CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Mountain West Preview
The 2017 CFN Mountain West Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
2017 Mountain West Preview
Mountain West, no more South Alabamas.
And no more Eastern Michigans or New Mexico States, either.
The league has done its part over the years to occasionally look the part of the top conference outside of the Power Five. But the MAC got to the New Year’s Six last season, and the American Athletic Conference got a team in the year before that.
Now it’s time for the Mountain West to rise up and be a force again.
Boise State has been fine, but it’s been a few seasons since it beat Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s like the Mountain West over those two years. It’s been fine, but it hasn’t been able to rise up and rock when it’s absolutely had to. When it does, it later misses out when it has a chance to do more.
Boise State – again – is the example. It’s done its part in non-conference play with wins over Washington State and Oregon State last year – and Washington and Virginia in 2015 – but blowing its shot at greatness with losses to Wyoming and Air Force before getting rocked by Baylor.
The league’s two-time defending champ – San Diego State – was able to beat Cal, but didn’t show up in a blowout loss to South Alabama – losing to the Jaguars for the second year in a row – and stumbled late in the Mountain West season. A 34-10 blowout over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl was nice, but it wasn’t the Cotton Bowl.
Colorado State? It started out giving up 44 in a blowout loss to Colorado, and finished with a 61-50 loss to Idaho.
New Mexico? It did the impossible by losing to New Mexico State and Rutgers, while Wyoming losing to Eastern Michigan and UNLV losing to Idaho and Central Michigan didn’t help the cause.
The Mountain West kept on losing non-conference games, making it hard to provide too much love on a national scale when it came to conference respect.
This year, there’s hope just about everywhere, with Fresno State, San Jose State and Nevada getting the energy from new coaching staffs, Colorado State and Wyoming looking sneaky-great, Boise State and San Diego State just fine in a bit of a rebuild, and UNLV, Hawaii and Utah State all with the upside to start playing consistently well.
But it’ll all come down to those non-conference games the Mountain West could and should win.
Don’t blow the Northern Illinois game, San Diego State.
Don’t misfire against Troy or Virginia, Boise State.
UNLV can’t fold against Idaho, Hawaii can’t drop a shootout to UMass, Wyoming can’t turtle against Texas State, and New Mexico, get by Tulsa and don’t lose to New Mexico State again.
And those are just the games the Mountain West will be favored in.
The league needs the high-profile Power Five wins. Want to take the honor of being the top Group of Five league? The chances are there when SDSU deals with Arizona State and Stanford, Colorado State faces Colorado, Nevada goes to Northwestern, Utah State travels to Wake Forest, Wyoming starts out against Iowa and hosts Oregon, and on and on.
2017 CFN Preseason Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year
QB Brett Rypien, Jr. Boise State
Or Wyoming QB Josh Allen, but it was Rypien who was the First Team All-Mountain West quarterback. While Allen will get the NFL prospect love all season long, he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum and be as efficient as Rypien, who completed 62% of his passes with 24 touchdowns and eight picks. Allen threw 15 interceptions and over 400 fewer yards.
The seasoned veteran, now – after Allen took Wyoming to the championship game last year – it’ll be up to Rypien to pull off a Mountain West title for Boise State for the first time in a few years.
2017 CFN Preseason Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year
LB Jahlani Tavai, Jr. Hawaii
Hawaii might be making the most noise with its offense, but it’s got a few guys who can hit. The D might not have been anything special, but Tavai was a force with 129 tackles, seven sacks, and 19.5 tackles for loss. A force of a pass rusher on the outside, he’ll be among the league’s statistical superstars, but more than that, he needs to come up with even more pressure in the backfield – if that’s possible – to help out the mediocre secondary.
Mountain West Team That Will Surprise
Colorado State Rams
It’s the right year with head coach Mike Bobo going into his third year at the helm, and with the team in place to make a strong push for the Mountain West title.
When we last saw the Ram defense, it was getting destroyed by Idaho in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It’ll be a stronger D, but all it’ll have to do is hold serve for an offense that’ll be among the league’s most dominant. It might not look like it against Colorado or Alabama early on, but with Boise State coming to Fort Collins, along with Air Force and Nevada, they’re in for a strong year.
Mountain West Team That Will Disappoint
They’re coming off a division title, they’ve got an NFL franchise quarterback, and they’ve got the momentum with enough talent to at least go bowling again. But as good as Josh Allen might be, he’’ll have to make everyone around him even better, and he won’t be able to help out the defense.
With road games at Iowa, Boise State and Air Force, to go along with home dates with Oregon, New Mexico and Colorado State, it’ll take several upsets to make this another special year. It’ll be a good one, but it won’t be a division championship run.
Mountain West Game Of The Year
Boise State at Colorado State, Nov. 11
Yeah, Wyoming won the Mountain last season, and Air Force won it the year before, but Boise State and Colorado State will likely be the showdown for the division title. San Diego State should be the star of the West again – and it gets to gave Boise State at home in mid-October – but the Mountain will be up for grabs. Don’t forget about New Mexico or a resurgent Utah State, either.
Colorado State has the makeup and the talent to take its turn at bat in the division, while Boise State is looking to take back its place as the star of the show. It should be a shootout, and now the Rams have to break the curse after going 0-6 lifetime in the series.
5 Big-Time Mountain West Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. LB Jahlani Tavai, Jr. Hawaii
2. WR Michael Gallup, Sr. Colorado State
3. CB Andre Cachere, Sr. San Jose State
4. DE Malik Reed, Jr. Nevada
5. CB Kameron Kelly, Sr. San Diego State
5 Mountain West Coaches On The Hot Seat
Five Mountain West coaches who need to win this season – at least more than the others. Being on a hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is about to fired, but the pressure is on to produce up to expectations and beyond.
1. Matt Wells, Utah State
2. Tony Sanchez, UNLV
3. Mike Bobo, Colorado State
4. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
5. Craig Bohl, Wyoming
5 Non-Conference Games That Mountain West Opponents Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
These are the games that could define the Mountain West season with some big non-conference wins. The Power Five opponents had better be prepared.
1. Stanford at San Diego State, Sept. 16
2. Wyoming at Iowa, Sept. 2
3. Nevada at Northwestern, Sept. 2
4. Air Force at Michigan, Sept. 16
5. Hawaii at UCLA, Sept. 9
5 Best Pro Prospects
1. QB Josh Allen, Jr. Wyoming
2. RB/KR Rashaad Penny, Sr. San Diego State
3. DT David Moa, Jr. Boise State
4. S Andrew Wingard, Jr. Wyoming
5. QB Brett Rypien, Jr. Boise State
5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1. San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny (in a full-time role) for Donnel Pumphrey
2. Air Force S Kyle Floyd for Weston Steelhammer
3. Boise State RB Alexander Mattison for Jeremy McNichols
4. San Diego State CB Kalan Montgomery for Damontae Kazee
5. Boise State WR Akilian Butler for Thomas Sperbeck