The 2017 Mountain West Conference is a tale of two divisions. In the Mountain, Colorado State and Boise State look to have a leg up based solely on talent and experience but it wouldn’t be a shock to see any of the six actually capture the Mountain Division crow. In the West, San Diego State might just bbe the easiest call as a division winner in all of college football. The Aztecs are that head and shoulders better that the rest of the teams in the West.
Schedule is the big difference maker between Colorado State and Boise State. The Rams get Pac-12 Oregon State at home for their opener and also host Boise in their November 11th showdown. Boise is at Washinton State, BYU, San Diego State and Utah State. Wyoming features a possible first-round draft pick in gunslinger QB Josh Allen. New Mexico and Air Force are always dangerous with their respective option attack and Utah State is a solid program that could be this year’s sleeper.
San Diego State is the dominant force in the West with the other five all playing for second as they rebuild and look to get Bowl eligible. Nick Rolovich took over an impossible situation at Hawaii and led the Rainbow Warriors to a bowl win in his first year. UNLV will look to freshman phenom Armani Rodgers to lead the Rebels to respectability. Nevada, Fresno State, and San Jose are in rebuilding mode and will look to pull the odd upset along the way.
The Rams have shown steady improvement under third-year coach Mike Bobo and won four of their final five games before inexplicably laying an egg in the Bowl game. Bobo has 15 starters back representing a ton of experience, open a brand new $220 million dollar crib and have a league schedule conducive of a conference championship.
Most teams would kill to finish a season 10-3 but the 2016 Broncos can only think about what could have been. Boise opened up 7-0 before getting stunned at Wyoming and were never the same the rest of the way, ultimately getting outclassed by Baylor in the Cactus Bowl. Brett Rypien starts is third year at QB, has a young supporting cast and will need to get it done on the road as previously mentioned.
The Aggies are a proud established program that hit hard times last year and figures to be back with a vengeance in 2017. Utah State is 4-13 in its L17 with seven losses of seven or less failing to close the deal and giving up fourth quarter leads in four of those games. USU played eight Bowl teams last year, five on the road. The Aggies saw their five year Bowl streak snapped but play their tough games at home where they are 26-6 L32.
The Cowboys were last year’s Mountain West spoiler coming from nowhere to go 8-6 with a stud RB in Brian Hill (1860, 22 TDs) and fearless Favresque sophmore QB in Josh Allen. Hill has graduated but Allen will get serious NFL consideration if he continues his success this year. Eight return from a suspect defense that was last year’s weakest link.
Regardless of whatever happens with the Lobos, you have to love HC Bob Davie who took a winless doormat and made the program respectable the right way, almost from the git go. The Lobos will look to run their option down your throat and dare you to stop it. New Mexico returns a veteran offensive line and will score points but return just one on defense meaning the Lobos will probably need to get a couple of stops and outscore people.
With just seven returning starters, one of defense, the Flyboys will be hard pressed to repeat last year’s 10 wins. The Falcons opened 4-0 including a dominating win over a pretty good Navy team but promptly lost three straight before closing with six straight wins. Air Force also beat Colorado State and Boise and is 17-1 L18 at Colorado Springs and always capable.
For Rocky Long and the Aztecs, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. For the last four years, it’s been hand the ball off to record breaking Darnell Pumphrey (2133, 17 TDs) and play some defense. Pumphrey will be playing on Sundays and game managing QB Cristian Chapman will be handing off to two outstanding backs in Rashad Penny and Juwan Washington Non-conference games vs. Arizona State, Stanford, and Northern Illionois will indicate the teams overall quality as SDSU steamrolls MWC West.
The Hawaii story over the last two years is nothing short of amazing. The Warriors opened 2015 with a win over Colorado but were ravaged by injuries (23 players out for the year) and went just 2010 the rest of the way and the end of the line for Norm Chow. What makes Hawaii’s 7-7 season LY with a Bowl win is the fact that they played Cal, Michigan and Arizona on the road and basically had the UNLV game stolen from them. The Warriors return 14 starters and are much the best of the rest in the West.
Tony Sanchez has won just seven games in the first two years of his tenure. There have been several disappointing losses and no-show losses along the way but overall and has improved the talent in Sin City ten fold. Most importantly, he’s slowly changing the football culture of a basketball city and with pro sports right around the corner and the first real QB since Jason Thomas, te future is improving at UNLV.
The Wolfpack did just about was expected of them last except losing at San Jose State and that one game prevented Reno from becoming Bowl eligible and ultimately cost Brian Polian his job. This year, Jay Norvell inherits nine back on defense and five on offense but that includes returning Jr. QB David Cornwell (an Alabama transfer) and top RB James Butler. Nevada’s non-conference schedule is loaded with Northwestern, Toledo, and Washington State leaving little margin for error in conference play if the Wolf Pack hope to go Bowling.
The Fresno State faithful can only dream about the Pat Hill (anyone, anywhere) days of a decade ago but there is light at the end of the tunnel as ex-Cal QB guru Jeff Tedford takes over. Ten starters return on offense, plus six on defense so Tedford has something to work with from last year’s 1-11 squad. FSU faces Alabama, Washington, and BYU but figure to be improved and could surprise in conference.
The Spartans start their rebuild under Brent Brennan who has no prior HC experience. Brennan brings with him an offensive and defensive coordinators that have no prior coordinator experience. In fact, the OC is 28, the youngest in the FBS. Fifteen starters return from last year’s 4-8 outfit but with new schemes and a brutal schedule that includes South Florida, at Texas, at Utah, at BYU, at Hawaii, at Nevada, and at Colorado State … wins will be tough to come by for the Spartans.