1 – Can Boise Regain Footing?
Boise State has been the head master program of the Mountain West for the better part of two decades, but several turnovers at head coach over that span has seemingly allowed some foes in the conference to play catch up to the Broncos. After a disappointing 2021 campaign that saw the Broncos go 7-5 and miss out on the championship game, can the Broncos rebound back to the top of the most scenic conference in the sport?
Andy Avalos returns for his second year after taking over after Bryan Harsin’s departure. Back as well are quarterback Hank Bachmeier and running back George Holani, a formidable duo with plenty of starting experience. Khalil Shakur, a standout big play threat is now gone and will be sorely missed in an offense that has struggled severely along the offensive line in recent years. The Broncos ranked outside the top 100 in rushing yards per game last season as well as giving up a whopping 27 sacks. If the Broncos can clean up the play upfront, the Broncos will have a great shot to make the conference championship game.
Defensively, the Broncos were stout on the back end of the defense, allowing just 19 points per game and ranking third in the conference in passing yards allowed per game. The Broncos defense also recorded more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed, and will return several key seniors in the secondary. Boise State should hands down be the best defensive team in the Mountain West this season, and why they’ll be favored to get their crown back.
The Broncos open the season traveling to Oregon State for an excellent uniform matchup, but the entire schedule is very favorable for the Broncos. San Diego State, Fresno State, BYU, and Utah State all have to come to the Blue Turf and the Boise road schedule in conference includes New Mexico, Air Force, Nevada, and Wyoming. Boise State should have a very good chance to reign yet again as kings of the Mountain West in 2022.
2 – Jake Haener and Fresno State
Jake Haener stormed onto the national scene last season when he gutted out a huge upset victory against UCLA, and while the rest of the season wasn’t *quite* as thrilling, Haener and the Bulldogs still finished the year with double digits wins and a bowl victory. Back as well are his standout pair of receivers, Jalen Cropper and Josh Kelly. However, head coach Kalen DeBoer left to take the Washington job, Haener entered the transfer portal before opting to return, and Jeff Tedford returns to take over the head coaching role he vacated several years before due to health issues.
Tedford held a 26-14 record as the head man in Fresno, and his return should signal good things for the Bulldogs. This team is ready to contend for the Mountain West, and not having to deal with a brand new head coach getting his footing quickly should allow the Bulldogs to start fast. The defense also returns plenty of talent, including pass rusher David Perales (7 sacks in 2021) and safety Evan Williams (91 tackles, 3 interceptions).
Like Boise, Fresno will face Oregon State early followed by a road trip to play Lincoln Rileys USC team in the Coliseum, a matchup that will be must watch for any diehard college football fan. The Bulldogs also must make a trip up to Boise, but other Mountain West roads trips only include New Mexico, UNLV, and Nevada. Fresno should be looked at as a serious contender for double digit wins yet again and favored to win the West division.
3 – An Island & A Rebuild
Hawaii football gets the final slot because it’s a story every college football diehard will be following over the next several years. Todd Graham seemingly sucked all the energy out of a program that won the hearts of fans over the years with June Jones electric offense and the quarterbacking of Timmy Chang and the late Colt Brennan, and this offseason Graham was replaced by none other than Timmy Chang himself. Chang inherits a rough situation. The late Graham years saw tons of players transfer out, leaving a fairly bare roster in terms of talent, and a rebuild that will likely need a few years to see pay off.
Chang did bring in Ian Shoemaker from Eastern Washington, an FCS program with a history of big play offenses, to head the offensive side of the ball during the rebuild, a move I think will pay off over time. The quarterback position will be a competition with no clear front runner, but the Rainbow Warriors will have plenty of experience on the offensive line which should help whoever ends up under center.
Defensively, Hawaii is gonna look rough. Double digit starters departed, though that may not be all bad for a defense that ranked 100th or worse in most categories, and they bring in plenty of transfer portal talent from across the country in an attempt to patch some things in the short term as Chang and company try to regain some footing.
Hawaii also boasts one of the most interesting schedules outside of conference play. Vanderbilt will travel to the island for a Week Zero matchup and after that Western Kentucky will fly in before Timmy Chang and the Rainbow Warriors make a trip all the way to The Big House for a matchup with Michigan. Don’t expect more than a few wins for Hawaii in year one, but I’m excited to see Chang step into this role after serving as a position coach at Nevada and Colorado State. He’ll surely energize the island and help recruit players, and while the long term success of Hawaii football will always be hard to maximize due to disadvantages, I sure hope this move works out for the Rainbow Warriors.
4 – Predictions & Notes
5 Biggest Games
San Diego State at Utah (Sept 17) – The Punt God is gone, but San Diego State travels to Utah for what should be a tough defensive battle between two technically sound teams.
Fresno State at USC (Sept 17) – Jake Haener and the Bulldogs look to replicate what they did to UCLA by pulling off an upset and playing spoilers for Lincoln Riley and the Trojans.
Fresno State at Boise State (Oct 8) – A mid-season matchup between the two Mountain West favorites could be a preview for the championship game.
BYU at Boise State (Nov 5) – BYU travels to the Blue Turf looking to avenge a big loss from last season to the Broncos. Boise State will try to get a big win against a team moving to the Big 12 next season.
Utah State at Boise State (Nov 26) – The defending Mountain West Champions head to Boise for a matchup that could decide who wins the Mountain division and heads to the Championship game.
Fresno State defeats Boise State
- Boise State
- Utah State
- Air Force
- Colorado State
- New Mexico
- Fresno State
- San Diego State
- San Jose State