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MWCConnection Roundtable: Which team will have the best defense in 2023?

Let’s ask the team.

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Presented by Stifel - Fresno State v Washington State Photo by Jason Allen/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Fall camp is here. The season is getting closer every day. The Roundtable is close to wrapping up but there are still a few more remaining questions before the season starts. This week the question is: which team will have the best defense in the 2023 season?

Mike: The Mountain West appears to be a defensive league heading into the 2023 football season. In particular, two defenses stick out to me, Air Force and Wyoming. The Falcons regularly have one of the top defenses in the country and should again this year. They boast all-MW caliber players at every level of the defense. Also, the Cowboys return nearly every player from a tremendous 2022 defensive showing. Their front six is as good as anyone and in particular, the defensive line is talented and deep. I could see either team ending up with the title of best Mountain West defense in 2023, but I’m going with Wyoming to begin the season.

NittanyFalcon: I agree with Mike that Wyoming and Air Force are the top two defenses in the conference. However, I think the Falcons have the top spot this year. If the defenses are analyzed position by position, Wyoming would be considered the better defense, but the Falcons are so sound on fundamentals, they should have more success in the area that matters most, keeping the opposition out of the end zone. Wyoming will likely end up with bigger numbers in tackles, sacks, interceptions and pass breakups, but those numbers are elevated because they stay on the field longer than the Falcons, who are much better at 3rd and 4th down stops. The Falcons finished last year holding San Diego State and Baylor to 0 for 21 on third down conversions.

Jack: Zach and I talked about this on this week’s Hike’s Peak episode, and as stated in the previous answers, Air Force and Wyoming are the cream of the crop. But don’t sleep on Fresno State. Cam Lockridge is one of the best corners in the nation. Levelle Bailey and Malachi Langley combine for 58 STARTS, by far the most experienced LB group in the conference. The rest of the secondary has a lot to prove, but they are all veteran players who should have solid years. The DLine is the area of concern, if there is one. Replacing David Perales’ production is a real challenge, but Devo Bridges has potential to fill that role. DTs Johnny Hudson Jr and Gavriel Lightfoot were both decent last year, and have the ability to play even better. In Kevin Coyle’s second year as defensive coordinator, the Bulldogs look to be even better than they were when they hoisted the MW championship trophy.

Matt: Oddball pick for this might be Fresno State. They return a lot of production from last year, including probably the best CB in the league in Cam Lockridge. Add in Levelle Bailey and Malachi Langley, alongside Devo Bridges and Carlton Johnson, and Fresno State might just be the sneaky defense. Especially with how well they finished last year and the continuity in the defensive coaching staff into 2023. Wyoming will always be a strong pick for this department, but the Bulldogs might just be the ones to unseat them.

Adam: I’m going to go with Wyoming and give Boise State the nod at number two. The Cowboys have the top linebacking core in the conference, led by Easton Gibbs, and a solid defensive backfield with Kolbey Taylor leading the way. Craig Bohl is known for his stout defenses and that is what he has entering the 2023 campaign.