Roll with Boise State as Mountain West favorite
By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Mountain West Conference winner lost one game the last two years after eight consecutive seasons of unbeaten campaigns. Don't expect a team to run the table in 2014 but Boise State could come close.
The Broncos return their greatest number of starters since 2010 when they finished the season 12-1. Their lone defeat that year came in overtime at Nevada.
Boise State is not a lock to win the MWC but with Utah State and Colorado State losing tons of talent from their rosters, the Broncos should cruise into the conference title game. From there, it's just one game to decide the championship and the likelihood of home field advantage in that contest is extremely high. At 7-5 odds, Boise State is a great bet to win the league crown.
Time now to take a deeper look into the league, along with conference championship odds and predicted SU (overall and conference) records for those wagering on over/unders for team victories. In addition, all statistics provided are from conference-only play unless otherwise indicated. (All odds courtesy of LVH.)
6) HAWAII (30-1) - The Rainbow Warriors are 7-16 ATS in conference play the last three years. They lost five games by a touchdown or less last season but must find a new quarterback to replace Sean Schroeder, who completed 62 percent while throwing 28 touchdown passes, just one year after completing 51 percent with only 11 TDs. In addition, the defense loses its top four tacklers.
Final thought - Hawaii is 1-15 straight-up (SU) in MWC play under Norm Chow and it does not appear the club has improved heading into the new season. Predicted overall and conference records - 2-11, 1-7.
5) UNLV (30-1) - The Rebels are 12-5 ATS as underdogs the last two years. They averaged 30 points per game last year - the school's highest overall total in close to 40 seasons. Unfortunately, Caleb Herring (24-5 TD-Int ratio) is gone, along with Tim Cornett (1,284 rushing yards and 15 TDs). Defensively, the team loses five starters from its front seven and four of its top five tacklers.
Final thought - The Rebels will be one of a handful of teams with four or more losses than a season ago. Predicted overall and conference records - 3-9, 2-6.
4) SAN JOSE STATE (30-1) - The Spartans are 15-4 ATS on the road the last three years. Last season's run defense was pitiful (5.2 yards per carry) and the switch from the WAC to the MWC did not help either as the Spartans allowed 10 more ppg in league play. This year, a new quarterback must be found as well as five more offensive starters.
Final thought - The defense should improve but the offense will need time to jell. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 4-4.
3) NEVADA (7-1) - The Wolf Pack are 8-16 as road favorites the last seven years. They allowed a whopping 6.6 yards per carry last season (5.9 in MWC play) - a number that has declined year-by-year since the 3.1 ypc mark in 2008. With 10 returning starters (the most since 2003), 2014 will finally put an end to that trend. Eight offensive starters come back, including Cody Fajardo, so look for higher totals both overall and inside the conference.
Final thought - Nevada finished third nationally in both third-down efficiency and red zone touchdowns in 2012. Last year, the club ranked 43rd and 46th, respectively. Expect another reversal of form in 2014. Predicted overall and conference records - 7-5, 5-3.
2) SAN DIEGO STATE (12-1) - The Aztecs are 10-5 as road underdogs the last five years. They averaged 61 more ypg than their opponents but could not outscore them (32-32). Furthermore, the defense gave up just 13 more ypg than in 2012 but allowed nine more ppg, probably due to a last-place national finish in red zone efficiency. This year will be different as those numbers tend to flip from one year to the next.
Final thought - Even with the above-mentioned negative statistics, San Diego State still won eight games, including six inside the MWC. The Aztecs are a dark horse play to win the conference title at 12-1. Predicted overall and conference records - 8-4, 6-2.
1) FRESNO STATE (3-1) - The Bulldogs are 21-8 ATS on the road the last five seasons. They won five games last year by a touchdown or less so their luck might run out this season. Furthermore, Derek Carr and his top two targets moved on so the offense will not be as proficient. However, with Brandon Connette coming over from Duke and a defense that will shave close to a touchdown off its 30-ppg average, Fresno State still is the class of the division.
Final thought - The season revolves around beating San Diego State. If they do, the Bulldogs can still win the West since the Aztecs have to go to both Boise State and Nevada. Predicted overall and conference records - 7-5, 6-2.
6) NEW MEXICO (75-1) - The Lobos are 6-11 as home underdogs the last four years. Only five FBS teams allowed more points per game than New Mexico in 2013. Look for at least a touchdown fewer ppg allowed this season with the return of 13 of the top 18 tacklers. (Last year, the Lobos lost 10 of their top 15 tacklers.) Even if the offensive scoring average drops a few points, the club's record can't get any worse than it has been in recent years.
Final thought - The Lobos lost six of their nine games by a combined 164 points. They will be more competitive this season. Predicted overall and conference records - 3-9, 1-7.
5) WYOMING (30-1) - The Cowboys are 17-6 as road underdogs the last five years. They lose Brett Smith and switch to a pro-style offense from the spread. Two factors which spell doom in Laramie. In addition, the offensive line struggled in the spring so expect a massive decline in terms of points scored. Defensively, they change to a 4-3 but should be strong with the return of 17 of their top 20 tacklers.
Final thought - It will be difficult for the Cowboys to be bowl eligible, especially since they won only five games with Brett Smith at quarterback last season. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 3-5.
4) AIR FORCE (30-1) - The Falcons are 4-11 as home favorites the last four years. They came into last year with players that combined for just 124 career starts. That was the fewest number in the country. The defense also was tied for last nationally (with UAB) in red zone touchdowns allowed. This year, Air Force returns its largest number of starters in over 20 years so improvement is expected.
Final thought - After back-to-back two-win ATS seasons, the Falcons will bust out with a .500 ATS record. Predicted overall and conference records - 6-6, 3-5.
3) COLORADO STATE (18-1) - The Rams are 5-1 as home favorites the last two years. They had the fourth highest jump nationally in total offense moving from 100th to 24th. They also outscored their opponents for the first time since 2003. Duplicating an above .500 season could be a problem with the loss of their top three rushers and four-fifths of the offensive line. However, bringing in former Alabama running back, Dee Hart, will help the situation.
Final thought - After ranking 30th nationally in run defense, the defensive line loses the bulk of its starters, which will leave Colorado State out of the postseason. Predicted overall and conference records - 5-7, 4-4.
2) UTAH STATE (3-1) - The Aggies are 21-9 as road underdogs the last seven years. They ranked seventh nationally in scoring defense last season and were the only FBS team not to allow a touchdown run of 10 or more yards. They lose six starters this year but four of the top seven tacklers are back along with players that combined for 66 percent of the team's sacks. The issue will be on offense where eight starters are gone, including four-fifths of the line.
Final thought - If quarterback Chuckie Keeton is healthy after missing more than half of last year, the Aggies should be fine since their schedule is fairly easy. Predicted overall and conference records - 8-4, 5-3.
1) BOISE STATE (7-5) - The Broncos are 20-9 as road favorites the last six years. They have a new coach for the first time since 2006, the year they went 13-0. If Boise State can knock off Ole Miss in week one, there is a chance for another unbeaten campaign, particularly with Utah State, Fresno State, San Diego State and BYU all coming to Bronco Stadium. The only concern is at offensive line where they lose three of their five starters.
Final thought - The Broncos lost three-fifths of their offensive line each of the last two years and still managed to average 4.6 ypc. Predicted overall and conference records - 10-2, 7-1.
07/31 11:10:35 ET