Archive for the ‘MWC’ Category

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.

Mountain

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.

West

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.

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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.

First place in the West division will be a season long contest between Fresno State and San Diego State.  Third goes to Nevada followed by UNLV, San Jose State and Hawaii.

The Mountain, seemingly forever, goes to Boise State.  Air Force finishes second.  My order of New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah State and Colorado State was one change after another until the order presented.

And now, the particulars.

West Division

Fresno State.  The Bulldogs surprised me last year.  I did not believe Jeff Tedford could/would create a quality football team given the shambles he was handed as a first year head coach.  But, he did.  Why the Bulldogs over the Aztecs?  Because Marcus McMaryion returns as the starting qb along with the their top 5 rushers (Mr. McMaryion was #4) from 2017 and for good measure 4 of their top 5 receivers (only losing the #2 receiver from last year.  By the way, when I use the word “receiver”, I am simply identifying the players with the most catches regardless of actual position).

Defensively the Bulldogs enjoy the return of the their top 7 tacklers from last year and 13 or their top 20.  Fresno allowed 321 (I round up from 320.6) yards per game last year.  This group of defenders know their defensive system and should improve even more in 2018.  Additionally, last year’s opposition average score of 18 points might be shaved by a point or two.

San Diego State.  While a returning starting qb, Christian Chapman is not Marcus McMaryion.  Mr. Chapman averaged a mere 144 passing yards per game (Mr. McMaryion was a considerable 51 yards per game better).  Granted, the Aztecs believe in pound and ground first, throw second.  Yet, improved passing yards will be required to beat the Bulldogs.  Juwan Washington will lead the rushing attack and has plenty of experience.  The wide receivers improved in 2017, yet still underachieved.  Only the #3 and #5 receivers from 2017 return.

On the other side, 13 of the top 20 tacklers return including 7 of the top 10.  The Aztec defense allowed 6 yards less per game than did the Bulldogs in 2017.  A smaller number at year’s end would not surprise.  Improving upon last year’s 22% of converted fourth downs by the opposition would be silly good.

University of Nevada.  As mentioned above, Ty Gangi is what separates the Wolf Pack from the remaining three teams in the West.  61% completion rate coupled with 275 yards passing per game for a 3-9/3-5 team is impressive.  As insurance, the #2 qb also returns for 2018.  The top 4 rushers return (Mr. Gangi was #3.  Lessening his exposure should be priority one for the Wolf Pack coaching staff in 2018).  They lose their #1 receiver from last year, but return the next 6 in line.

2017’s defense gave up 471 ypg.  Ouch.  But, if your team allowed third down conversions 44% of the time and fourth down conversions 55% of the time, 471 yards allowed would be expected.  With 14 of the top 20 tacklers including 7 of the top 10 returning, that ugly number should reduce significantly in 2018.

UNLV.  If the Wolf Pack stumbles, the Rebels will take the third spot in the West.  4 of their top 5 rushers return as do the #2, #3 and #4 receivers.  Armani Rogers returns as starting qb (Okay, fine.  He started 9 of 12 games.  75% is close to 100%).  Mr. Rogers is the definition of raw talent.  If he improves last year’s posting of 52% completion rate and paltry 147 passing ypg, the Rebels will be in the thick of every MWC game.  If not, Mr. Rogers may revert to starting 75% of the Rebels games.

Defensively, UNLV was as bad as their in-state brethren.  The second and fourth quarter scores had a cumulative difference of 57 points on behalf of the opposition.  Entering the locker room at halftime and end of game upside down must change in 2018.  14 of the top 20 tacklers return meaning the defensive coaching staff will suffer fewer I-can’t-believe-this moments in 2018.

San Jose State.  The good news: a lot of 2017 offense returns in 2018 meaning introducing fewer new ideas and more repition.  The bad news: a lot of 2017 offense returns.  These guys averaged 16 points a game last year.  Montel Aaron returns as the starting qb.  Much like Mr. Rogers at UNLV, Mr. Aaron has a wealth of potential.  Throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (8) must stop.  His back up, Josh Love, features the same upside down result (7 picks to 5 scores).  While returning 4 of their top 5 rushers, the #2 rusher, Zamore Zigler, is listed as a cornerback for the 2018 season.  Additional concern lies with last year’s average of only 120 rushing yards per game.  The top 6 receivers return as well.  Hardly a barren scenario for 2018, but the offense needs to improve quickly.

The defense returns 13 of the top 20 tacklers.  These 13 were part of a group that gave up 499 ypg, allowed 85% of fourth down conversions and 325 points in the first two quarters of the season.  The Spartans average half time score for 2017 was 27-8.  Yes, the Spartans had the 8.  Entering the locker room down 19 points on a regular basis is bad for the defensive soul.

University of Hawaii.  I know.  You are thinking, how can Hawaii be worse than San Jose State?  Read the following, then you will know.

The only running back with any 2017 experience while wearing a University of Hawaii uniform is Freddie Holly III.  He ran for 30 yards on 9 carries.  He is the guy.  Hawaii’s returning qb who wore the same jersey as Mr. Holly is Cole McDonald.  In 2017, Mr. McDonald had 9 attempts and completed 5.  On behalf of Rainbow fans who are pointing at the entrance of senior transfer Larry Tuileta, he has yet to play in a division one football game.  Either he or Mr. McDonald is the guy.  As if this could not get worse, sadly I report that one (#2) of last year’s top 5 receivers returns.  The Rainbow offense averaged 23 points a game last year.  Expect a significant reduction in 2018.

To compound matters, Hawaii returns the fewest of their top 20 tacklers in the West:  12.  Cold comfort is their top 2 tacklers return.  The 2017 defense allowed 34 points a game, 210 rushing yards pg and 249 passing yards pg.  2018 may well be worse.

14 juco transfers are currently on the roster.  All sorely needed.  Surfing and eating fish tacos will be much more pleasant than watching 2018 Hawaii football.

Mountain Division

Boise State.  As obvious as ketchup on a hamburger and mustard on a hot dog, Boise finishes first in the Mountain.  Brett Rypien returns for his senior year.  Last year’s 348 attempts could easily approach 400 during 2018.  Boise returns their #3, #4 and #5 receivers.  Mr. Rypien will keep them busy.  The #1 (Alex Mattison who ran for 1,100+ yards) and #4 rushers return.  Plenty of balance and choice awaits this season.

Defensively the Broncos return an impressive 16 of their top 20 tacklers.  Learning curves, if any, will be extremely short.  An outstanding bunch.

Air Force.  When speaking of running the ball, I always go past the top 5 with the Falcons.  So many guys get to run the ball during the course of their season.  7 of their top 10 return.  Sure, two are qbs and two are wide receivers, but we speak of Air Force.  Running the ball is democratic.  Everybody gets a turn.  Arion Worthman returns as the #1 qb and offensive guide.  In case he wants to throw the ball down field, the top 3 receivers from last year return (they had a total of 39 catches between them).

They lose half of their top 10 tacklers from last year, but return 8 of the second 10.  The less time the Air Force defense spends on the field, the better.  Have a seat and watch the running game.

University of New Mexico.  The starting and #3 qb return.  Both threw more interceptions than touchdowns.  Tyrone Owens returns as the #1 rusher.  After Mr. Owens there is little proven ability in the form a running back rather than a qb who runs.  The good news is the #1, #3 and #4 receivers return and can they stretch the field averaging 13.6, 20.7 and 20.2 yards per catch respectively.

2017 featured one bad defensive first half after another.  If the UNM defense began the game in the third quarter, the win was theirs.  68% of points allowed by the Lobos defense were scored during the first half.  Astounding for the wrong reason.  13 of the top 20 tacklers return, though they lose 4 of their top 6.  If the defense plays four quarters rather than half a game, the Lobos may surprise.  If not, gonna be a long year.

Note:  Regarding Bob Davie, I do not comment on innocence or guilt when publishing my MWC preview.  I’m strictly here for the football.  Mr. Davie went 9-4 in 2016 and recovered from an awful 2015 start to finish 7-6.  I’m betting well timed luck strikes again.

University of Wyoming.  See what happens when Josh Allen leaves.  Stumble, plummet, go boom.  Or maybe not.  The #2 qb returns.  Nick Smith will get all the snaps he can handle this year.  He will throw to the top 1 – 7 returning receivers.  Lots of experienced hands await.  3 of the top 4 rushers return including the top two, Trey Woods and Kellen Overstreet, but both must greatly improve upon their respective poor average ypg of 3.5 and 4.4.

Wyoming’s defense allowed a respectable 335 ypg in 2017.  16 of the top 20 return.  But, given the lack of a running game, the 2018 Cowboys defense may spend far too much time on the field.  Defending what may be a one dimensional Cowboy offense bodes ill for the other Cowboys.

Utah State.  A notable mix of offense returns.  Jordan Love should receive the majority of, if not all the snaps.  If Mr. Love remains healthy, the Aggies may do better than advertised, but if Mr. Love is injured, no proven back up is present.  The #3 and #4 rushers return.  The #1, #2 and #4 receivers from 2017 return as well.

The defense welcomes back 18 of the top 20 tacklers.  Yet, the Aggies defense gave away 399 ypg last year.  If they can hold well against lesser or equal opponents, perhaps they give Air Force a run for second place.  If not, ending with an ill-timed losing streak (last year’s result) will disappoint, again.

Colorado State.  Nick Stevens moves on.  5 newbies are competing for his job.  Of those 5, not a one took a game snap while wearing a CSU jersey in 2017.  They lose 4 of their top 5 receivers, but return the #2, #3 and #4 running backs.  A less than perfect mix of offense.

Their top 4 tacklers return and 13 of the top 20 overall.  Much like Utah State, repeating last year’s offense allowed of 432 ypg is a non-starter in 2018.  Success will be out of reach.  Winning winnable games will be key to the Rams success or failure in 2018.  Given the state of the offense, this task belongs to the defense.

 

 

 

No excuses for the absence.  Wasn’t too busy, too distracted, too anything.  After the Boise game, meh took over.

Meh to not scoring touchdowns.  Meh to field goals instead of touchdowns.  Meh to watching the Broncos run wild in the fourth quarter.  The Aztecs should have been north of 40 on the score board, but our inability to find the end zone once inside the twenty was more than obvious.  Said shortcoming was painfully obvious.  With this loss, bowling looks highly unlikely.

As for Air Force, a little better.  Just a little.  Two more offensive touchdowns at a minimum.  30 points should have been 44 points.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda.  I don’t know how Rocky Long and Bob Toledo solve this inability to score six rather than settle for three (or nothing).  Bowl eligible, sure.  Bowl invite, I do not believe.  Even with a lopsided win over San Jose State this Saturday, bowling seems like whistling in the wind or dark or underwater.

The Aztec defense was superb.  Holding Air Force to 3.4 yards per rush, 329 yards in total offense, posting zeros three of four quarters and forcing 3 (!) fumbles and 1 interception was incredible and proof of a great team effort.  Calvin Munson was having a fantastic game long before the interception returned for a touchdown.  A couple of nice moves as well.  Perhaps Pump was paying attention.  Christian Heyward filled in nicely for Alex Barrett.  Between Barrett and Munson, we have the anchors for the 2015 Aztec defense.

One last thought on a bowl game:  In a perfect SDSU world the final weekend of MWC play yields a UNLV upset of Nevada (battle for the state of Nevada and all that, plus the Rebels would love to blow up what is left of the Wolfpack’s season), Hawaii stuns Fresno State (Norm Chow is out the door.  I’m no fan, but maybe the Hawaii players give him a good-bye gift of a win) and, to make us look as good as possible, Colorado State pounds the Cadets (a final line of 8-4/4-4 for Air Force might make a bowl committee think twice?  I’m reaching.  I know).  First and foremost, we beat the Spartans, hopefully, by an impressive margin, and the rest takes care of itself.  Never a dull moment with the Aztecs.