Boise State has owned this conference in recent years in terms of playing in the conference championship game. They will look to make it six straight when they kick off the 2021 campaign. Nevada, Wyoming, and San Jose State look to be major roadblocks for the Broncos this season Now, let’s unveil our 2021 Mountain West standings predictions.
6. Utah State
Logan Bonner moves over from Arkansas State to take the reigns of the starting quarterback position for the Aggies. However, he might find the sledding a little tougher here for a team that averaged only 16 points per game. The news is even worse for the defense that surrendered just over 35 points per game. Utah State will be improved but not enough to avoid the basement.
5. New Mexico
Much like their predecessor, the Lobos will look to the transfer portal for a resurgence on the offensive side of the ball. Terry Wilson comes over from Kentucky to take the reigns. New Mexico has a similar issue on defense as they gave up 33 points per game. The battle for cellar-dweller supremacy might come down to the final game of the season as the Lobos host Utah State.
4. Colorado State
The Rams have a lot of talent at every level of the offense, especially with David Bailey coming in from Boston College along with Dante Wright and Trey McBride as the primary pass catchers. The development of starting quarterback Todd Centeio will be critical as he only connected on 39% of his passes from a year ago.
3. Air Force
There’s good news and there’s bad news for the Falcons. First, the bad news. Air Force is the most inexperienced team in the Mountain West on offense with only four starters remaining. The good news is that they return nine starters from a defense that only allowed 15 points per game. If the offense can catch up with the defense, watch out.
Wyoming comes in as the most experienced team in the league with 21 starters coming back. Levi Williams will need to be much more efficient in the passing game but can rely on Xazavian Valladay as one of the best running backs in the league. The rubber will meet the road in the last five games of the season in which Wyoming travels to San Jose State and Boise State in two of those games.
1. Boise State
The Broncos have been a mainstay at the top of the Mountain West standings. They will be looking to make their fifth straight conference championship game. Returning 17 starters is a good way to ensure that happens. Boise State has two solid options at quarterback with Hank Bachmeier and Jack Sears at quarterback. They should cruise to another championship game appearance.
Look away Rebels fans, but UNLV comes into the season as clearly the worst team in the Mountain West. After going winless in 2020, UNLV returns 18 starters with 10 of those being on defense. The improvement should be there on both sides of the ball. Home games against Eastern Washington and Utah State give them a chance to double last year’s win total.
The Rainbow Warriors are a better team than you think. In fact, the defense returns all 11 starters and is in the middle of the pack of the Mountain West Conference. We look for more improvement for quarterback Chevan Cordeiro in his second season as a starter under Todd Graham for Hawaii. But, expecting to rise much higher than fifth could be a stretch.
4. San Diego State
The Aztecs have had a problem scoring enough points on offense to balance their tremendous defense. Again, the defense should be the best in the Mountain West, but can they generate enough offense? They will rely heavily on the running game with senior Greg Bell. But, they must improve in the passing game which only saw six touchdown passes in eight games last year.
3. Fresno State
The Bulldogs are victims of a brutal schedule that has them going to UCLA, Oregon, Wyoming, San Diego State, and San Jose State. However, they should be improved on the field. Quarterback Jake Haener returns as does Ronnie Rivers at running back for a dynamic 1-2 punch. 10 returning starters on defense should help, but the schedule might be too formidable.
A strong argument could be made that Nevada has the most talent in the Mountain West Conference. And, leading that effort is also strong. Carson Strong that is. He might be the best quarterback you may have never heard of. Strong completed over 70% of his passes while throwing 27 touchdowns and only four interceptions. 20 returning starters will make the Wolfpack a tough out in this conference.
1. San Jose State
If you believe that championships are won in the trenches then the Spartans are your team. They have the best offensive and defensive lines in the Mountain West and return 19 starters from their Mountain West title season of a year ago. Nick Starkel returns for his second season in San Jose with the only question mark on this team is replacing the top two receivers.
Mountain West Championship Game
Boise State vs San Jose State
Here we have another rematch of a title game a year ago. San Jose State won that contest 34-20. Boise State has alternated winning and losing the championship game each year and we call for that trend to continue as Boise State will win the Mountain West title.