The Mountain West is a conference that will occasionally have a team or two emerge to thrust it into the spotlight. But from a depth standpoint, the MW contains a lot of mediocre programs.
Boise State is no longer playing for big-time bowls, and the teams behind the Broncos aren't making huge waves either. It is a shame because there is good football being played here — but usually late at night when the East Coast audience is out at the bar or in bed.
(Win totals provided by Draftkings)
Mountain West Mountain Division
Air Force (Over 8.5 -110...Under 8.5 -110)
Non-Conference Games: Northern Iowa, Colorado, Navy, vs. Army (Arlington, Texas)
Schedule Notes: The Falcons have four of their first five at home and only one true road game over the last six weeks of the season. They host Boise State but also travel to Wyoming and San Diego State.
QB: Haaziq Daniels
Roster Notes: The triple option should be rather explosive with eight starters back beginning with Daniels. He accounted for 1,918 yards of total offense and has Brad Roberts, Emmanuel Michel, and Micah Davis all back in the backfield. The offensive line is almost intact, so there's no reason they won't be able to put up at least three or four touchdowns per game. The defense has a couple of big pieces to replace in Tre Bugg and Vince Sanford. Still, there's a lot of experience so this unit should hold its own.
Prediction: Solid number, as I came up with 8-9 wins.
Boise State (Over 9 -120...Under 9 EVEN)
Non-Conference Games: at Oregon State, Tennessee-Martin, at UTEP, BYU
Schedule Notes: It's a travel-heavy start to the campaign with three of the first four on the road. The Broncos then have four of five at home including hosting San Diego State and BYU. They close with two of three on the road.
QB: Hank Bachmeier
Roster Notes: The Broncos bring back plenty on both sides of the ball after a disappointing 7-5 finish in 2021. Bachmeier, running back George Holani, and wide receiver Stefan Cobbs form a solid trio on offense. Cobbs was the second-leading receiver last year, although he was 43 receptions behind Khalil Shakir, whom the Bills selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft. The continuity on defense is amazing, too, as the majority of the tacklers from last year are back. Safety JL Skinner is playing for his own draft status.
Prediction: Nine is a great number, so no play here.
Colorado State (Over 5.5 -145...Under 5.5 +125)
Non-Conference Games: at Michigan, Middle Tennessee, at Washington State, Sacramento State
Schedule Notes: The Rams alternate road and home games the first six weeks of the season. There are two Power 5 road trips in September, while visits to Boise State and Air Force are part of a closing stretch of three of five away from home overall.
QB: Clay Millen
Roster Notes: There's a distinct Nevada feel to the Rams program after Jay Norvell took the job and brought over a bunch of Wolfpack offensive players. Millen threw just two passes last year for Nevada but was a four-star recruit. He'll have Melquan Stovall and Tory Horton, who both transferred over as well. The question marks could be up front in finding the right mix along the offensive line. The defense, which struggled to stop the run last season, brings back its top three tacklers and five of its top seven.
Prediction: Agree with the line move to the over, but not playing at -145.
New Mexico (Over 2.5 EVEN...Under 2.5 -120)
Non-Conference Games: Maine, UTEP, at LSU, at New Mexico State
Schedule Notes: The Lobos have three straight at home before three of their next four on the road. They also have three of their final four on the road in November, including trips to Utah State and Air Force.
QB: Kansas transfer Miles Kendrick
Roster Notes: Danny Gonzales needs to find some offense after the Lobos scored just 85 points over the last 10 weeks of the season. Kendrick is slated to take over at quarterback. He was at Kansas last season, throwing nearly as many interceptions (five) as touchdown passes (six). The top two receivers return, but otherwise, the offense is full of new pieces. The defense wasn't that bad, but it was on the field way too much.
Prediction: I came up with two but usually don't like playing these low numbers with little room for error.
Utah State (Over 7 EVEN...Under 7 -120)
Non-Conference Games: UConn, at Alabama, Weber State, at BYU
Schedule Notes: It's a very interesting mix of non-conference opponents, with two ridiculously hard road trips and two easier home tilts, although FCS Weber State usually holds its own. The Aggies host Air Force but also travel to Boise State.
QB: Logan Bonner
Roster Notes: The Aggies won 11 games last year, far exceeding everyone's expectations (win total was three). Most of the starting offense returns, including Bonner. He made the transition from Arkansas State to the Mountain West seamlessly, throwing 36 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. He lost several key weapons, but Justin McGriff is back to serve as his primary wide receiver, with transfers from Alabama and Maryland joining the position group. The defense has lost some pieces as well, but defensive end Byron Vaughns should lead the way up front and Hunter Reynolds will rack up a lot of tackles from his Striker (hybrid linebacker/safety) position.
Prediction: Very solid number, as I came up with seven.
Wyoming (Over 5 +105...Under 5 -125)
Non-Conference Games: at Illinois, Tulsa, Northern Colorado, at BYU
Schedule Notes: The Cowboys have a Power 5 road opener but then have four of their next five at home including a matchup with Air Force. Wyoming gets a bye week after their road trip to Hawaii and hosts Boise State in mid-November.
QB: Utah State transfer Andrew Peasley
Roster Notes: It's weird to continue to see so many quarterbacks transferring within the conference, but here's another in Peasley, who comes over from Utah State. He'll be without the leading rusher Xazavian Valladay, who transferred to Arizona State, and the top two wide receivers left as well. The offensive line will take a step back, but the ground game should still flourish, although it may take some time for everyone to jell. The defense has a lot of needs after losing five of the top seven tacklers, led by linebacker Chad Muma, a third-round pick in this year's draft. The main specialists return so that should benefit this team.
Prediction: Smallish lean to the over.
Mountain West West Division
Fresno State (Over 8.5 -130...Under 8.5 +110)
Non-Conference Games: Cal Poly, Oregon State, at USC, at UConn
Schedule Notes: The Bulldogs get Oregon State at home early but then have three of their next four on the road, including trips to USC and Boise State. They do get San Diego State and Wyoming at home.
QB: Jake Haener
Roster Notes: The Bulldogs were 10-3 last year behind a very proficient offense and a defense that took care of business itself. Fresno has more than a dozen starters back, including the potent QB-to-WR combination of Haener and Jalen Cropper. Running back Ronnie Rivers is gone, but Jordan Mims ran for 710 yards in a complementary role and should be just fine with a heavier workload. The defense returns the top four tacklers, as well as the leaders in sacks and interceptions from last season, so the unit should be strong once again.
Prediction: I came up with 8-9 wins, so no play.
Hawaii (Over 4.5 +120...Under 4.5 -140)
Non-Conference Games: Vanderbilt, WKU, at Michigan, Duquesne, at New Mexico State
Schedule Notes: Remember that Hawaii gets 13 games on its schedule, so there's always that extra opportunity to pick up a win. The Rainbow Warriors have three of their first five at home and three of their final five on the islands as well.
QB Battle: Washington State transfer Cammon Cooper vs. Brayden Schager vs. Pittsburgh transfer Joey Yellen
Roster Notes: It was a rough offseason for Hawaii with a lot of players leaving due to Todd Graham's attitude issues. The school eventually fired him and brought in former record-setting quarterback Timmy Chang. The offense could be fun, as Chang hired Ian Shoemaker, who was the coordinator at FCS Eastern Washington. The new quarterback must be identified between the two Power 5 transfers and Schager, who started three games last season. With so many new players and a program in shambles, Chang has his work cut out for him.
Prediction: Agree with the under here. This could be a long season.
Nevada (Over 5 +135...Under 5 -160)
Non-Conference Games: at New Mexico State, Texas State, Incarnate Word, at Iowa
Schedule Notes: The Wolf Pack have two of their first three at home and then four of their next six on the road, including trips to Iowa, Air Force, Hawaii, and San Jose State. November features Boise and Fresno coming to Reno.
QB Battle: Nate Cox vs. Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth
Roster Notes: Former Oregon defensive coordinator Ken Wilson takes over for Jay Norvell, who left for conference rival Colorado State. A mass player exodus followed, leaving just two returning starters on offense. Cox was Carson Strong's backup last year and started the bowl game, while Illingworth started three games over the past two seasons for Oklahoma State. Running back Toa Taua figures to see a much heavier workload after the Wolf Pack were one of the pass-happiest offenses in the country in 2021. The defense returns a few more starters, including standout defensive tackle Dom Peterson, but it's a full-scale rebuild for first-year co-coordinators Kwame Agyeman and Mike Bethea.
Prediction: I like the under the most, but I'm certainly not playing -160. Shop around.
San Diego State (Over 7.5 -120...Under 7.5 EVEN)
Non-Conference Games: Arizona, Idaho State, at Utah, Toledo
Schedule Notes: The Aztecs get four of their first six at home, but the two road trips are to Utah and Boise State. SDSU closes the season out with three of four at home in brand-new Snapdragon Stadium.
QB: Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister
Roster Notes: Burmeister was solid in Blacksburg for Virginia Tech but might be a better fit in SDSU's style of offense. Leading rusher Greg Bell is gone, but Chance Bell has been productive with the carries he's gotten, and No. 1 receiver Jesse Matthews is back as well. The offensive line needs to be rebuilt a bit. Seven starters return on defense, although the loss of Cameron Thomas, a third-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals who was the conference's defensive player of the year last season, will be felt. Patrick McMorris fills the Aztec role in the secondary on defense and he was awesome in 2021 with 90 tackles. Oh, yeah, and Matt Araiza (the Punt God) is gone, so special teams will take a major step back.
Prediction: Like the over here a bit.
San Jose State (Over 6.5 +110...Under 6.5 -130)
Non-Conference Games: Portland State, at Auburn, Western Michigan, at New Mexico State
Schedule Notes: The Spartans have some tough road games in Mountain West play, drawing Fresno State, San Diego State, Wyoming, and Utah State away from home. The positive is that it means they've got easier home tilts at CEFCU Stadium.
QB: Hawaii transfer Chevan Cordeiro
Roster Notes: Cordeiro was part of the mass exodus from the Hawaii program and could thrive in San Jose State's system. He's not the only new face on offense either, as Nevada transfers Elijah Cooks and Justin Lockhart should team with leading returning receiver Isaiah Hamilton to form a strong trio of wideouts. The offense may not even have to carry the load, since the defense returns eight starters, including defensive end Cade Hall, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 who is looking to improve his draft stock with a big senior season.
Prediction: Solid number, as I came up with 6-7 wins.
UNLV (Over 4.5 +120...Under 4.5 -140)
Non-Conference Games: Idaho State, at California, North Texas, at Notre Dame
Schedule Notes: The Rebels do not have two straight home games at all this season. Their Mountain West slate includes road trips to Utah State and San Diego State, but they get Air Force and Fresno at home.
QB Battle: Tennessee transfer Harrison Bailey vs. Cameron Friel vs. Doug Brumfield
Roster Notes: UNLV must get better QB play if the Rebels hope to improve on their two-win 2021 campaign. Four different players took snaps under center, and they combined for 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Friel has the most experience and flashed at times, but Bailey comes from the SEC and offers intriguing upside. More will be needed from the quarterback, especially with all-time leading rusher Charles Williams gone. Kyle Williams, the conference's freshman of the year in 2020, is back and should be the primary wide receiver. The defense returns plenty of starters but the unit's lone all-conference honoree (linebacker Jacoby Windmon) transferred. The hope is that a senior-laden defense will foster some statistical improvement after giving up 409.7 yards (90th nationally) and 32.8 points (107th) per game last season.
Prediction: Much like a lot of the others, it's a solid number, as I came up with 4-5 wins.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.