Every year I write preseason predictions in the beginning of August. And every year, I revisit these predictions at the end of the season. The 2023 season came with plenty of twists and turns. Let’s see how each team stacked up to my preseason expectations. This week, we are going to take a look at teams that were in the former West Division.
Note: These are not a ranking of how the team finished. These are rankings of my preseason predictions.
Fresno State (Preseason Prediction 9-3, Final Record 9-4)
The Bulldogs final record was solid, how they got to that record was a bit unexpected. With only a few weeks to go in the season and wins over UNLV and Boise State in their pocket, it seemed like the Bulldogs were a lock to play for the conference championship. Star quarterback Mikey Keene was battling health issues, and after starting the season 8-1, the Bulldogs dropped their final three games of conference play. It will be interesting to see how this team responds next year. Will Jeff Tedford be able to resume his duties as head coach?
San Jose State (Preseason Prediction 7-5, Final Record 7-5)
With star quarterback Chevan Cordeiro returning and a ton of talent on offense, it felt like the Spartans were a legitimate contender, and that proved to be true. After an improbable late season run (the Spartans started 1-5), they finished tied for a spot in the conference championship game. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they fell short in the computer ranking and finished third in the Mountain West.
Hawaii (Preseason Prediction 5-8, Final Record 5-8)
You might look at the record and consider Hawaii’s season a failure, but I would disagree. The Rainbow Warriors were a really good team at home and upset teams like Air Force and Colorado State. Where this team goes moving forward will depend on their ability to improve in the trenches and to find ways to win on the road. Timmy Chang is making a number of changes to his coaching staff; it will be interesting to see if those changes pay dividends.
Nevada (Preseason Prediction 2-10, Final Record 2-10)
It is hard to see much good from this team. It was pretty apparent that Nevada was going to be a bad football team and unfortunately, that proved to be true. This team struggled in nearly every aspect and was almost historically bad on offense. Ken Wilson did not get much of a chance in Reno, but a coach like Jeff Choate is a good fit for a Nevada team that needs a disciplined leader.
San Diego State (Preseason Prediction 6-6, Final Record 4-8)
It seemed pretty clear that the Aztecs would take a step back this year, but I don’t think anyone anticipated them losing eight games, including an awful loss to 2-10 Nevada. It was pretty apparent that head coach Brady Hoke needed to ride off into the sunset. New head coach Sean Lewis brings an offensive identity to an Aztec squad that has struggled to throw the ball for years. I like the new direction this team is headed.
UNLV (Preseason Prediction 6-6, Final Record 9-5)
I thought I was taking a risk by predicting the Rebels would make a bowl game. It turned out I was underestimating this team and head coach Barry Odom. Not only were the Rebels the most improved team in the conference, they were also the most exciting to watch. The offense was electric and the defense was improved. However, their schedule was a bit back loaded and we started to see some weaknesses that were not exposed against weaker competition like their struggles to stop the run against San Jose State and Boise State. It will be interesting to see if Odom and his staff can keep the momentum going in 2024.
Did your team meet their preseason expectations? How do you see things playing out in 2024? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.