Could we see a team other than Boise State step up?
The Mountain West once again could be Boise State and everyone else. It's amazing what the Broncos are able to do considering year after year they lose talent on both sides of the ball. There are some intriguing teams that could scare them a bit in Fresno State, Utah State and San Diego State. Let's take a look at what the FanDuel Sportsbook out of New Jersey thinks about this conference.
Note: Over/under totals provided by FanDuel Sportsbook.
Mountain West Mountain Division
Air Force Falcons
Over 6.5 wins -165...Under 6.5 wins +140
Non-Conference Games: Colgate, at Colorado, at Navy, Army
Air Force beat Navy last year for one of the Falcons' five victories. They didn't have a lot of returning starters and it showed as this team struggled at times last season. With seven starters back on each side of the ball, the hope is that last year's growing pains will lead to better results this fall. It'll be interesting to see if Donald Hammond III or Isaiah Sanders will be under center. There's a solid group of backs as well as some decent wide receivers. The offensive line should be pretty good with four starters back. The defense was very good against the run last year. Troy Calhoun is a very good head coach and this team should hover around bowl eligibility.
Verdict: I like the over here, but not at this price. I did come up with seven wins though so waiting won't help either.
Over 10 wins EVEN...Under 10 wins -120
Non-Conference Games: vs. Florida State (Jacksonville, Fla.), Marshall, Portland State, at BYU
It's a fascinating opener for Boise as the Broncos get to see where they stand against a beatable Florida State team. The problem is that Boise has some holes to fill and quick. Brett Rypien is gone so a new quarterback has to be found from a host of candidates that include Chase Cord, who is coming off of a torn ACL, and true freshman Hank Bachmeier. Alexander Mattison is gone too so they need to find another running back to carry the load. The offensive line will be very strong with everyone back. On defense, things will have to change with coordinator Andy Avalos going to Oregon. Still, eight starters are back so this unit figures to be very strong. Bryan Harsin is a very good head coach.
Verdict: Ten is about right.
Colorado State Rams
Over 3.5 wins -130...Under 3.5 wins +110
Non-Conference Games: vs. Colorado (Denver), Western Illinois, at Arkansas, Toledo
Quarterback Collin Hill is the straw that stirs the drink on this offense and if he's healthy then they will be in decent shape. Hill made it through spring practice but injuries have dogged him throughout his career. He'll have to find new weapons with top targets Preston Williams and Olabisi Johnson gone. The backfield is a question mark as well with a lot of unproven players on the roster. The defense allowed nearly 40 points per game in 2018 and has just six starters back. The defensive line is going to be strong, but the rest of the unit is full of questions. We could see a similar record for Mike Bobo's bunch.
Verdict: I came up with three or four wins so no play here.
New Mexico Lobos
Over 5 wins +155...Under wins -185
Non-Conference Games: Sam Houston State, at Notre Dame, New Mexico State, at Liberty
New Mexico's offense wants to be a hybrid of triple option and spread but needs to become more consistent throwing the ball and find a way to score more points (26.6 ppg last season). Tevaka Tuioti was able to do some good things last year and should be able to hold off Sheriron Jones for the starting quarterback job. The offensive line is pretty much intact, but it remains to seen who will be running behind this group. The leading returning rusher is Jones so that means a complete rebuild there. The defense returns two linemen and that's it. Ironically the best pass rusher wasn't out there last year and it's Trent Sellers, a transfer from Georgia Tech who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Verdict: Yikes. I have three or four wins for this team. Wait and see if the price goes down on the under.
Over 7 wins -114...Under 7 wins -102
Non-Conference Games: at Wake Forest, Stony Brook, at LSU, BYU
Gary Andersen is back with the Aggies after Matt Wells left for Texas Tech. Quarterback Jordan Love is probably the best player in the Mountain West after a 32-touchdown, six-interception season in 2018. The team averaged 47.5 points per game but will be hard-pressed to get close to that with just one other returning starter, left tackle Alfred Edwards. Gerold Bright is not bad at running back while a whole host of players will vie for catches at receiver. Luckily the defense has seven starters back including Tipa Galeai, who had 10.5 sacks last year. Defensive coordinator Justin Ena should be able to do big things with this side of the ball.
Verdict: Small lean to the over as I came up with eight wins.
Over 5.5 wins +115...Under 5.5 wins -135
Non-Conference Games: Missouri, at Texas State, Idaho, at Tulsa
The Cowboys get the rare home opener against an SEC school as Missouri comes to Laramie. The defense is going to rely on linebackers Cassh Maluia and Logan Wilson, which isn't a bad place to start. The secondary has to replace two very good safeties, but there is a nice veteran presence at cornerback. The offense has to be better and it starts at quarterback where Sean Chambers will be the starter after a strong showing late last season. Nico Evans is gone at running back so it'll be a group effort to try and replace his production. Wyoming better find wins early with three of the final four on the road including trips to Boise State and Utah State.
Verdict: I think the over is worth a look here especially at a plus price.
Mountain West West Division
Over 8 wins +115...Under 8 wins -135
Non-Conference Games: at USC, Minnesota, Sacramento State, at New Mexico State
Jeff Tedford has been a good hire for Fresno going 22-6 over his last two seasons. He's got just two starters back on offense and neither is under center where Marcus McMaryion has moved on. Jorge Renya, McMaryion's backup last season, is next in line for the job. Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims figure to share carries while the receiving corps needs to be rebuilt. Six starters return on defense so some regression is likely after the Bulldogs finished third in the nation in points allowed (14.1) last season. The secondary should be a strength.
Verdict: I came up with eight wins so no play here.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Over 5.5 wins EVEN...Under 5.5 wins -120
Non-Conference Games: Arizona, Oregon State, at Washington, Central Arkansas, Army
Hawaii has a very friendly start to the season with three of four at home including two against the Pac-12. The Warriors' defense has to be better then it was last year with nine starters back including the top three tacklers. UH had just 12 turnovers forced so that's another area of emphasis. Cole McDonald had 36 touchdown passes last year to just 10 interceptions. He's got a good chance to surpass that despite losing John Ursua at wide receiver. The Warriors need to run the ball more and could find some success there with an almost intact offensive line.
Verdict: I like the over. Remember you get 13 games to hit this total.
Nevada Wolf Pack
Over 6.5 wins +125...Under 6.5 wins -145
Non-Conference Games: Purdue, at Oregon, Weber State, at UTEP
Nevada gets a Power 5 school at home as the Wolf Pack host Purdue in the opener. The offense will be nowhere near as good as it was last year because they lost a pretty solid quarterback and three starters along the offensive line. The candidates to replace Ty Gangi are Cristian Solano, Carson Strong or Malik Henry. The wide receiver group is pretty strong while Toa Taua will hold things down in the backfield. The defense returns just two of the top seven tacklers as the 3-3-5 alignment experienced some issues. Nevada has conference road games against Fresno State, San Diego State and Utah State.
Verdict: I came up with six or seven wins so it's a pretty solid number here.
Over 8 wins +120...Under 8 wins -140
Non-Conference Games: Weber State, at UCLA, at New Mexico State, BYU
The offense will be headlined by Juwan Washington, who finished just shy of 1,000 rushing yards and had 10 touchdowns last season. Ryan Agnew was the picture of mediocrity at quarterback last year and one has to wonder if someone behind him comes up and steals the job. The Aztecs don't have a ton of talent back at the other skill positions but it's not like they used those guys a ton either. On defense, it's great that linebacker Kyahva Tezino is back because he had 127 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2018. The rest of the defense is going to need some help. SDSU has three of the last four at home.
Verdict: Eight or nine wins is what I come up with so I lean to the over.
San Jose State Spartans
Over 2.5 wins -155...Under 2.5 wins +130
Non-Conference Games: Northern Colorado, Tulsa, at Arkansas, at Army
It was a rough year for the Spartans in 2018, as they went 1-11 with their only victory coming against UNLV (50-37). Josh Love is back under center and one of six returning starters on offense. He's got Tyler Nevens back in the backfield and a couple of offensive linemen as well. The defense was one of the worst in college football, surrendering nearly 500 yards and 36.6 points per game. Ethan Aguayo is the top returning linebacker and Cade Hall had three sacks last season. It's going to be another long season for the Spartans.
Verdict: There's a chance for three wins, but San Jose State could win the first two and lose the next 10.
Over 4 wins +130...Under 4 wins -155
Non-Conference Games: Southern Utah, Arkansas State, at Northwestern, at Vanderbilt
Beginning mid-September and ending in early November, UNLV has five road games over seven contests with the home dates being Boise State and San Diego State. The Rebels have Armani Rogers at quarterback and he's got a couple of really good wide receivers in Mekhi Stevenson and Darren Woods Jr. Lexington Thomas is gone from the backfield, but whoever takes over will be running behind a good offensive line. The defense has to be better after allowing almost 200 rushing yards per game. The special teams units are pretty solid as well.
Verdict: I came up with four wins so no play here.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo courtesy of broncosports.com)