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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly: Way Too Early 2024 Mountain West Football Rankings

The season may be months away, but it is never too early to make predictions

NCAA Football: Armed Forces Bowl-James Madison at Air Force Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season has concluded, and it has become a bit of a tradition across college football for experts to release their predictions for the next season. Rather than a traditional top 25, we are going to take a way too early ranking of the top teams in the Mountain West. For the sake of clarity, the top four teams will be “Good,” teams 5-8 will be “Bad,” and teams 9-12 will be “Ugly.” Here we go…

The Good

1-Boise State

The defending Mountain West Champions return 18 starters and make quite a few splashes with the transfer portal. Former five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson joins the Broncos with four years of eligibility remaining. The Broncos also added a quality weapon in Indiana transfer Cam Camper. Camper had his last two seasons cut short due to injuries, but he showed some real potential against Big Ten competition. This team is loaded on the offensive side of the ball. The question is whether or not they can stop opposing passing attacks. The Broncos made some strong additions in the secondary, but will it be enough to make them a playoff contender?

2-Fresno State

The Bulldogs had a disappointing finish to the 2023 season, but they finished on a high note with a convincing victory over New Mexico State. The Bulldogs return their starting quarterback Mikey Keene. The fate of their 2024 season may rest in Keene’s ability to stay healthy. The Bulldogs also return much of their offensive production from this past season. The type of season this team has will likely rest in their ability to stop the run. It also doesn’t hurt that they avoid playing Boise State this fall.

3-Colorado State

It kind of feels like Colorado State is a constant underachiever. From a skilled talent perspective, they can match anyone in the conference. This is a bit of a risky pick; the Rams need to develop a consistent rushing attack and Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi will need to be more consistent. I like what this team has to offer, and it seems like this conference always has one program that exceeds expectations. I think that will be the Rams this fall.


The Rebels are coming off of their best season in decades. Now they will have to prove that they can be consistent. They lost their stud quarterback, Jayden Maiava, to Georgia and will need to find a capable replacement. As of this writing, Ricky White is returning which is a huge boost for whoever starts at quarterback for the Rebels. This team will also need to address its weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball that were exposed by Kansas, Boise State, and San Jose State at the end of the season.

The Bad

5-Air Force

I will never count the Falcons out; they always seem to exceed expectations. But if there was ever a time to doubt this squad, it is probably this fall. Air Force loses the vast majority of their offensive production and a number of key contributors on the offensive side of the ball. We saw what this team looked like without Zac Larrier under center, so there are a ton of question marks surrounding the quarterback position. This is an optimistic prediction for the Falcons, because I believe that Troy Calhoun and his staff will do what it takes to make this squad a contender. It doesn’t hurt that the Falcons don’t have to play UNLV and Boise State this fall.

6-San Diego State

This might seem like an optimistic projection for the Aztecs who are coming off of a 4-8 season, but Sean Lewis has ignited a spark in this program and his staff killed it in the transfer portal. I don’t think this team will be a contender this fall, but they should be playing in a bowl. It will be interesting to see if Florida State transfer quarterback AJ Duffy or highly touted true freshman Danny O’Neil come away with the starting job. Regardless of who wins it, Sean Lewis will make sure the Aztecs’ passing attack is ready to roll.

7-San Jose State

Last winter, the Spartans made a splash by adding Oregon transfer quarterback Jay Butterfield. It seemed like Butterfield would be the heir apparent to Chevan Cordeiro. It is interesting that the Spartans are still looking for a quarterback in the portal after extending an offer to Chubba Purdy. Do the Spartans need depth, or has Butterfield failed to meet expectations? Replacing Cordeiro is no easy task. The 2022 Mountain West offensive player of the year was the cog that made the Spartans run. The Spartans also lose their leading rusher in Kairee Robinson. San Jose State has been active in the portal, specifically addressing some weaknesses in the secondary. Brennan has done an excellent job during his time in Silicon Valley, making a preseason ranking tough. A seventh place finish and a bowl spot seem about right for this team.


Craig Bohl has ridden into the sunset, but not much is changing for the Cowboys, as former defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel has taken over as head coach. Sawvel will need to address the concern that has plagued Wyoming for years. Can they grow in the passing game? Wyoming will be looking for a new quarterback and replacing some of their most productive players on the defensive side of the ball. I think this team will take a step back and be a fringe bowl team this fall.

The Ugly

9-Utah State

The Aggies are a fascinating team, and it is really hard to project this team moving forward. They added two transfer quarterbacks in Bryson Barnes from Utah and Spencer Petras from Iowa. Cooper Legas and McCae Hillstead are also returning; both started games this past season. Jalen Royals will be returning and will provide a nice boost for whichever quarterback wins the job. For the Aggies, the season will come down to their ability to establish a consistent rushing attack and their ability to stop the run when they are on defense. The Aggies had the worst rush defense in the conference, giving up just short of 200 yards per game.


The Rainbow Warriors were an interesting team this past fall. They had performances where it looked like they were on the verge of a breakthrough (Air Force) and games where they looked like they had regressed (New Mexico). The team recently received some good news when quarterback Brayden Schager announced he would be returning to the team after entering the transfer portal. Whether or not this team can turn the corner is going to rest on its ability to win games on the road. Timmy Chang is 1-11 on the road in his two years as head coach. Those kind of results make it nearly impossible to be a bowl team.

11-New Mexico

The announcement of Bronco Mendenhall as head coach was a shocker. Mendenhall is a veteran head coach with a proven track record. I don’t think the Lobos could have asked for a better hire. Unfortunately for Mendenhall, there are a lot of issues the Lobos need to address before this team can turn things around. There were flashes of potential this past season, like the impressive win over Fresno State, but there were also moments where it looked like the team had quit. Mendenhall will be an instant boost to this program, but it will probably take a year or two before his hire starts to pay dividends.


I’m not going to lie, the Jeff Choate hire was an unexpected one. It might even be viewed as a risky hire, but I like it. Choate is a no-nonsense guy who knows how to motivate his players. I think he will bring a change in culture that is needed for a program that has struggled to compete since Jay Norvell’s departure to Colorado State. Choate’s success will depend on his ability to find gems in the transfer portal and build a staff on a limited budget. There is no doubt that he will have his hands full.

That’s it for this edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” What are your way too early rankings? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.