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2021 MWC Football Preview

Predicted Order of Finish

West Division

1. Nevada- HC Jay Norvell has rejuvenated a program that had lost a little shine following the retirement of Chris Ault after the 2012 season, with a laundry list of returning starters on both sides of the ball Norvell and the Wolfpack have high aspirations entering the 2021 season, junior QB and 2020 Mountain West Player of the year returns after throwing for 2,858 yards and 27 touchdowns last year, the receiving corps is elite and the O-Line returns a strong veteran group, the defensive front seven is stacked led by a pair of All-Mountain West candidates in DT Dom Peterson and DE Sam Hammond, schedule is more challenging this year with road games against Cal and Kansas St in the non-conference and visits to Boise St, San Diego St, and San Jose St in conference

2. San Jose State- after increasing it win total from 1 to 5 in 2019, the Spartans continued their upward trend winning their first 7 games in route to a MW Title, 20 starters return for the always energetic and optimistic HC Brent Brennan who appears to one of college football rising coaches, QB Nick Starkel will once again lead the offense after throwing 17 touchdown passes in 2020, no longer around however is reliable receiver Bailey Gaither, the O-Line returns all 5 starters, the defense returns 10 starters and made enormous progress under coordinator Derrick Odom improving from 98th in scoring defense in 2019 to 15th last year, must travel to Nevada this time around

3. San Diego State- HC Brady Hoke enters his 2nd season in his second go around in San Diego, senior QB Lucas Johnson will battle for the starting job with Jordon Brookshire and Mississippi St transfer Jalen Mayden, whoever is under center must provide a greater passing threat, the Aztecs fielded one of the best defensive units in the country last year finishing in the top 15 in rushing and passing yards allowed, with 9 starters returning the defense has the ability to keep the high powered offenses of Nevada and San Jose St in check

4. Hawaii- In his first year as HC Todd Graham led the Warriors to a 5-4 record that included a marquee win vs Nevada and a victory in the New Mexico Bowl over Houston, QB Chevan Cordeiro returns to run Graham’s up tempo run and shoot offense, the O-Line returns four starters along with Kohl Levao who returns from injury, WR Rico Bussey left for the NFL but capable replacements look to step in, the defense returns 9 starters but gave up 211.7 yards per game on the ground turning to the transfer portal to shore up the line

5. Fresno State- After Jeff Tedford resigned due to health reasons after 3 seasons the keys were handed to Kalen DeBoer who served as his offensive coordinator in during back to back MWC title games in 2017 and 2018, DeBoer who was given little time to transition the program due to the pandemic coached the team to a 3-3 mark in his first season, 20 starters return including senior QB Jake Haener who the 5th ranked passing offense in the nation, the D-line is deep and experienced but must get better at stopping the run, must survive 2 early road games at Oregon and UCLA

6. UNLV- 2nd year HC Marcus Arroyo enters 2021 still seeking his first win, the team finished 0-6 in 2020 struggling on both sides of the ball, the offense is unsettled at QB but may receive a boost from Tate Martell who spent time at Miami and Ohio State, senior RB Charles Williams should be the go guy on offense claiming first team All-MWC honors in 2019, the defense added quality transfers to try to beef up its front seven

Mountain Division

1. Boise State- former Bronco Andy Avalos takes over as HC after severing as D coordinator at Oregon, the talent on paper remains among the best in the MW, but teams no longer fear Boise St like they once did, junior QB Hank Bachmeier returns along with veteran receivers Khalil Shakir and CT Thomas, with 8 returning starters and Avalos at the helm the defense should approve after an up and down 2020, both Wyoming and Air Force at home should set up for a division title

2. Wyoming- both returning quarterbacks Sean Chambers and and Levi Williams have struggled to stay healthy during their time with the Cowboys, whoever wins the starting job must improve their accuracy provide some down field passing attack to keep opposing defenses honest, the defense should be one of the best in the conference returning 9 starters from a unit that ranked in the top 30 in rushing and passing yards allowed, the conference schedule is brutal with road games at Air Force, Boise, and San Jose St

3. Air Force- HC Troy Calhoun enters his 15th season in with the program, the team has reached 10 bowls but only 1 in the past 4 seasons, last years starting QB Haaziq Daniels looks to retain the starting job but will face competition from a host of others, the backfield and O-Line remain a mystery, depth is everywhere on defense due to many players returning after leaving the academy for a semester in 2020 when the Mountain West originally canceled the fall season due to Covid-19, never underestimate Calhoun’s ability to get the most out his teams regardless of talent

4. Utah State- Bringing in HC Blake Anderson from Arkansas St may have been one of college’s best hires, Anderson brings a resume that include 6 bowl appearances in 7 years with the Red Wolves, QB Logan Bonner followed his coach to the Aggies and will look to unseat Andrew Peasley who took over midway thru the 2020 season, 9 starters return including a talented receiving group that looks to flourish in Andersons’s offense that finished 2nd nationally in passing last year, defense was non-existent in 2020 but will look to build around All-Mountain West defensive end Marcus Moore

5. Colorado State- HC Steve Addazio was an assistant under Urban Meyer at Florida during its National Championship Seasons, however Addazio’s record as coach hasn’t quite resembled that of Meyer’s posting a 58-58 mark in stops at Temple, Boston College, and now Colorado State, junior QB Todd Centeio will run the offense after Patrick O’Brien transferred to Washington, the run game is always a priority under Addazio and will benefit from the return of talented RB Marcus McElroy Jr. along with 5 linemen, defense returns 10 starters from a unit the saw drastic improvement under the new staff

6. New Mexico- Danny Gonzales was one of a handful of first year head coaches trying to implement their system in a pandemic shortened season, not surprisingly the Lobos lost their first 5 games before closing with 2 quality wins against Wyoming and Fresno, Kentucky transfer Terry Wilson will start at QB and will be surrounded by a strong running game led by senior RB Bobby Cole and a veteran the O-Line that finished 36th in rushing yards per game in 2020, D coordinator Rocky Long enters his 2nd season in his return to Albuquerque, must limit big plays that plagued the unit in 2020

Buy- Air Force, Utah State


Best Best- Utah State OVER Total Wins

Coach of the Year- Jay Norvell Nevada

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