The Mountain West has produced some fantastic Group of Five teams in the past, and will look for the next great team in 2023.
Boise State enters as the favorites in the Mountain West with defending champion Fresno State, who beat the Broncos in the conference title game last year, is going through a quarterback change. The same can be said for Air Force, the third choice before a significant drop-off in the odds.
Boise State is the favorite due to its talent on paper and emerging star Taylen Green, who took over the job midway through the year and reignited the Broncos season. The dual-threat sophomore has to get adjusted to a new offensive coordinator in Bush Hamdan and a defense that only returns 56% of snaps, according to ESPN.com.
The Mountain West is wide-open this season, will Boise State be able to make good on its upside and win the conference title under Andy Avalos for the first time? Let's get into some odds and make some predictions for 2023.
Mountain West Win Totals
- Air Force 8.5 (Over -104/Under -118)
- Boise State: 7.5 (Over -170/Under +138)
- Colorado State 4.5 (Over -164/Under +134)
- Fresno State 8.5 (Over +122/Under -150)
- Hawai'i: 3.5 (Over -118/Under -104)
- Nevada: 4.5 (Over +104/Under -128)
- New Mexico: 3.5 (Over -105/Under -115)
- San DIego State: 6.5 (Over -134/Under +110)
- San Jose State: 5.5 (Over -154/Under +126)
- UNLV: 5.5 (Over -172/Under +138)
- Utah State: 5.5 (Over +120/Under -148)
- Wyoming: 5.5 (Over -168/Under +136)
Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook
Mountain West Conference Winner
- Boise State: +175
- Fresno State +380
- Air Force +400
- San Diego State: +700
- Wyoming: +1200
- San Jose State: +1400
- UNLV: +1800
- Colorado State: +2800
- Utah State: +3000
- Nevada: +5500
- New Mexico: +15000
- Hawai'i: +15000
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Mountain West Dark Horse: UNLV (+1800)
The Rebels made the change at head coach, opting to bring in Barry Odom, who was most recently the Arkansas defensive coordinator and was also the head coach of Missouri. He will build a defensive identity for UNLV while he hands the offense over to Brennan Marion, former Texas WR coach and successful Division 2 offensive coordinator at the likes of Howard, running a unique GoGo offensive scheme.
Marion gives UNLV a high ceiling on offense, as long as quarterback Doug Brumfeld can stay on the field. The Rebs were 4-1 with Brumfeld at the helm before an injury early in the San Jose State game derailed the teams season, finishing 5-7, losing three of its last four by seven or fewer.
The offense was strong on the ground last season and will hope the offensive line can take a step forward and protect Brumfeld after allowing 37 sacks last season (110th in the country). Brumfeld gets his No. 1 target back in Ricky White and will hope Pitt transfer Vincent Davis can follow Aidan Robbins' season in 2022 after he rushed for nearly 900 yards.
The defense left a lot to be desired in 2022, but I trust Odom to implement a decent defense quickly that can push towards average in a conference that is going through a ton of turnover at quarterback and could be lacking in high scoring offenses.
The schedule features road trips to Fresno State and Air Force, but the team also goes to Nevada and New Mexico, two of the three worst projected teams in teh conference. Further, teams lumped in close to the Rebs' will come to Vegas in Colorado State, Wyoming and San Jose State.
With questions at the top of the conference, I'm going to opt to take a shot further down the board for a team that can play spoiler.
To me, UNLV has a manageable schedule and a higher ceiling than the likes of Wyoming that I will take them as a team that can take a big step forward in Odom's first season with Marion in control of the offense.
Mountain West Championship Pick: Air Force (+400)
Boise State is the favorite, but as I noted above, this team has plenty of questions and new faces taking over. I'm skeptical that the team is worth betting heading into the season at such a short price. To me, the team is only going to go down from its preseason rating.
Meanwhile, Air Force's price is being held down due to two key pieces of information (or lack thereof): The team hasn't named its starting quarterback between three players and the team needs to replace Brad Roberts, who accounted for 1,728 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on 345 carries.
There's rightfully questions about how the Air Force offense will look in 2023 despite getting three starting offensive linemen back for the always tough-to-contain triple option, but the defense gives the team a rock solid floor and the schedule makes me confident that of the tops three teams in the conference, the Falcons have the fewest questions.
Air Force has trotted out a top 20 defense on average over the last four seasons and returns 70% of production on that side of the ball, including nine of 13 defenders that played 250-plus snaps.
With a non conference that features Robert Morris, Sam Houston State (on a neutral field), at Navy and Army (neutral), Air Force will be lightly tested. In Mountain West play, the team's toughest test comes in the final game of the season at Boise State. Besides that, toughest opponents come at home with San Diego State and Wyoming coming to Colorado Springs.
There's a ton of questions in the Mountain West in 2023 that I'm going to opt for stability and the system that head coach Troy Calhoun has put in place. In Calhoun's 16 years with the program, the Falcons are averaging nearly eight wins per season and has won 10 games in three of the last four years.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.