2017 Season G5 FBS College Football Picks: Mountain West Conference

CSJ’s Predicted Order of finish:

Mountain Division

  1. Boise State *
  2. Colorado State
  3. Wyoming
  4. Air Force
  5. New Mexico
  6. Utah State

West Division

  1. San Diego State
  2. Nevada
  3. UNLV
  4. Fresno State
  5. Hawaii
  6. San Jose State

*Overall Conference Champion

Order below in overall order of pick

Boise State

Fearless Forecast: The past two seasons have proved Boise State is not necessarily the best team in the conference or a given to win the Mountain West title.  In fact, it hasn’t even been a given for the Broncos to win the Mountain Division. However, with dominant offensive talent, and a solid defense, the Broncos have just about everything in place to get back on top.

Boise State QB Brett Rypien

Impact Player: QB Brett Rypien may not get all the preseason hype as the top quarterback in this league but his numbers seem to prove otherwise.  The now-junior was named to All-Mountain West First Team for second-straight season last year.   He finished 2016 with 3,646 passing yards and 24 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 61.9 and also those numbers led the Mountain West in passing yardage and was second in touchdown passes.  If the name sounds familiar, he is the nephew of former NFL Washington Redskins Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.       

Colorado State

Fearless Forecast: The Rams offense really has no issues putting some numbers on the scoreboard but the biggest question will be if its defense to rise up.  QB Nick Stevens be labeled a notch below BSU’s Rypien and Wyoming’s Allen but at the end of the season he likely will have similar numbers.  He has a top wide out in Michael Gallup and a stable of running backs beyind him to utililize. CSU also get BSU at home in what might just be the MWC true championship game in early November.

CSU QB Nick Stevens

Impact Player: QB Nick Stevens completed 129-of-201 (64.2%) passes for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns with five interceptions.  The now-senior rushed for 53 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns.  He ranked fifth in the country and first in the Mountain West with a 171.3 passer efficiency rating.  His 64.2% completion percentage ranked 16th in the country and first in the Mountain West last year.

San Diego State

Fearless Forecast: The defending two-time MWC champions have some rebuilding, but the pieces are in place to be in the thick of the chase again and especially in what I feel is the weaker MWC West Division.  Despite losing Donnel Pumphrey to graduation, the running game with Rashaad Penny will likely see little drop-off. The Aztec defense might be the top group together in the conference even though it needs to replace a ton of key parts.

SDSU RB/KR Rashaad Penny

Impact Player: RB/KR Rashaad Penny is definitely one of the nation’s speediest backs, who has turned into one of the top kick returners in the country,  The now-senior logged more carries last year and will be expected to carry the load this season with the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher Donnel Pumphrey graduated.  He is amongst the top active career kick returners in FBS.  Heranked first in kick return touchdowns (5) and second in kick return average (30.1, min. 24 att.). His five career kick return touchdowns are the most in program history. Three of his five kick return touchdowns have gone for 100 yards (has only happened three other times in school history).

Wyoming

The publicity is really high from the NFL for quarterback in Josh Allen.  The rest of the Cowboys is has some wait and see how the younger performers step-up. The defense needs to prove it can stop the opposing running game but should be good against the air game with Andrew Wingard headlining the secondary.  But Allen and some of the up-and-coming talent, along with the winning attitude of Coach Craig Bohl, just might be good enough to carry the defending Mountain Division champs back to the title game.

Wyoming QB Josh Allen

Impact Player: QB Josh Allen as named to the Maxwell Award Watch List this summer. The Maxwell Award has been presented to the College Player of the Year since 1937. Numerous NFL scouts have rated Allen as a potential first round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He considered entering last year’s NFL Draft, but decided to return to Wyoming for his junior season. Allen threw 28 touchdown passes in 2016, placing him No. 1 in the conference and No. 20 in the country. He was second in the MW and 32nd in the nation in passing yards (3,203). Allen was also No. 2 in conference and No. 40 in the nation in total offense (266.1 yards per game). His 3,203 passing yards in 2016 are the fifth best single-season total in Wyoming school history.

Air Force

Fearless Forecast: The linebackers and defensive front has potential, but still there are several gaps on the defense to fill. The Falcon triple option should provide a great running game especially with a tremendous offensive line.  While AFA doesn’t throw the ball a great deal, the receiving corps needs to find to new folks to at least keep the opposing defense with enough threat to help keep the option game going.

Air Force QB Arion Worthman

Impact Player: QB Arion Worthman was third on the team in rushing with 674 yards and second with six touchdowns despite only starting five games and playing in seven in his sophomore season.  He hit 23-of-39 passes for 546 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions.  He averaged 23.7 yards per completion which ranks second for a single season in Air Force history.

New Mexico

The Lobos running game has a chance to be very good once again for Coach Bob Davie’s team.  . The offensive backfield is absolutely loaded behind another great line. The UNM defense will be the big question mark this year.  How well this team will be how well the Lobos improve stopping the tremendous offenses in this league.  UNM gave up over 31 points per game in 2016.

New Mexico RB Tyronne Owens

Impact Player: RB Tyrone Owens became the 19th player in Lobo school history to break the 1,000-yard mark.  He rushed for 1,084 yards on 134 carries with a long of 83 and seven touchdowns in his sophomore season last year. He also caught seven passes for 54 yards and in total he had five 100-yard rushing games.

Nevada

Fearless Forecast: The Wolfpack have a big tweak under new head coach Jay Norvell, with Alabama transfer QB David Cornwell leading the Air Raid offense that’ll wing the ball all over the place. Like several other MWC teams, Nevada will need to prove it can stop some other teams but with the offense, it might just try to outscore their opponents.

Nevada DE Malik Reed

Impact Player: DE Malik Reed is one terror on an otherwise rather porous Wolfpack defense.  He will hope to lead this side of the ball in his junior season.  He earned a spot on the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Ted Hendricks Award.  He finished the year with 59 tackles, 44 of those being solo.  He also totaled five sacks on the year and 9.5 tackles for loss with three forced fumbles.

UNLV

Fearless Forecast: Coach Tony Sanchez’s team has inched up from three wins to four wins in his first two season and will look to get to bowl eligible this season.   The offense might hinge on how well Armani Rogers performs as quarterback in his freshman season.  He will have Devonte Boyd to find as one of the league’s top receivers and has a strong running game behind him.  The defense has been off-and-on and will need to be more “on” this year also for a bowl team coming from Nevada’s largest city.

UNLV WR Devonte Boyd

Impact Player: WR Devonte Boyd enters the season ranked third among all active players in college football with 2,630 receiving yards and fourth with 164 catches and 75.1 yards per game.  The now-senior led the Rebels with 45 receptions, 746 yards and four receiving touchdowns last year despite suffering a season-ending injury vs. Wyoming in Game 10.

Utah State

The secondary likely will be the strength of the Aggie defense but will need to fill some gaps in the front seven.   Kent Myers provides leadership and talent at the quarterback position and has a number of key receivers back.  But USU just might now not have the overall weapons to keep up with some of the Mountain West’s offensive machines.

Utah State QB Kent Myers

Impact Player: QB Kent Myers completed 211-of-361 (.584) passes for 2,389 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year.  The now-senior finished the season ranking first in the Mountain West and 55th in the nation in completions per game (17.7), third in the MW and 64th nationally in total offense (236.9 ypg), fifth in the conference and 71st in the nation in passing (199.5 ypg), sixth in the MW and 72nd nationally in completion percentage (.586), eighth in the MW and 92nd in the nation with 10 touchdown passes, and eighth in the MW and 94th nationally in passing efficiency (118.8).

Fresno State

Fearless Forecast:  New head coach Jeff Tedford doesn’t have the talent in place to do what he might like on both sides of the ball so expectations are likely low in Fresno .  He will, however have a quarterback in Chason Virgil to start doing the passing attack and will also have the biggest team strength in its the receiving corps. The defense will be more of a question mark for the Bulldogs.

Fresno State WR Jaime Jordan

Impact Player: WR Jamire Jordan was the team’s second-leading pass catcher for yards with 713 and owned the team’s third-most receptions with 45.  The now-junior posted a team-high three 100-yard receiving games, and was one of eight Mountain West players to own at least three games with 100-yard plus performances in 2016.

Hawaii

The second new head coach in Nick Rolovich will take over a Rainbow Warrior team that went up and down last year.  There likely will be games when it all works and the offense puts up great numbers and the defense produces stops but there will likely be other games that neither works.  Trying to put the top performances in each game will be the challenge for Hawaii this year.

Hawaii LB Jahlani Tavai

Impact Player: LB Jahlani Tavai should be one consistent performer for Hawaii this year.  He led the team and ranked sixth in the Mountain West and 29th nationally with 129 total tackles (86 solo, 43 assisted).  The now-junior became the first UH player to record over 100 tackles in a season since 2011.  He topped the Mountain West and finished 18th in the NCAA with 19.5 tackles for loss and also recorded a team-high and MW sixth-best 7.0 sacks on the year.

San Jose State

The third new head coach in the league in Brent Brennan is going to need a little while also at San Jose.   He might take solace in a good defensive secondary and what might be the top league kicking game but otherwise this might be a long season for the Spartans.

San Jose State CB Andre Cachere

Impact Player: CB Andre Cachere finished fourth nationally in passes defended at 1.5 per game.  The now-senior finished as the team leader with four interceptions and 14 pass break-ups.  He finished 11th nationally in interception return yardage with 117.

*******************************************************

2017 Mountain West Football Preseason All-Conference Team
OFFENSE
QB Josh Allen** Jr. Wyoming
WR Michael Gallup* Sr. Colorado State
WR Devonte Boyd Sr. UNLV
RB Rashaad Penny* Sr. San Diego State
RB Tyrone Owens Jr. New Mexico
OL Jake Bennett** Sr. Colorado State
OL Austin Corbett** Sr. Nevada
OL Dejon Allen** Sr. Hawai‘i
OL Aaron Jenkins Jr. New Mexico
OL Mason Hampton Sr. Boise State
TE David Wells** Sr. San Diego State
DEFENSE
DL David Moa* Jr. Boise State
DL Malik Reed** Jr. Nevada
DL Garrett Hughes* Sr. New Mexico
DL Mike Hughes, Jr. Sr. UNLV
LB Jahlani Tavai* Jr. Hawai‘i
LB Logan Wilson So. Wyoming
LB Frank Ginda Jr. San José State
DB Andrew Wingard* Jr. Wyoming
DB Andre Chachere* Sr. San José State
DB Tyler Horton Jr. Boise State
DB Trayvon Henderson Sr. Hawai‘i
SPECIALISTS
P Michael Carrizosa Sr. San José State
PK John Baron II* Jr. San Diego State
RET Rashaad Penny* Sr. San Diego State
Offensive Player of the Year:
Josh Allen, Jr., QB, Wyoming
Defensive Player of the Year:
Andrew Wingard, Jr., DB, Wyoming
Special Teams Player of the Year:
Rashaad Penny, Sr., KR, San Diego State

* – MEMBER OF THE 2016 ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST FIRST TEAM.
** – MEMBER OF THE 2016 ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST SECOND TEAM.

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