Every once in a while, the Mountain West gets itself in the spotlight. But for the most part, it just has a lot of mediocre teams. Boise State is no longer playing for big-time bowls, and the squads behind them aren't making huge waves either. It is a shame because there is good football being played here — just usually at times of night when the east coast is out at the bar or in their beds. Let's take a look and try and close things out in style.
Note: Win total numbers courtesy of DraftKings.
Air Force (Over 6.5 -113...Under 6.5 -113)
Non-Conference Games: Lafayette, at Navy, FAU, Army West Point
Schedule Notes: The Falcons have four of their first six games at home, which gives them the opportunity to start fast. Air Force plays at Boise State and Nevada during conference play while hosting San Diego State.
QB: Haaziq Daniels
Roster Notes: It's never a good sign when a triple-option team has to replace its whole offensive line and returns just three starters on offense as a whole. Luckily the backfield is in good hands with Daniels and Brad Roberts at fullback. It could be ugly early for this team depending on how long it takes for the line to gel. We'll see what the defense presents after also losing a bunch of starters, but it will add in the turnback players who opted out during the pandemic season.
Prediction: Six or seven wins are what I came up with. This team will play a lot of low-scoring games.
Boise State (Over 9 +110...Under 9 -139)
Non-Conference Games: at UCF, UTEP, Oklahoma State, at BYU
Schedule Notes: What an interesting array of non-conference games. We'll learn a lot about the Broncos as they take on the high-octane team out of the AAC and then host Oklahoma State weeks later. In conference, Boise hosts Nevada in October and closes things out at San Diego State on Nov. 27.
QB Battle: Hank Bachmeier vs. Jack Sears
Roster Notes: Bachmeier had a roller-coaster 2020 campaign, but Jack Sears is back as well if he falters. A new offensive coordinator (Tim Plough) comes in to help, and he's got a good pedigree considering how potent his UC Davis offenses were in the FCS. Plenty of weapons return with Khalil Shakir and CT Thomas at WR and Andrew Van Buren and George Holani at RB. Head coach Andy Avalos has a defensive background and has eight returning starters to work with. Both starting cornerbacks are gone, so that'll be tough to overcome at first.
Prediction: Nine wins seem about right. I think the Oklahoma State home contest is the tipping point on this total.
Colorado State (Over 4.5 -125...Under 4.5 EVEN)
Non-Conference Games: South Dakota State, Vanderbilt, at Toledo, at Iowa
Schedule Notes: The Rams certainly challenged themselves early, and there's an outside chance they start at least 0-4 before hosting San Jose State on Oct. 9. CSU hosts Boise State in October and closes with a home tilt against Nevada.
QB: Todd Centeio
Roster Notes: Eight starters are back on offense, but they lost tight end Nate Craig-Myers to UCF. This means more will be expected from Trey McBride who had four touchdowns last year. The OL is back intact, which is a good thing for Steve Addazio, who loves the trenches. Getting Scott Patchan back up front with Manny Jones and Toby McBride is a big thing considering how much pressure they got in 2020.
Prediction: The under is the lean here. I think they go 0-4 to start the year and could fall even further if they don't beat the Spartans.
New Mexico (Over 4.5 -113...Under 4.5 -113)
Non-Conference Games: Houston Baptist, at Texas A&M, New Mexico State, at UTEP
Schedule Notes: This team alternates home and road games almost the whole season. In November, they have back-to-back road games at Fresno and Boise. They do get Colorado State at home on Oct. 16.
QB: Kentucky transfer Terry Wilson
Roster Notes: We'll see what the Lobos are truly like because the COVID restrictions made things tough for them in 2020, and now they have a legit QB in Wilson. The offensive line returns four starters, while the skill positions are a little lean. Wide receiver Jordan Kress is in the transfer portal as well as Nathaniel Jones, who was the second-leading rusher in 2020. The defense was bad last year, but seven starters are returning.
Prediction: Lean to the over here.
Utah State (Over 3 -143...Under 3 +110)
Non-Conference Games: at Washington State, North Dakota, BYU, at New Mexico State
Schedule Notes: The Aggies could start out 0-5, as their FCS opponent is no pushover. Getting Boise and BYU at home back-to-back is nice but also not very winnable for this team in rebuild mode.
QB: Arkansas State transfer Logan Bonner
Roster Notes: New head coach Blake Anderson will have a familiar face at quarterback in Bonner. He'll most likely win the job, although Andrew Peasley is also in the mix. The leading rusher is gone, but several options will try to replace Jaylen Warren. Meanwhile, Deven Thompkins and Justin McGriff are solid options at WR. The top nine tacklers are back on defense with some solid talent in the secondary as well.
Prediction: Three wins are probably about right as this team has a lot of work to do.
Wyoming (Over 8 -113...Under 8 -113)
Non-Conference Games: Montana State, at NIU, Ball State, at Connecticut
Schedule Notes: An improved Cowboys team could start 4-0 if they navigate a couple of winnable road games. The Mountain West slate has them playing at Boise State and San Jose State within a three-week span. They figure to be favored against their home conference opponents.
QB: Sean Chambers
Roster Notes: Chambers's broken leg in the season opener forced Levi Williams into action and the redshirt freshman had just one touchdown pass. With better health, the offense could surprise led by a running game powered by Xazavian Valladay and Trey Smith. The defense was awesome and all but one starter returns. Wyoming finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense and held Boise to just 17 points in the final game of 2020.
Prediction: Eight or nine wins here, so I guess slight lean to the over.
Fresno State (Over 6 -113...Under 6 -113)
Non-Conference Games: Connecticut, at Oregon, Cal Poly, at UCLA
Schedule Notes: The Bulldogs have two easy home non-conference contests and two tough Pac-12 road games. They get Boise State at home in November but have to travel to Wyoming, San Diego State, and San Jose State.
QB: Jake Haener
Roster Notes: Haener had this offense going, as Fresno State was fifth in passing last season. He's got Keric Wheatfall and Jalen Cropper back along with fantastic running back Ronnie Rivers. Utah transfer Jordan Wilmore strengthens the backfield that has only three OL back. The defense was bad last season but returns nine starters. It's Year 2 with a normal offseason to learn coordinator William Inge's 4-2-5 system, so improvement is expected.
Prediction: Six wins are about right.
Hawaii (Over 6 -139...Under 6 +110)
Non-Conference Games: at UCLA, Portland State, at Oregon State, at New Mexico State, New Mexico State
Schedule Notes: The Rainbow Warriors alternate road and home games all season long, so the travel could get interesting for these guys. They should pick up two wins over the Aggies in non-conference play and will have to travel to Nevada and Wyoming.
QB: Chevan Cordeiro
Roster Notes: Hawaii's offense found its form as the season went along in 2020. Cordeiro has versatile running back Calvin Turner Jr. back as well as Jared Smart out wide. The offensive line has four starters back and another year in this unique system. The Rainbow Warriors' defense is back pretty much intact and is led by middle linebacker Darius Muasau. The DL got a boost from Oklahoma transfer Zacchaeus McKinney.
Prediction: I agree with money move on the over. Remember Hawaii has 13 games on the schedule.
Nevada (Over 7.5 -139...Under 7.5 +110)
Non-Conference Games: at California, Idaho State, at Kansas State, New Mexico State
Schedule Notes: Yikes. The Wolf Pack play three of four to start on the road, and none of the trips are easy at all. In conference play, Nevada takes on Boise State, Fresno State, and San Diego State all on the road and hosts San Jose State.
QB: Carson Strong
Roster Notes: Strong has missed practice early on with a knee issue, but there's no doubt he'll be available in Week 1 against Cal. The offense has almost everyone back, including pass catchers Romeo Doubs, Elijah Cooks, Melquan Stovall, and Cole Turner. The offensive line is strong, and Toa Taua is back at running back as well. The defense remains almost intact, starting with Dom Peterson and Sam Hammond up front. Nevada boosted its defense by adding DBs from USF and Wake Forest via the transfer portal.
Prediction: Seven or eight wins seem about right.
San Diego State (Over 6.5 -108...Under 6.5 -118)
Non-Conference Games: New Mexico State, at Arizona, Utah, Towson
Schedule Notes: The Aztecs get four of their first five at home, including a contest against Utah and the New Mexico schools. They get San Jose State on the road, while Nevada and Boise State come to San Diego.
QB Battle: Mississippi State transfer Jalen Mayden vs. Lucas Johnson vs. Jordon Brookshire
Roster Notes: Carson Baker's transfer to WKU leaves the team needing to ID a new signal-caller for the 2021 campaign. The Aztecs have to improve the passing attack and the hope is that wide receiver Tyrell Shavers, who comes over from Mississippi State, will do that. The run game has the Bells back (Greg and Chance) but only two returning starters on the OL. The secondary must be rebuilt after several players left/graduated. The front seven should be pretty strong, though.
Prediction: Six or seven wins are what I come up with here.
San Jose State (Over 7.5 -125...Under 7.5 EVEN)
Non-Conference Games: Southern Utah, at USC, at Western Michigan, New Mexico State
Schedule Notes: After an FCS opener, the Spartans have four of their next five at home, including a trip to USC followed two weeks later by a game in Hawaii. They do close with two games at home, but those are against Utah State and Fresno State.
QB: Nick Starkel
Roster Notes: Starkel was awesome last year with 17 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. But he won't have Tre Walker or Bailey Gaither to throw to, so Isaiah Hamilton and Jermaine Braddock will have to step up more. Tyler Nevens is back at running back and so is the whole offensive line. The defense was a pleasant surprise last year and returns virtually intact. Safety Tre Webb decided to transfer but the front seven should continue to improve.
Prediction: Slight lean to the over.
UNLV (Over 1.5 -121...Under 1.5 -106)
Non-Conference Games: Eastern Washington, at Arizona State, Iowa State, at UTSA
Schedule Notes: Getting Iowa State at home is fun, but that will be a loss. Week 1 against FCS member Eastern Washington is no guarantee either. The Rebels have San Jose State and San Diego State at home while traveling to Nevada and Fresno State.
QB Battle: Justin Rogers vs. Doug Brumfield vs. Miami transfer Tate Martell
Roster Notes: The run game should be pretty good with Charles Williams returning and Oregon's Jayvaun Wilson transferring in. The problem is that the QB situation isn't a pretty one. The defense was bad last year, so do 10 returning starters mean much? USC's Connor Murphy transferred in to help the defensive line. There's some decent talent here, but asking them to take a huge leap could be a lot.
Prediction: I hate these low totals. There are two or three winnable games for UNLV this season, but can a bad team find a way to win those? Pass.