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Mountain West Football 2015 Predictions

Donnel Pumphrey

Donnel Pumphrey

It’s a new year, but there’s a similar theme for the Mountain West in 2015. Boise State is once again the favorite to win the league crown, as the Broncos have a good chance to run the table and finish unbeaten this year. But Boise State will have competition from Utah State, Colorado State and San Diego State.

The balance of power in the Mountain West is clearly in the Mountain Division this season, with San Diego State the frontrunner from the West Division. All six of the teams from the Mountain Division rank inside of the top 100 of Athlon’s final 128 projections for 2015. However, on the other side, the West Division has only two teams ranked inside of the top 100.

Athlon projects a San Diego State-Boise State matchup in the 2015 Mountain West Championship. Below are five storylines to watch, followed by full conference predictions for this season.

5 Key Questions That Will Shape the Mountain West in 2015

1. How Will Boise State Reload at QB and RB?

The Broncos usually have little trouble finding the next standouts at quarterback and running back. But these positions could make-or-break Boise State’s run at an appearance in one of college football’s top bowl games. Ryan Finley exited the spring as the frontrunner to replace Grant Hedrick at quarterback, while Jeremy McNichols and Cory Young are slated as the favorites to replace Jay Ajayi at running back. Stanford transfer Kelsey Young will also factor into the mix at running back, while Finley will be pushed in the fall by Thomas Stuart and Brett Rypien for the starting quarterback spot. How fast will coach Bryan Harsin develop the right answers at two critical positions?

Related: Complete No. 1 to 128 College Football Rankings for 2015

2. Transfer Quarterbacks

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding quarterback play in the Mountain West for the 2015 season. Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton is one of the few proven options in this league, as Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Nevada and Fresno State will have a new starting quarterback in 2015. The uncertainty extends to the teams projected to finish at the bottom of the Mountain West, as Hawaii, San Jose State and UNLV are looking for answers under center. Help is on the way in the form of transfers for some teams, as Wyoming (Cameron Coffman, Indiana), Hawaii (Max Wittek, USC) and San Diego State (Maxwell Smith, Kentucky) left Power 5 programs for a chance to start.

3. Back from Injury at Utah State

Utah State has been hit hard by injuries over the last two seasons, but the Aggies are an impressive 19-9 under Matt Wells. Getting quarterback Chuckie Keeton and linebacker Kyler Fackrell back to full strength will be huge for Utah State in 2015. Assuming Keeton and Fackrell are at 100 percent this fall, the Aggies should be Boise State’s top competition in the Mountain West. Keeton completed 51 of 92 passes for 426 yards and two scores in three games last season before missing the rest of 2014 with a leg injury. Fackrell suffered a torn ACL in the opener against Tennessee and did not return last year. Getting both players back is a huge boost for Utah State's Mountain West title hopes.

4. New Coaches

Two new coaches join the league for 2015, as Colorado State hired Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to replace Jim McElwain (left for Florida), and UNLV replaced Bobby Hauck with successful high school coach Tony Sanchez. Bobo was one of the SEC’s top coordinators during his stint in Athens and should be a solid hire for the Rams. His top priority this fall will be finding a quarterback to replace Garrett Grayson, but Bobo inherits a solid offensive line and All-American receiver Rashard Higgins. The job is much tougher for Sanchez, as the first-year coach inherits a UNLV program that went 2-11 last season and returns just seven starters. Sanchez is going to need a few years to recruit and rebuild the talent level in the program, but two veteran coordinators (Kent Baer and Barney Cotton) should help his transition from the high school ranks to the FBS level.

5. Coaches on the Hot Seat

Is this a make-or-break year for Ron Caragher (SJSU) and Norm Chow (Hawaii)? Both Hawaii and San Jose State have the talent level to exceed last year’s win total, but both teams enter 2015 with plenty of uncertainty. The Spartans led the nation in pass defense in 2014 and third in the conference in yards allowed. However, the offense recorded only 19.3 points per game. The quarterback position is up for grabs this offseason, and the offense needs more punch from a rushing attack ranked near the bottom of the Mountain West. Hawaii hopes USC transfer Max Wittek is the answer under center, but there’s question marks about the offensive line and concerns up front on defense. 

Mountain West Conference 2015 Team Previews

Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2015 National College Football Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 128 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year. 

Mountain West Conference Predictions for 2015


Mountain West 2015 Superlatives and Season Predictions

 

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Lassan

Mitch
Light

David
Fox

Mark
Ross

 

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Offensive POY

Donnel Pumphrey
RB, SDSU

Donnel Pumphrey
RB, SDSU

Donnel Pumphrey
RB, SDSU

Chuckie Keeton
QB, USU

Defensive POY

Kamalei Correa
DL, Boise State

Kyler Fackrell
LB, USU

Calvin Munson
LB, SDSU

Nick Vigil
LB, USU

Coach of the Year

Bryan Harsin
Boise State

Rocky Long
SDSU

Matt Wells
Utah State

Bryan Harsin
Boise State

Coach on Hot Seat

Norm Chow
Hawaii

Norm Chow
Hawaii

Ron Caragher
SJSU

Norm Chow
Hawaii

Top Freshman

Cory Young
RB, Boise State

Kanya Bell
WR, SJSU

Cory Young
RB, Boise State

Cory Young
RB, Boise State

Top Newcomer

Maxwell Smith
QB, SDSU

Maxwell Smith
QB, SDSU

Dalyn Dawkins
RB, CSU

Dalyn Dawkins
RB, CSU

Sleeper Team

New Mexico

San Jose State

Wyoming

San Jose State

Top Coordinator Hire

Kevin Clune
DC, USU

Kent Baer
DC, UNLV

Barney Cotton
OC, UNLV

Tyson Summers
DC, CSU

Key Position to Watch

Boise State QB/RB

Boise State RB

BSU backfield

Boise State QB/RB

Hardest to Evaluate

Fresno State

Colorado State

Nevada

Colorado State

Coach on the Rise

Matt Wells
Utah State

Matt Wells
Utah State

Bryan Harsin
Boise State

Matt Wells
Utah State

Must-See Game

Boise State at
Utah State

Boise State at
Utah State

Boise State at
Utah State

Boise State at
Utah State

Breakout Player

Dylan
Sumner-Gardner
S, Boise State

Cameron Coffman
QB, Wyoming

LaJuan Hunt
RB, USU

Tyler Ervin
WR/KR, SJSU

Comeback Player

Chuckie Keeton
QB, USU

Chuckie Keeton
QB, USU

Chuckie Keeton
QB, USU

Kyler Fackrell
LB, USU


Ranking the Mountain West Coaches for 2015

1. Matt Wells, Utah State

2. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

3. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

4. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

5. Rocky Long, San Diego State

Five QB Battles to Watch for 2015

1. Boise State
Ryan Finley vs. Brett Rypien and Thomas Stuart

2. Colorado State
Nick Stevens vs. Coleman Key 

3. Fresno State
Zack Greenlee vs. Kilton Anderson and Chason Virgil

4. Nevada
Tyler Stewart vs. Dante Mayes and Hunter Fralick

Recommended Articles

5. San Diego State
Maxwell Smith vs. Christian Chapman and Jake Rodrigues

Ranking the Mountain West Running Backs for 2015

1. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State

2. Marteze Waller, Fresno State

3. Jhurell Pressley, New Mexico

4. Shaun Wick, Wyoming

5. Jacobi Owens, Air Force

The Top 5 Non-Conference Games for 2015

1. Washington at Boise State - Sept. 4

2. Utah State at Utah - Sept. 11

3. Air Force at Navy - Oct. 3

4. Boise State at BYU - Sept. 12

5. Utah State at Washington - Sept. 19

Key Coordinator Hires for 2015

1. Kevin Clune, Defensive Coordinator, Utah State

2. Tyson Summers, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado State

3. Eliah Drinkwitz, Offensive Coordinator, Boise State

4. Kent Baer, Defensive Coordinator, UNLV

5. Al Borges, Offensive Coordinator, San Jose State

Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)

1. DeSean Holmes, WR, San Diego State

2. Kanya Bell, WR, San Jose State

3. Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State

4. Kyahva Tezino, LB, San Diego State

5. Tae'on Mason, ATH, San Jose State

6. Chason Virgil, QB, Fresno State

7. Jeremy Kelly, DB, San Jose State

8. Drew Berger, LB, Boise State

9. Akilan Butler, WR, Boise State

10. John Carroll, ATH, San Diego State