The pre-spring version of the CFN 2021 rankings with a first look at all the Mountain West teams.
2021 Mountain West Rankings: Pre-Spring
Mountain West: Mountain
1. Boise State Broncos
Why To Be Happy: The main men for the offense are back. The backfield of QB Hank Bachmeier and RB George Holani return along with the top receivers and three of the five starting linemen. There’s still a question mark about a few key defensive players, but the front seven will be fine.
What To Work On: As good as Boise State was, it didn’t run the ball well enough – the right side of the O line has to be replaced – and this wasn’t the normal killer Bronco D. Even with all of the issues and inconsistencies, the team still went to the Mountain West title, and …
Bottom Line: The Andy Avalos era should kickstart things back to a championship level. Bryan Harsin was obviously fantastic – Auburn seems more than happy to get him – and the 39-year-old Avalos is inheriting a good team that should be the favorite to win the Mountain West title.
2. Colorado State Rams
Why To Be Happy: The parts that really needed to return are returning. QB Patrick O’Brien is transferring out, but this was probably going to be Todd Centeio’s job anyway. TE Trey McBride is coming back for one more year, and on the defensive side, getting back DE Scott Patchan and DT Manny Jones is massive.
What To Work On: The production has to be there. This will once again be among the best teams in the country at getting into the backfield, but can the offense come up with a third down conversion? Can that pressure from the D translate into takeaways?
Bottom Line: Let’s try this again. From off-the-field issues to the COVID problems, the Colorado State 2020 season never got going. It was only a four game season going 1-3, but Year Two under Steve Addazio should be far stronger.
3. Wyoming Cowboys
Why To Be Happy: Experience won’t be an issue. The Cowboys are loaded at quarterback with Levi Williams expected back after suffering a broken leg, RBs Trey Smith and Xazavian Halladay return behind a veteran O line that should return all five starters, and with Garrett Crall back on the end, the defensive front is all back full.
What To Work On: The offense has to start working again. The Cowboys didn’t have any semblance of a passing attack, they struggled to come up with third down conversions, and everything stalled late in the season. Now …
Bottom Line: Wyoming has to find its groove again. You know what it wants to do – control the clock and the tempo, run well, get the D to dominate – and it’ll have the experience to do it.
4. Utah State Aggies
Why To Be Happy: Utah State has a terrific head coach in Blake Anderson. Arkansas State might have struggled over the last few years, but Anderson will bring the offense, the explosion, and he should be great with a bit of a reset. He gets a loaded O line, he’s hitting the transfer portal hard, and he’s bringing QB Logan Bonner from ASU to help push for the gig.
What To Work On: Yeah, there’s experience, and now it all has to work. Utah State was awful on both sides of the ball, there wasn’t a passing game, the points were hard to come by, and the defense was the worst in the Mountain West. But …
Bottom Line: This will be a relatively quick fix. Utah State was a mess from the start, and now things should settle in with Anderson getting a decent base of players to push for an instant improvement.
5. Air Force Falcons
Why To Be Happy: This was a good Air Force team that should be just as strong as long as the offensive line can boost up fast. Haaziq Daniels turned into a reliable quarterback and leading rusher Brad Roberts returns at fullback. There are enough defensive backs returning to be okay, but …
What To Work On: It’s Air Force, so there are always players ready to roll in the system, but while more teams are loaded with veterans in this weird year, the Falcons have to replace the entire offensive line and five of the seven starters on the defensive front.
Bottom Line: Yeah, it’s Air Force. It’s going to be fine in time, but it’s hardly a plus to lose the key parts that the 2020 team will. The running game will still be amazing, but can the defense be among the best in the nation again?
6. New Mexico Lobos
Why To Be Happy: The Lobos will finally have some continuity, starting with the offensive line that should have all five starters returning, DE Joey Noble returns to a defensive front three that’s loaded with veterans, and the offensive backfield gets back enough key parts to get fired up.
What To Work On: The passing game has to be better. It’s not efficient enough, it’s not explosive enough and … the secondary has to be better, too. The pass defense has to be stronger against the good offenses, the D as a whole has to be better, and …
Bottom Line: The Lobos might be quickly be a whole lot better. Few teams had to go through more than New Mexico did in 2020 – no true home games, and now it should be be a whole lot stronger with a double-digit number of seniors expected to be back.