The Mountain West is one of the stronger “Group of 5” conferences (Non-Power 5). The American Athletic Conference (AAC) is probably stronger from top to bottom, but there’s not that big a gap when comparing the top teams in each conference.
There’s almost always at least one team from the Mountain West that ends up in the Top 25. More times than not that’s been Boise State and the Broncos were the top team in 2017, finishing No. 22 in both the AP and Coaches Poll. They weren’t far off from having 3 teams, as both Fresno State and San Diego State received votes in both polls.
Mountain West College Football Preview & Predictions
While Boise State ended up running away with the Mountain Division in 2017 with a 7-1 league mark, the Broncos had failed to win their own division each of the previous two seasons.
Boise State’s only loss in league play came in the regular-season finale against Fresno State, but the Broncos got their revenge by beating the Bulldogs in the MWC title game for their first conference title since 2014.
Fresno State was by far the biggest surprise in the MWC in 2017. The Bulldogs were expected to be improved with 16 starters back, but no one saw them winning the West Division after going just 1-11 with a 0-8 record in league play in 2016.
I’ve put together 2018 Mountain West predictions. I project the conference records and standings for each division, as well as the overall records. Check out my overall predictions for my thoughts on who will win every conference. Now is also a great time to look over the CFB win totals and Week 1 betting lines.
2018 MWC Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
No way am I picking against Boise State in the Mountain Division. The Broncos are absolutely loaded this year with 16 returning starters. They should have one of the more potent offenses in the MWC behind senior quarterback Brett Rypien and with 10 of those 16 starters back on defense, this should be one of the best stop units Boise State has fielded in years.
They do draw both Fresno State and San Diego State out of the West, but get both at home. I do have them slipping up once along the way in conference play, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they ran the table and ended up in a New Year’s bowl.
As high as I am on the Broncos, you might assume I have them running away with the Mountain, but that’s not the case at all. Both Utah State and Wyoming are more than capable of surprising and winning this division.
The Aggies have 18 returning starters (9 offense, 9 defense) and should be one of the most improved teams in the country. Whether or not they can overtake Boise State will come down to the play of sophomore quarterback Jordan Love, who showed a lot of potential starting the final 6 games as a freshman in 2017.
The Cowboys are a team a lot of people will write off after losing a first round draft pick at quarterback in Josh Allen, but that’s really the only significant loss as they return 17 starters. Keep in mind Allen didn’t have great numbers last year, so there might not be as big as drop-off as some think. Craig Bohl is a legit head coach and this should be his best team yet at Wyoming.
I had a difficult time picking Air Force this low in the standings, but I just think the schedule will be too much to overcome. The Falcons have four really tough road games against Utah State, San Diego State, UNLV and Wyoming inside league play, as well as a home game against Boise State. They also draw FAU, Navy and Army in non-conference.
Colorado State hasn’t posted a losing record since going 4-8 in 2012, but I believe they are headed for one this season. The Rams have just 9 starters back and have to replace some major pieces on offense in quarterback Nick Stevens (3,799 yards, 29-10 TD-INT), running back Dalyn Dawkins (1,399 yards, 8 TDs) and wide out Michael Gallup (100 catches, 1,413 yards).
That leaves New Mexico in the basement of the Mountain, though I don’t actually think the Lobos are the worst team in the division. New Mexico simply has a brutal schedule with their four conference home games coming against Fresno State, San Diego State, Boise State and Wyoming.
|1st||San Diego State||7-1||10-2||+630|
|T-4th||San Jose State||3-5||4-8||+50000|
I think most would agree that the West is going to be a 2-team race between Fresno State and San Diego State. Both teams posted double-digit win seasons in 2017, while no other team in the division had a winning record.
The big debate is who will finish on top. It will likely be decided on Nov. 17 when the Bulldogs host the Aztecs. I think San Diego State gets their revenge and wins the West, but I could easily see it going either way.
My big sleeper on this side is UNLV. The Rebels have quietly been improving each year under head coach Tony Sanchez and will have 14 starters back from a team that finished 5-7, which included a 26-16 win at Fresno State as a 21-point dog. Getting to 6-6 would be quite an accomplishment, as UNLV has been two just two bowls since 1994 (2000 & 2013).
Nevada is another team that figures to take a step forward in 2018. The Wolf Pack went just 3-9 in the first year under head coach Jay Norvell, but he’s building this team the right way and will have 14 starters back. Regardless of how they finish, they could have a big say in who wins the MWC with home games against Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State.
San Jose State isn’t going to be a threat in the West, but should be a much improved team over the one that went just 2-11 in 2017. The Spartans have 14 starters back and will be in year two under head coach Brent Brennan.
As for Hawaii, I think this could be a really long season for the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii’s only conference win last year was a 37-26 home victory over San Jose State. This year they have to play the Spartans on the road, have just 9 returning starters and will be one of the least experienced teams in the country.
MWC Championship Game Prediction: Boise State Defeats San Diego State
It would take a truly magical season for someone out the MWC to win the Heisman Trophy. Rashaad Penny of San Diego State gave it his best shot last year, rushing for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns. As great as those numbers were, he finished 5th in the Heisman voting. No MWC player currently has odds available for this season. Find out who is the favorite to win the Heisman in 2018 by clicking on the link.
While Boise State has decent odds to make the playoffs for a team out of the MWC, there’s little to no chance they are one of the four teams selected. Even if the Broncos were to go 12-0 and win the MWC title game, they won’t have the resume to compete with the top Power 5 teams. Here’s a link to our NCAAF Championship Odds.