COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS BACK!! Sorry for the all caps but I’m just really excited that football is here. And you should be too! With the return of football I guess it’d be appropriate to look at the Mountain West and see who’s going to do good (hi Boise), and who’s going to do nothing (hi San Jose State).
Boise State was picked to finish first in the Mountain division and I think it’s pretty safe to say, win the Mountain West championship. This shouldn’t surprise anyone as they steamrolled their way through the Mountain West last year in Bryan Harsin’s first year at the helm. They capped the year by beating Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.
Digging into the Mountain West teams we’ll take a look at what kind of schedule they have, impact players returning, and anything else I deem relevant.
Let’s start with the Air Force Academy. The Falcons return Nate Romine at quarterback who saw some playing time last year in limited snaps. The Falcons also return leading rusher from last year Jacobi Owens who had 1054 yards and 4 touchdowns. There’s a bit of experience coming back for the Falcons and I’d expect them to be a dangerous team. Leading receiver Jalen Robinette is also coming back after an 806 yard year with four touchdowns.
The Falcons schedule sets up nicely for two year wins, facing Morgan State and San Jose State at home. A not-so-fun date with Michigan State in East Lansing may not be fun for Falcon offensive players. The normal dates with Army and Navy squeeze in there and we should see the Falcons bowling this year.
As noted above the Boise State Broncos are coming off of a season where they were crushed by Ole Miss to start the season and ended with beating Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. What a wild ride for the Broncos. This year they get a new quarterback and it’s not going to be the true freshman Brett Rypien (yet). Welcome to the show Ryan Finley. The Broncos return two of their top receivers in Thomas Sperbeck and Shane Williams-Rhodes which should help Finley transition into this new starting role. However, no Jay Ajayi means that a brand new running back will need to make up his production if the Broncos want to keep rolling.
That said, it’s not going to be easy for the Broncos. They start off with a home contest against their former coach, Chris Petersen then head on the road to take on BYU. Boise State could start 2-0, 1-1, 0-2, who knows.. lots of question marks for the Huskies and Cougars, and Boise’s got their own. That said, Boise should win the Mountain division of the Mountain West and be in contention for a nice bowl game come December.
I know you guys don’t care, but I feel this is important… but YouTube just put Gangnam Style up next on shuffle. I cannot confirm nor deny that I’m bobbing my head while writing this blog.
The Colorado State Rams lost their head coach in the offseason to Florida. They plucked another SEC coordinator in hopes of repeating the success that Jim McElwain had so they went and nabbed Mike Bobo from Georgia. The Rams lost some firepower with Garrett Grayson and Dee Hart leaving, but they return a Mountain West offensive player of the year candidate in Rashard Higgins (drop the Hollywood thing, dude. It’s dumb). Higgins put up Madden numbers last year with 1750 yards and 17 touchdowns. If you’re keeping track at home he caught half of the Rams’ 34 touchdown passes last year. How will the Rams look with new quarterback Nick Stevens and running back Treyous Jarrells, plus a new coach? I can’t imagine they’ll repeat the success they had last year.
If the Rams want to repeat the success they had last year the schedule certainly sets up for it as they scheduled a pretty easy OOC with the literal worst FCS team, Savannah State, then following that up with a home contest against Minnesota then Colorado at Mile High. They also get a trip to San Antonio to play UTSA before settling into their Mountain West schedule. I can probably find six wins in this schedule to get them to a bowl game.
Fresno State could very well be in contention to win the West division of the Mountain West this year, but I’m not going to call that a ringing endorsement. The West side of the Mountain West looks a little thin this year with Fresno and San Diego State looking like the cream of the crop. The Bulldogs will be starting a new QB this year in Zack Greenlee. Greenlee saw limited action last year for the ‘Dogs. To ease that transition, though, is running back Marteze Waller who was the leading rusher last year with 1368 yards and 11 touchdowns. After that, a lot of question marks for the Bulldogs.
The schedule isn’t easy for the Bulldogs and looks like something Pat Hill would have scheduled. After opening with FCS newcomer Abilene Christian they go to Ole Miss, home with Utah and also have a road game with BYU on the schedule. Their cross division games are Utah State and Air Force. Also not easy. I just don’t see a bowl game in the ‘Dogs future, that’s a tough draw for them this year.
Hawaii football is back on the islands and that means college football after dark featuring Robert Kekaula. Here’s to many nights staring at Oceanic PPV feed on my computer! The Rainbow Warriors will rely on USC transfer Max Wittek to keep them in football games. The ‘bows lose their top two rushers from last year, but return two of their top pass catchers. Marcus Kemp and Quinton Pedroza should help Wittek out, but can they contribute enough to make this Hawaii team good? I don’t know.
The Hawaii schedule will be plenty challenging with trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin, plus a date with Colorado and Boise State. How many games can they win? Not many, maybe three or four. I just don’t think Hawaii is going to be a good team this year and not sure what we’re going to see out of Max Wittek, whom the offense will be heavily dependent on.
The Nevada Wolf Pack lost another great quarterback in Cody Fajardo to the NFL this past offseason. He was their leading passer and rusher last season, responsible for more than 3500 yards of total offense. That’s pretty good, I suppose. He’ll be replaced by junior Tyler Stewart. The Wolfpack only return one starter from the receiving corps in Jerico Richardson. This team has A LOT of work to do if they want to be in position for a bowl game this year. Brian Polian seems to have this team moving in a positive direction, but there’s a lot of offense to replace from last year.
The ‘Pack’s schedule isn’t easy to start off, as it could be a 1-3 start with games against UC-Davis, Arizona, at Texas A&M and at Buffalo. Once they move into Mountain West play they could win a few games and maybe even contend for the West division but it won’t be easy. There might be six wins in their schedule but they’re going to have to steal some games to get to a bowl game.
The New Mexico Lobos will be returning all three of their top rushers this coming season. That’s not good if you’re the Mountain West. Quarterback Lamar Jordan, running back Jhurell Pressley, and running back Teriyon Gipson are looking to build on their 2014 campaign where they combined to rush for 2400 yards between them. That’s a lot of heavy weaponry in the backfield. They were a four win team last year under Bob Davie. Can they improve on that? How much will they miss Cole Gautsche’s long flowing mane? Big questions for the Lobos.
Their schedule sets up a little better this year with games against FCS Mississippi Valley State, Tulsa, at Arizona State and home against New Mexico State. Looks like a 3-1 start to me, then into the Mountain West regular season where Hawaii and San Jose State are on tap for them. This team very well could be bowling just because their schedule is so soft. Tulsa will be a pivotal game for the Lobos to earn bowl eligibility.
San Diego State just seems to turn out quality running backs for some reason, and right now they have a very good back in Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey rushed for an absurd 1867 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s pretty decent. They will be replacing their quarterback from last season, and bringing in Maxwell Smith (can we just call him Max?). Smith is a senior transfer from Kentucky who will look to guide the Aztecs offense through the season. Eric Judge and Lloyd Mills are two of the top three receivers from last year, but the Aztecs were not a real threat to throw the ball last year. You would think this year would be a much better year for the Aztecs. They may even have the most bad ass helmets in the country this year too.
The schedule for the Aztecs sets up pretty well with games against San Diego, Cal, South Alabama and a pretty tough visit to Happy Valley to take on Penn State. Once they jump into Mountain West play I think they’ll be bowling. Should come out of the OOC with a 3-1 record and I’m pretty sure Pumphrey will power the team to at least three more wins. Should be a race for the top of the West division and SDSU will be right there.
San Jose State, what can we say. They have some new uniforms this year. They also return quarterback Joe Gray who threw for 2300 yards and 11 scores. They also return leading rusher from last year Tyler Ervin who ran for 888 yards and four touchdowns. This team was simply not a good offensive team last year and it reflected in their win/loss record. I would expect Gray to be able to top his passing stats from last year and I’d expect Ervin to be slightly better. Can the rest of the team help them along?
The schedule for San Jose State won’t be an easy one. They start at home with the dangerous New Hampshire Wildcats, road contest with Oregon State and Auburn, then home with BYU. They could very well have an 0-4 OOC and then have to worry about MW play where they drew Boise State and Air Force. This team looks like they could have a 2-3 win season pretty easily.
The UNLV Rebels made one of the more surprising hires of the college football offseason by reaching down into the high school ranks and hiring Tony Sanchez from local Las Vegas high school Bishop Gorman. BGHS has a reputation for turning out a lot of division one athletes. Can Sanchez translate that into division one football success? The Rebels will return last year’s starting quarterback Blake Decker and wide receiver Devonte Boyd. Keith Whitely will be carrying the ball for the Rebels this year, he had 504 yards and two touchdowns last season. I really don’t know what to expect out of Sanchez. He could be good, he could be bad, he could turn into a flower pot. We just really don’t know.
The Rebels schedule is not easy. I repeat, this could be bad. Road game at Northern Illinois, home against UCLA, at the Big House, and a game vs an up-and-coming Idaho State who might throw all over the Rebels. They also get Boise State and Colorado State. That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. I can see about four wins on this schedule, but not many more than that. I’d be worried about that Idaho State game if I was the Rebs, they could easily be 0-4 heading into the regular season.
If there’s one team that’s going to scare the hell out of Boise State it’s going to be Utah State. They return the one and only Charles F. Keeton to the lineup after a year of basically not having him due to injury. Keeton could also very well be in contention for Mountain West offensive player of the year. The Aggies were very good about spreading the rushing attack around but they lose the ever dangerous JoJo Natson. Joe Hill will carry the lion’s share of the ball. He had 507 yards and four touchdowns last year. This team also has a terrific linebacker Nick Vigil who could be in for a big year as well. Kyler Fackrell could also be a very good defensive player this year. This Aggies team will play some good defense this year.
This year’s Aggies schedule looks tough on paper, but this team could win a few of their OOC games which feature Southern Utah, at Utah, at Washington, and home against BYU. They could go 1-3, or 3-1, really don’t know. Utah will be returning a tough team, and Washington could be pretty good or pretty bad. BYU will always be a tough home contest for the Aggies. The last game in Logan was a thriller. This team could be a contender for the Mountain division title.
Last but not least we move onto Wyoming. The Cowboys are returning arguably the best running back tandem in the Mountain West with Shaun Wick and Brian Hill. They will be leaning on a new quarterback this year with Cameron Coffman, a transfer from Indiana. They will also have two new starting receivers with Jake Mulhardt and Tanner Gentry. The Cowboys are in their second year with Craig Bohl running the show and are trying to improve on a four win season from a year ago. You’d have to think that the combination of Hill and Wick, provided they stay healthy, could do some damage in a power rushing attack.
The schedule for the Cowboys is considerably easier from a year ago, starting with North Dakota (not the good North Dakota school), Eastern Michigan, Washington State and Appalachian State. They could go 3-1, 2-2, 4-0, who knows. The Washington State game will be a tough one on the road and Leach’s high flying football vs Wyoming’s shaky secondary. A cross-country trip to the highest campus in the East, Appalachian State will also provide a tough test for the Cowboys. This team could very well be Bohling at the end of the year.
If you were looking for in-depth statistics, in-depth player reviews, and Taylor Swift song lyrics worked into the writing then you’re not going to be happy you just read all of that. What I can tell you is we’re in for another fun season of Mountain West football.
My predictions, because my opinion counts, is Boise State wins the Mountain division, San Diego State wins the West division, and Boise crushes the Aztecs in the Mountain West championship. Boise will be in another New Years six bowl game and I’m sure the blue faithful is already booking their Fiesta Bowl tickets.
Happy football watching, and if your team loses, just remember to “Shake it Off.”