Leading up to the kickoff of the 2019 college football season, The Game Haus has been previewing each FBS conference and those independent teams. As we continue today with the Mountain West Conference, we offer predictions and look at the top performers while also highlighting key games within the league.
Here we go with the Mountain West.
1. Boise State
Three straight seasons with at least 10 wins, the Broncos are focused on returning to the top of the Mountain West. Boise returns 14 starters from a squad that went 10-3 last season, but will be hungry after losing in the Mountain West title game to Fresno State.
2. Utah State
Led by talented quarterback Jordan Love, the Aggies are poised to build on last season’s 11-win effort. Linebacker David Woodward (134 tackles in 2018) is a beast, but the key for Utah State is finding a way to beat Boise.
The Cowboys went 6-6 last season but failed to earn a bowl bid after doing so each of the previous two seasons. Six starters return from a defense that held three teams to fewer than 10 points, and another two under 20.
4. Air Force
There is some sneaky talent at the Air Force Academy. The most intriguing of which should be versatile quarterback Donald Hammond III, who gained some valuable experience last season. Improving on three Mountain West wins from a year ago is a must.
5. Colorado State
For the first time in six seasons, Colorado State failed to make a bowl appearance. Injuries played a part in those 2018 issues, but six starters are back from a defense that seems capable of keeping the Rams in games.
6. New Mexico
Following back-to-back 3-9 seasons, the heat should be on veteran coach Bob Davie. The Lobos enter the season mired in a seven-game losing streak. There’s reason to believe we’ll see some improvement, just how much is unknown. That Week 2 trip against Davie’s former employer Notre Dame will be fun.
1. Fresno State
A total of 12 starters are back from last year’s Mountain West champion. With the Bulldogs, it’s still about defense. Linebacker Mykal Walker (87 tackles) and defensive back Juju Hughes (four interceptions) return from a unit that allowed an average of 14.1 points.
2. San Diego State
After three straight seasons of at least 10 wins, SDSU managed just seven in 2018. The Aztecs are ready to make sure that number rises behind running back Juwan Washington (999 yards, 10 rushing touchdowns) and linebacker Kyahva Tezino (127 tackles, 8 1/5 sacks).
With eight wins a year go, Nevada managed to match its total from the previous two seasons. It will be interesting to see if the Wolf Pack are capable of playing that well again. Running back Toa Taua looks to build on an exciting freshman season that included 872 rushing yards.
Cole McDonald (3,875 yards, 36 TDs, 10 interception in 2018) is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and Hawai‘i will continue to score points. Whether it can improve a defense that yielded an average of 35.1 points is the $10 million question.
It’s quite hard to figure out just where the Rebels are headed – as a program. They have not been to a bowl game in 2013 and took a step back with one fewer win (four) in 2018. Also, UNLV’s best player is offensive lineman Justin Polu.
6. San Jose State
The Spartans are 3-22 over the past two seasons, but there is excitement surrounding the program. That’s because this will be an experienced team that relied on youth the past couple of campaigns. Keep an eye on senior quarterback Josh Love (1,963 passing yards).
Players to watch
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: Love is coming off a stellar sophomore season in which he threw for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns. On five occasions, Love threw for at least four TDs.
Curtis Weaver, DL, Boise State: The two-time All-Mountain West pick has recorded 20 1/5 sacks in over his first two campaigns for the Broncos. He’s eight sacks shy of the league record.
Sept. 7: Nevada at Oregon. The Wolf Pack won eight games in 2018. They’ll be tested early against Ducks to see what might be in store for ’19
Nov. 15: Fresno State at San Diego State. The top two teams in the West Division hook up with what should be plenty on the line. Fresno has won the last two meetings.
Nov. 23: Boise State at Utah State. We’d like to think the Mountain Division title will come down to this game. However, it’s been all Boise, which has won 15 of the last 16 matchups.