2020 Mountain West Conference Football Preview.

Posted: June 11, 2020 in MWC

Yes, I’m betting college football (including the Mountain West) is nationwide no later than mid-September.  Is this development wise considering the elastic ability of covid-19 to appear, disappear and reappear?  Probably not.  However, money calls and television contracts are the primary source of said money.  More on this likely outcome will appear at the bottom of my MWC 2020 preview.  You lucky bastards.


1 – Boise State.  Loaded, yet again.

Offense:  The only significant loss for the 2020 season is the graduation of their #1, #3 and #4 receivers from 2019.  However, John Bates and Octavius Evans gladly take two of those three spots.  Their top two rushers (George Holani and Robert Mahone) return along with the talented quarterback duo of Hank Bachmeier and Chase Cord.  Boise averaged 35 points a game last year.  I expect no less in 2020.

Defense:  The Broncos’ run defense gave away a mere 3.5 yards per carry last year.  Their defense features 13 of their top 20 tacklers returning.  Not terribly deep, yet not terribly shallow.  They give up a couple more points per game than last year (22), but the offense is potent enough to withstand any defensive collapse.

2 – Wyoming.  Ever improving Wyoming.  Craig Bohl and staff are exemplary in their collective coaching approach and recruiting efforts (offering Laramie as an autumn/winter destination requires a smile, supply of winter clothing and perseverance galore).

Offense:  Much like Boise State, the quarterback spot features not one, but two experienced players.  Granted, neither Sean Chambers or Levi Williams is set to become MWC player of the year.  Both Mr. Chambers and Mr. Williams need to work on completion rates given their respective 2019 rates of 43% and 49%.  Losing their top 3 receivers does not help.  The running game will dominate the 2020 Cowboy efforts.  Xazavian Valladay (5.2 ypc) and Trey Smith (5.2 ypc) will run to their hearts delight and exhaustion.  Brett Brenton (5.9 ypc) will increase his number of carries as well.

Defense:  If Boise’s 3.5 ypc defensive stat impressed, may I present the Cowboys exponentially stingy 2.9 ypc.  Plus, the Wyoming defense allowed an impressive average of 18 points per game.  14 of the first 20 tacklers return, however the top 3 from last year graduated.  Much like the Broncos, Wyoming gives away a couple more points on average in 2020.

3 – Air Force:  Run, run, run, run, run, run.  When nobody is looking, throw a completed pass ten yards behind the stunned safety.  And repeat.

Offense.  The top 5 rushers return.  Since we are discussing Air Force, of course their #1 rusher is the returning starting quarterback, Donald Hammond, III.  The experienced Mr. Hammond makes the triple option all the more effective in 2020.  The offense loses their top 3 receivers, but who cares?

Defense:  2019’s defense allowed 20 points per game.  They lose 6 of their top 10 tacklers.  Those 6 accounted for 46% of total tackles.  Quite the gap to fill in 2020, thus my reason for placing the Falcons behind the Cowboys.

4 – Colorado State.  Hiring Steve Addazio was a big mistake.  Big.  Mr. Addazio in 7 seasons at Boston College patched together a 44-44 record.  His bunker/us-against-the-world mentality will quickly wear thin at Fort Collins.  If he survives his contact, I’ll be surprised.

Offense:  The good news for Rams fans is the return of starting quarterback Patrick O’Brien.  Mr. O’Brien played well in 2019.  He completed 62% of his passes and threw for more than 2,800 yards.  Not bad.  (However, if Mr. O’Brien suffers any significant injury in 2020, CSU lists only two other quarterbacks on the roster).  Mr. O’Brien will have plenty of offensive options in 2020 as the #2 and #3 rushers return along with his top 4 receivers.  Of the 4, watch and enjoy the continued development of senior Warren Jackson.  Last year’s 77 catches approaches 90 in 2020.  Given all of this returning talent, you ask yourself, “Why a predicted fourth place finish?”  Colorado State hired Steve Addazio.  Oh, yeah.

Defense:  The Rams lose their #1 tackler from 2020 along with #5, #6 and #7.  The defense allowed 31 points per game last year.  That number increases in 2020.  Also, their opponents converted 68% of fourth down opportunities.  Look for opponents to continue to take the fourth down chance.

5 – Utah State.  No Jordan Love means a tremendous, jaw dropping lack of offense in 2020.

Offense:  If Henry Colombi struggles at the quarterback position, the Aggies likely begin a quick descent into a long, difficult season.  The #2 and #3 receivers return along with the #2 rusher.  Jaylen Warren needs company in the backfield to form an effective running game in 2020.

Defense:  The Aggies return only 11 of their top 20 tacklers.  Their 2019 defensive efforts resulted in an inept 29 rushing touchdowns for opponents.  Couple that misfire with allowing 441 yards per game.  Oy vey.  Much to fix in 2020.

6 – New Mexico.  Hiring Danny Gonzales was a smart decision.  Mr. Gonzales convincing Rocky Long to return to UNM as defensive coordinator was an equally smart move.  Granted, the Lobos were a maladjusted football team the last two years and much is in need of repair, so be patient with the coaching staff as they implement “new culture” in Albuquerque.

Offense:  Tevaka Tuioti and two experienced backups return to the quarterback spot.  The #2 rusher returns along with 5 of the top 6 receivers.  Expect UNM to toss the ball 30+ times per game in 2020.  Any opponent with a lousy defensive backfield is a potential upset victim.

Defense:  Rocky returns to a flaming dumpster fire of a Lobo defense.  Last year’s squad gave up 486 yards per game, 37 points per game, 15 yards per completion and allowed opponents to convert 67% of fourth downs.  If you thought all the above was cringe worthy, throw in 34 td passes allowed.  Yeah, that was a pun.  Only 12 of the top 20 tacklers return, but that low return rate is a favor to Rocky.


1 – San Diego State:  A “new” head coach in Brady Hoke (his second appointment as head coach to the Mesa) coupled with Jeff Horton no longer the offensive coordinator brings necessary change on the offensive side of the ball.

Offense:  Either Carson Baker or Lucas Johnson (Georgia Tech transfer) wins the quarterback job.  If Mr. Baker wins the job, the Aztecs throw more than they run.  If Mr. Johnson wins the quarterback job, the Aztecs run more than they throw.  The running game, after two years of a slow fade, improves with the return of the #2, #3 and #4 rushers.  2020 receivers are deep with the return of the first 4.

Defense:  Even though the Aztecs lose their #1 tackler from 2019, 15 of the top 20 return including 7 of the top 10.  Granted, replicating 2019’s defensive performance of allowing 13 points a game and 2.8 ypc isn’t likely to happen, yet the SDSU defense will be the best in the West division.

2 – University of Nevada.  The Wolfpack won 3 of their final 4 MWC games, thus allowing the return of head coach Jay Norvell.  Oh, joy.

Offense:  Carson Strong returns as the starting quarterback after surviving a year of on-field learning.  The top 2 rushers return as do the top 2 receivers, though they lose the #3, #4 and #5 receivers from 2019.  Returning to the rushing game, 2019’s trivial rushing ypc average of 3.4 must improve or else Mr. Strong will average 40+ passing attempts per game out of necessity.

Defense:  7 of the top 10 tacklers return and 13 of the top 20.  The 2020 defense must flip the -11 points per game difference surrendered in 2019 (UN 21, opponent 32).  The best hope other than self-improvement for the Nevada defense is the impressive play of their quarterback so that he can pull their collective and individual buttocks from the fire.

3 – Fresno State.  A new coach in Kalen DeBoer (much needed.  Jeff Tedford displayed all the interest of a man waiting for a root canal).  Improving on last year’s total of 4 wins is guaranteed.

Offense:  Ronnie Rivers returns as their leading rusher.  Zane Pope returns as their leading receiver.  The University of Washington transfer, Jake Haener likely wins the quarterback competition.  If he produces, great.  If not, get ready for the carousel.  Mr. DeBoer’s primary challenge is creating an offense that scores points.

Defense:  Speaking of scoring points, the 2019 Bulldog defense allowed 31 or more points in 7 of 12 games as well as a stunning 420 yards per game.  Yuk.  13 of the top 20 tacklers return.

4 – San Jose State.  Go ahead.  Laugh.  Is San Jose greatly improved?  A bit.  Head coach Brent Brennan and staff continue the painful turn towards success.  The real reason for the #4 spot is the schools yet to be mentioned are walking backwards downfield while wearing blindfolds.

Offense:  Josh Love moves on.  Graduate transfer Nick Starkel via Texas A&M and the University of Arkansas arrives.  On behalf of the Spartans, his past travel better payoff.  Mr. Starkel will, thankfully, have 4 of the top 5 receivers returning for 2020.  SJSU’s 2019 running game averaged a pathetic 3.5 ypc/89 ypg.  But, with the return of Kaire Robinson (4.3 ypc) and soon to be determined partner, the running effort should  improve.

Defense:  The Spartans lose their #1 tackler, but return 7 of the top 10 and 14 of the top 20.  The 2020 defense must significantly reduce last year’s 444 ypg and 62% fourth down conversion rate for the Spartan offense to have any chance of winning a close game.

5 – Hawaii.  They too have a new head coach.  The uninspiring Todd Graham.  Almost as poor a choice as Steve Addazio.  Almost.

Offense:  Chevan Cordeiro returns and wins the quarterback spot in 2020 (Cole McDonald and his 4,135 passing yards are long gone).  Their #1 rusher returns and #2 and #5 receiver, which is code for running and receiving depth must be developed for a semi-successful 2020.  However, no matter who fills the offensive gaps, 2019’s average of 34 points per game decreases dramatically.

Defense:  Hawaii’s defense goes from bad to worse in 2020.  They gave up 32 points per game last year.  I say add a field goal to that total for 2020.  Allowing 37 rushing touchdowns in 2019 was eye-popping and painful.  They lose half of their top 10 tacklers, and return only 11 of the top 20.

6 – UNLV.  Another new coach (the West can’t get enough of new coaches in 2020).  Marcus Arroyo assumes the ever present challenge of turning the Rebels into a winning football program.

Offense:  The #1 and #2 quarterbacks return.  You flip the coin.  Either Kenyon Oblad or the ever under-performing Armani Rogers lead the Rebels in 2020.  Their top 2 rushers return.  Both Charles Williams and Chad Magyar averaged 5+ ypc last year.  The top 4 receivers return as well.  Coach Arroyo should have enough talent to hang around late in a game to surprise or at least make the opposition sweat.

Defense:  Beginning with the word “ouch”, UNLV loses 4 of their top 5 tacklers and return only 10 of the top 20.  Rebel faithful will lose count how many times the UNLV defense returns the lead to opponents this year.  Last year’s defense gave up 33 points per game.  2020’s defense gives up more.


Returning to my preamble (rambling is a better description), 2020 forward (or until further notice) college football will no longer feature on field cheerleaders, band performances at halftime, grown men standing on the sideline who send large amounts of money to football programs for the privilege of said standing (a weird, twisted form of groupie-ism), fans in the stadium are few, front rows behind the team benches are dedicated to team medical staff and general support services (granted not all stadiums can accommodate this change, but those that can will), the majority of coaching staff will be found in coaching and press boxes, game balls are rotated and cleaned as often as every snap, clear or shaded plexi-glass is inserted into each players face mask to “protect” against spit and sweat (good luck), player gloves are mandatory less the quarterback, players shaking hands at the beginning of each game ends, and finally game time from start to finish increases due to the above mentioned precautions.


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