2022 Mountain West Conference Football Preview

Posted: July 20, 2022 in Uncategorized
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Lots of change in the Mountain West as it enters the 2022 season. This season is the final year of the two division format before returning to a single division, aka, the way things used to be. Next, new head coaches at Colorado State, Fresno State (sort of) Hawaii and Nevada. Finally, stadium construction continues at San Jose State, begins in Hawaii and concludes at San Diego State.

Mountain (for the final season. At this point you should be teary eyed).

Utah State

Offense: Logan Bonner (QB) returns. 36 tds coupled with 3,628 passing yards saying “I’m back” does a lot of good for a football team. Calvin Perry (the Aggie’s 2021 #1 rusher) and the number three (John Gentry) return. Mr. Perry had a decent 4.5 yards per rush, however Mr. Gentry featured an anemic average of 3.6 ypr. USU’s 2021 average rush per game was only 3.6 yards. Boo. But, with Mr. Bonner returning, the run game, once again, will not be a point of emphasis in 2022. Mr. Bonner’s top five wide receivers return featuring yards per catch averages ranging from 16.7 to 10.3. Unlike other programs, these five are actually wide receivers and tight ends. No running backs allowed. The Aggies will stretch the field again in 2022.

Defense: Last year, the Aggie defense was just shy of allowing 400 yards of total offense per game (392.7). Expect the same this year as they return sixteen of their top twenty tacklers. Justin Rice (ILB) will lead the defense, though not equaling last year’s grand total of 124 tackles would indicate an improved USU defense.

Last Thought: Head coach Blake Anderson becomes a man much sought and leaves USU for a lot of money somewhere else at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

Boise State

Offense: Hank Bachmeier returns. He had an impressive completion rate of 62.8% and threw a mere 8 interceptions in 401 attempts. The Broncos leading rusher from 2021 returns. George Holani earned an above average 4.8 ypr while playing in only nine games last year. His 2022 partner is likely Tyler Crowe (5.1 ypr). Only one (Stefan Cobbs, 12. 4 ypc) of the top five receivers returns for Boise. Mr. Cobbs, Davis Koetter (11.4 ypc) and Billy Bowens (11.7 ypc) will receive the majority of Mr. Bachmeier’s attempts.

Defense: Boise State’s defense continues the admirable practice of “bend, but don’t break”. 2021 opponents enjoyed greater yards per rush (4.0 to 3.1) and yards per catch (13.2 to 12.3) than Boise’s offense, but the Broncos defense was extra stingy giving away red zone touchdowns only 45% of the time (17/38). Not bad. They return eighteen of their top twenty tacklers, thus much like Utah State, expect more of the bending, but not breaking in 2022.

Last Thought: If Boise suffers a poorly timed stumble in MW play, Air Force steps in front.

Air Force

Offense: Guess what? Air Force’s 2021 starting qb returns. I detect a trend. Haaziq Daniels completed 50% of his 104 passes while registering as the Falcons #2 rusher. Speaking of rushing, three of the top five rushers return including Mr. Daniels. The most intriguing is Deandre Hughes and his 8.2 ypr. Wow! The returning receiving corps (in name only) features the number three, four and five receivers from last year. By the way, these three gentlemen (Dane Kinamon, David Cormier and Kyle Patterson) combined for a total of twenty-five catches. Impressive paucity.

Defense: Sixteen of the top twenty return which includes six of the top seven. Air Force’s defense was the only MW team that allowed fewer than 300 yards of total offense per game. They clicked in at 296.7. During the first quarter of 2021, the defense allowed a total of 27 points. Getting off to a fast start against the Falcons is difficult.

Last Thought: Please refer to the Boise State Last Thought.

Wyoming

Offense: I know, both 2021 qbs transferred. Head coach Craig Bohl broke new recruiting ground by advertising for a quarterback. Funny and desperate. I’m betting the former Utah State qb Andrew Peasley takes advantage of his status as the only d-1 quarterback on the team with experience. Wait until I address the Colorado State and New Mexico qb rooms, and you will understand why I choose Wyoming for the fourth spot in the Mountain. Titus Swen (5.9 ypr) will lead the ground game in 2022. Dawaiian McNeely (6.6 ypr) is his likely roommate in the backfield while Trey Smith (6.6 ypr) serves as the type of back up who should be a starter. Mr. Peasley will throw to a serviceable group of returning receivers in Joshua Cobbs (9.8 ypc), Ayden Eberhardt 14.2 ypc), Treyton Welch (8.6 ypc) and Parker Christensen (9.8 ypc). Less Mr. Eberhardt, the ypc averages from 2021 were pathetic.

Defense: Only nine of the top twenty return. Last year’s opponents average of 370.4 yards per game likely increases.

Last Thought: If head coach Craig Bohl retains his job at season’s end, send a card. Nearing the end of his second contract with a 45-50 record is bad voodoo.

Colorado State

Offense: Guess how many qbs the Rams list on their 2022 roster? C’mon. Six? Nope. Five? You wish. Four? Bingo. Guess how many are true freshmen? Two. Guess how many are redshirt freshmen? Two. Mmm hmm. Now you know why I chose Wyoming fourth. David Bailey (3.8 ypr) and A’Jon Vivens (3.6 ypr) highlight a sickly running game. Avery Morrow (one of eleven transfers from Nevada) adds another body to run the ball. The good news for whomever emerges as the starting qb is three of the top four 2021 receivers return. I trust Dante Wright (12.5 ypc), Ty McCullouch (17.3 ypc), Gary Williams (13.7 ypc) and E.J. Scott 12.9 ypc) will grow accustomed to waiting and waiting on a decent downfield toss. The Nevada transfer, Tory Horton (12.7 ypc), will discover freshmen and redshirt freshmen quarterbacks are not Carson Strong.

Defense: Lots of opportunity for Rams’ defenders in 2022. Why? Only eleven of the top twenty return. CSU needs defensive help. Last year, CSU’s defense gave up a sizable 216 points during the second and third quarters. Much as Wyoming, last year’s 377.3 average total yards per game for CSU opponents increases in 2022.

Last Thought: I know much excitement generated over the arrival of the former Nevada head coach, Jay Norvell, as well as his eleven transfers. However, Mr. Norvell’s task of working with inexperienced quarterbacks, also defined as not many quarterbacks, lends to not much of a 2022 season.

New Mexico

Offense: Ugh. The Lobos averaged 12.2 points per game in 2021. They averaged less than 10 yards per catch. The offense scored a meager 15 tds the entire season. Painful and inept. Three qbs with 2021 experience return. Similar to owning three pair of pants, yet all three have holes. C.J. Montes and Connor Genal struggled to complete passes (30% and 35.7% respectively). Isaiah Chavez posted a 70.8% completion rate . . . in twenty-four attempts. I need more proof. The Kansas transfer, Miles Kendrick, enters the mix as well. He wins the starting job. As for the running game, a mix of qbs and wide recievers less Peyton Dixon (a real running back, 4.1 ypr) indicate a rough start. The #1 (Luke Wysong, 9,3 ypc) ) and #4 (Andrew Erickson, 10.6 ypc) receivers from 2021 hope to catch a pass or two each game.

Defense: Fifteen of the top twenty return. Defensive coordinator, Rocky Long, enters year three, thus this year’s crew has a grasp and understanding of his 3-3-5 defense. They improve in 2022, but not near enough to compensate for a near non-existent offense.

Last Thought: Head coach Danny Gonzales gets this year and next year to show improvement at a difficult place to win. Good luck.

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West (re the above sentiment attached to the Mountain).

Fresno State

Offense: Jake Haener (67% completion, 4,096 yards passing and 33 td with only 9 interceptions) returns. Even though the Bulldogs lose Ronnie Rivers, who cares? Mr. Haener will shred many a defensive backfield during the 2022 season. Jordan Mims (5.6 ypr) is a capable replacement for Mr. Rivers, thus the Fresno running game continues to impact. Three of the five top receivers return. Zane Pope (18.8 ypc), Josh Kelly (14.9 ypc) and Jalen Cropper (10.5 ypc) will enjoy productive years courtesy of Mr. Haener.

Defense: A potential area of concern. Only eleven of the top twenty tacklers return. Last year’s 348.2 yards per game increases in 2022, but with the Bulldog’s explosive offense a less than stellar defense is not much of a concern.

Last Thought: I abide by my “the new-head-coach-has-a-sub-.500-first-year” rule, except in the case of Jeff Tedford. His second round as the head Bulldog results in lots of wins in 2022. Fresno State is in capable hands.

San Diego State

Offense: The Virginia Tech transfer Braxton Burmeister takes the quarterback reins for 2022. Mr. Burmeister posted passable (no pun intended) numbers at VT in 2021. The Aztecs hope, at a minimum, he posts the same numbers this year. The running game received a boost with the arrival of USC transfer Kenan Christon (5.7 ypr during his USC days). Chance Bell (4.7 ypr) andJordan Byrd (6.6 ypr) make a solid three back rotation. Only two of the top five receivers return, but one of those two is the 2021 #1 wide receiver, Jesse Matthews (11.2 ypc).

Defense: The defense returns twelve of the top twenty. However, transfers Cooper MacDonald (Washington), Justus Tavai (Hawaii) and Deven Lamp (Tulsa) have plenty of game experience, and lessen any impact of non-returning starters. Besides, in my not so humble opinion, the Aztecs’ defensive coordinator, Kurt Mattix, is the best in conference.

Last Thought: If Mr. Burmeister struggles, expect Will Haskell to take his spot.

San Jose State

Offense: The ever effective Nick Nash wins the qb competition over the Hawaii transfer Chad Cordeiro (and his 17 interceptions in 2021). Last year’s offense was surprisingly anemic (20 points per game). Losing their top rusher and receiver creates substantial challenges for the 2022 Spartan offense. Mr. Nash was the second leading rusher (5.7 ypr) in 2021, but I’m not a fan of starting qbs rushing often in the course of a game (Mr. Nash had 68 rushing attempts which was second on the team in 2021). Injury becomes far more likely. Three of the top four receivers return. Isaiah Hamilton (13.4 ypc), Jermaine Braddock (14.4 ypc) and Charles Ross (12.2 ypc) along with Nevada transfers Elijah Cooks (12 ypc) and Justin Lockhart (13.4 ypc) create a talented and deep group of receivers in 2022.

Defense: The Spartan defense returns seven of their top eight tacklers and fifteen of twenty overall. Last year the SJSU defense allowed a meager 3.5 ypr and only 9 rushing tds. However, they allowed an appalling 61% of fourth down conversions which contributed to a disappointing finish in 2021.

Last Thought: The Spartan offense has the potential to be the dominate passing force in the West in 2022 if Nick Nash can get the ball downfield. We shall see.

UNLV

Offense: Head coach Marcus Arroyo finally lands a worthy qb in Tennessee transfer Harrison Bailey. The starting competition will be between Mr. Bailey and last year’s starter Cameron Friel (62% completion, but 11 interceptions negated many a 2021 drive). The 2022 running game takes a step backward with the return of only one running back who enjoyed any notable play time; Chad Magyar (3.5 ypr). Two of the top three receivers return: Zyell Griffin (and his eye popping 22.8 ypc) and Kyle Williams (15.1 ypc).

Defense: Thirteen of the top twenty return. The Rebel defense must improve. Opponents scored a total of 114 points in the second quarter, 103 points in the third quarter and 90 points in the fourth quarter during 2021. 409.4 yards per game was given up as well. If the defense does not improve, expect very few wins in 2022.


Last Thought: If the Rebels do not at least double last year’s win total of two, Mr. Arroyo lands on the 2023 hot seat.

Hawaii

Offense: Brayden Schager (60.8%) has the inside lead in the 2022 qb competition. Washington State transfer Cammon Cooper will push Mr. Schager if he struggles. One of the top four rushers returns. Dedrick Parson (5.3 ypr) is looking for a partner. Receivers Zion Bowens (21.4 ypc) and Jonah Panoke (11.2 ypc) are also looking for company.

Defense: Ugh. Four of the top twenty return. Gonna be a long year in the state of Hawaii in 2022. Last year’s 31.4 points allowed per game increases this season. Winning will be a tall order.

Last Thought: Todd Graham and his dysfunctional coaching is no longer an issue. But, rebuilding from that disaster will take a few years.

Nevada

Offense: No more Carson Strong. Nate Cox, starting qb in waiting, is in limbo due to his, um, interaction with Nevada law enforcement. No other quarterback on the 2022 roster has any division one game experience. The good news is the return of Toa Taua (4.9 ypr) and to a lesser extent Devonte Lee (a mere 3.9 ypr). The top five 2021 receivers are gone. Jamaal Bell (8.5 ypc) is the only returning receiver who logged any substantial time on the field in 2021. Arizona transfer B.J. Casteel (9.9 ypc) offers game experience, but much more is needed.

Defense: Five of the top twenty return. Oh, no. Last year’s opponents held the ball almost three minutes more than the Wolf Pack offense. Almost three minutes balloons to five plus minutes by season’s end in 2022 as will the 406.7 yards per game on behalf of Wolfpack opponents.

Last Thought: New head coach Ken Wilson and staff will have a long, frustrating, difficult, when-will-this-season-end in 2022.

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