take away from the season, but it does and it will.
Multiple Mountain West Coaches Lose Their Jobs
New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales is probably the only coach in the conference that is firmly on the hot seat. Gonzales probably needs to win four or five games to keep his job, but I don’t see that happening. I also wonder how much time Nevada will give Ken Wilson if he only manages to win two or three games. Another coach I would keep an eye on is Craig Bohl. I don’t think the Cowboys will ever fire Bohl, but it wouldn’t shock me if the 65 year old coach considers the greener pastures of retirement.
What are some bold predictions you have for the upcoming season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.