We are less than a month away from the opening weekend of college football. We now have a good idea of what rosters look like and have spent time analyzing our expectations for the upcoming season. Last week, we started our preview series by taking a look at each team from the former Mountain Division. This week, we will break down what we expect from each member of the former West Division. Without further ado, here is the good, bad, and ugly of West Division predictions.
The defending targets are going to have a target on their back, and with a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball off to the NFL, it will be interesting to see how this team does this fall. We are going to learn where this team stands early in the season as they have two manageable Power Five games against Purdue and Arizona State. The Bulldogs need to win at least one of those games if they are going to be a legitimate contender.
The conference slate is tough but manageable. It will really come down to four games against Boise State, San Jose State, Wyoming, and San Diego State. If the Bulldogs win three of those games, they should be in the conference championship again.
Final Prediction: 9-3 (6-2 in conference play)
San Jose State
The Spartans should be a legitimate contender in the Mountain West and we are going to learn a lot about this team early on, as they have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the league. San Jose State will play Oregon State, USC, and Toledo. The Toledo game will go a long way in telling us where this team stands; it is a must-win game.
The conference schedule is pretty brutal as the Spartans will take on the top four teams in the conference, but only Boise State is on the road. If this team has any shot at securing a spot in the conference championship, they will likely need to defeat both Fresno State and San Diego State.
Final Prediction: 7-5 (5-3 in conference play)
San Diego State
The Aztecs are an intriguing team. I could see them fighting for a spot in the conference championship game, and I could see them fighting for a spot in a bowl game. In non-conference play, they travel to Ohio and Oregon State; they also play host to UCLA. At minimum, the Aztecs need to go 2-2 in OOC play. Wins against Oregon State and UCLA seem unlikely, but they need to avoid a potential trap game against Ohio.
The conference schedule is a bit tricky to navigate as well. The Aztecs first two conference games are against Boise State and Air Force. If the Aztecs lose those first two conference games, they could very well be 2-4 at the halfway point of the season. A lack of offensive firepower and a difficult schedule will be too much for the Aztecs to contend for a conference title.
Final Prediction: 6-6 (4-4 in conference play)
I keep hearing everyone say that the Rebels are for real and will be a bowl team this year. I have a ton of respect for Doug Brumfield and I like what the coaches are doing on the recruiting front, but these things take time. I will say this, I like how their schedule shapes up and anything less than 6-6 would be a massive disappointment. The only non-conference game that feels like a sure loss is Michigan. The Rebels have to beat Vanderbilt and UTEP if anyone is going to take them seriously.
As far as the conference slate goes, the Rebels open up with Hawaii, Nevada, and Colorado State. The potential to start league play 3-0 is there. I think you could make a strong argument that the Rebels have the easiest schedule in the conference. Four of the last five games are against Fresno State, Wyoming, San Jose State, and Air Force. The Rebels will probably need to win one of those games to make a bowl.
Final Prediction: 6-6 (4-4 in conference play)
Timmy Chang and the Rainbow Warriors are the ultimate underdog. Chang inherited a very tough situation and this program has been through so much the last few years. I like where this team is headed and I see them making strides this season. But there is still a long way to go.
Final Prediction: 5-8 (3-5 in conference play)
The team that concerns me the most in conference play is the Wolf Pack. This team has struggled on the recruiting front and I don’t think Brandon Lewis is the solution to their problem at quarterback. Nevada isn’t beating USC and Kansas in non-conference play, and games against Texas State and Idaho won’t be easy wins.
The conference slate is interesting, the Wolf Pack have some winnable games against UNLV, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Utah State. But they will likely be underdogs in each of those contests. I think this team still has a long way to go before they return to their former glory.
Final Prediction: 2-10 (1-7 in conference play)
How do you see things playing out for the teams listed above? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.