Why Mountain West teams will make the College Football Playoff

Joe Broback
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Boise State dominated the Mountain West, and many thought the two were synonymous with each other for years. Now, the Broncos find themselves in a battle near the top. The reemergence of Fresno State complicates things. San Diego State’s a tough win, and Utah State took the league by storm last year. Boise State’s still the team to beat, but it’s not as easy as it used to be.


Mountain West Mountain

Boise State Broncos

Boston College was so scared to face the Broncos in a bowl game last year, they cancelled it altogether. Ok, weather cancelled the game. But the Broncos do bring a history with them to the postseason. If a team’s going to produce some magic, it’s Boise State. Granted, we haven’t seen that magic in a few years now, but they are still the definition of consistency. Replacing Brett Rypien and Alexander Mattison will be tough, but returns everyone up front. Defensively, Curtis Weaver is a monster, and already has 28 tackles for loss. Florida State better have their ‘A’ game ready in Week 1, because the Broncos aren’t afraid.

Utah State Aggies

They surprised everyone last year, and now are trying to prove they’re here to stay. That’s going to be tougher with just two starters returning on offense, but they keep one important piece. Jordan Love’s receiving lots of attention from NFL scouts lately, and it’s easy to see why.

Love isn’t the only Aggie to watch. Linebacker David Woodward is a tackling machine, and former Last Chance U Independence Pirate DJ Williams is an electric cornerback. Utah State welcomes back Gary Andersen as head coach, but it remains to be seen what that means this year in terms of success.

Wyoming Cowboys

Craig Bohl came to Laramie with a lot of steam, but that’s died down a little. His defenses remain stellar, but he’s having trouble saying the same for the offense. There’s a lot to replace on both sides of the ball, and the schedule isn’t doing them too many favors. Missouri comes to Laramie in Week 1, and that could be a rude wakeup call for Wyoming.

Air Force Falcons

Ah yes, the third wheel in the Commander-In-Chiefs Trophy competition. While Army and Navy get all of the love, Air Force gets overlooked. They also play in a tough conference, so that doesn’t help. Honestly, the Falcons have some of the cleanest jerseys in the country, and I’d love to see the lightning bolt helmets in a NY6 bowl game. Colorado and Boise State present themselves in the first three weeks of play, so that might be asking a lot.

Colorado State Rams

Quarterback Collin Hill spent time at the Manning Passing Academy this summer, which is a great start for this offense already. Hill returns to an offense that ranked 13th in the country in passing yards per game. NY6 is probably out of the question though. The Rams must face Colorado in Week 1, a team they’ve beaten just four times since 2003. They must also face Arkansas and Toledo in nonconference play.

New Mexico Lobos

Can someone explain how Bob Davie still has a job? The Lobos coach was suspended earlier this year, but yet is still the head coach. There hasn’t been much clarity about the situation, but New Mexico’s turned its attention towards the season. One that might not feature many wins. If controversy doesn’t get Davie, losing will.

Mountain West West

Fresno State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs went from winning 11 games in 2013 to losing 11 games in 2016 to winning 12 last year. That’s quite the roller coaster, though the highs should stick around more consistently now. After finishing with 10 wins in Jeff Tedford’s first season with the Bulldogs, Fresno State added two wins to that total last year. New faces will dominate both sides of the ball, as just six starters return from last year’s team.

Nevada Wolfpack

Malik Henry’s first time in the spotlight since leaving Florida State didn’t go well. Featured in Part 3 of Last Chance U, Henry appeared arrogant and wanted nothing to do with coach Jason Brown. That won’t fly with Jay Norvell. Nevada’s a team to watch in the Mountain West this year, and could be the surprse of the conference. If Henry can prove he is willing to learn and grow his already talented arsenal, the Wolfpack will be a problem. If not, he’ll be on the bench just like on the TV show.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

I don’t care that Colt Brennan and the Rainbow Warriors got stomped last time they made a big postseason game, Hawaii’s fun to watch. Again. Cole McDonald took Hawaii’s offense back to prominence last year, and he’s back. One of the most exciting players in the country, McDonald’s fight for attention remains an uphill battle (most due to the fact that their games start around midnight for most of the country). If the run game can even be average, this team will be even more lethal that last year offensively. The defense needs to show they have a pulse too, which is the bigger concern.

San Diego State Aztecs

Besides Boise State, San Diego State’s been the model for consistency in the Mountain West. The Aztecs continue to produce one undersized, but great running back after the other. This year, it’s Juwan Washington. The 5’7″, 190 pound senior gives the Aztecs a great weapon if he can stay healthy. Head coach Rocky Long’s defenses are tough, but he must replace nine starters. Kyahva Tezino returns at linebacker to give Long a leader to build around early in the season. Their nonconference schedule allows time for growth and problem solving early.

UNLV Rebels

If someone can find more than two wins on their schedule, let me know.

at Northwestern
at Wyoming
at Vanderbilt
at Fresno State
at Colorado State
at Nevada

Tony Sanchez enters the year on the hot seat, and this schedule won’t help. He may have a talented team, but the schedule won’t do him any favors. Armani Rogers is a talented quarterback too, but needs to stay healthy and improve his passing.

San Jose State Spartans

Since 2012, the Spartans won 22 games, including just three the last two years. Brent Brennan’s task seems daunting once again. Like UNLV, wins are tough to come by on the schedule, but a young team the last two years should mature. Nearly 50 freshman saw the field over the last two seasons, so that experience could produce growth. Not NY6 growth, but no one was exactly thinking that in the first place.


Until you can easily prove otherwise, Boise State’s the team. A win over Florida State’s easily possible, and their defense has what it takes to dominate all year. Watch out in the postseason.

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