Boise State Broncos 11-2 (8-1)
Transition is not a tough word for the Boise State Broncos to handle. In 2001, the Broncos left the Big West Conference to join the Western Athletic Conference where they shared or outright won the WAC Title nine times. In 2011, Boise State joined the Mountain West Conference and they have not slowed down as they’ve won the conference title there twice. Last year for Boise State was their first year under head football coach Bryan Harsin who was able to pick up right where former Boise State and current University of Washington head football coach Chris Petersen left off at.
The Broncos are no longer college football’s little secret that resides in the Potato State of Idaho and plays on the blue turf. With 10 of the last 13 years resulting in the Broncos finishing the season ranked in the top 20 under three different head coaches, the Broncos know how to roll with the punches which is important as they’ll once again look to win the Mountain West in 2015.
For Harsin and Boise State, nine starters are returning on offense, but they’ll have to replace a pair of impact players.
The Broncos lost quarterback Grant Hedrick to graduation while running back Jay Ajayi left school early to play in the National Football League. At 6’4″, sophomore Ryan Finley has the size to be a good quarterback and Boise’s system tends to bring out the best in their quarterbacks. Junior running back Devan Demas is the opposite of Ajayi. Whereas Ajayi was a big, powerful back for the Broncos, Demas is a scat back that relies more on his speed and elusiveness. But the fact that the Broncos have a ton of talent returning on the offensive side of the football which includes senior offensive tackle Rees Odhiambo and senior center Marcus Henry, Boise State should once again have one of the top offenses in the Mountain West.
The Broncos return eight starters on defense and under defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, this unit should only get better as the season progresses.
The non-conference schedule won’t be an easy for Boise State as they welcome an old friend in Peterson to town with his Washington team before traveling to meet the BYU Cougars and Virginia Cavaliers of the Atlantic Coast Conference which should get them prepared for everything that the Mountain West Coast has to offer in 2015.
Air Force Falcons 8-4 (6-2)
After going 2-10 in 2013, the Air Force Falcons enjoyed an incredible turnaround last year as they went 10-3 and won a bowl game. For Air Force head football coach Troy Calhoun it is simple, just rely on his triple-option attack as much as possible which means to give the football to sophomore running back Jacobi Owens early and often. With Air Force cadets having to give the United States Military a two-year commitment after their collegiate days, Calhoun doesn’t have an easy sell when it comes to recruiting, but this mentally tough program won’t be one that too many teams will be ecstatic to play this fall.
Utah State Aggies 7-5 (5-3)
The best way to describe the Utah State Aggies football program over the past several years is that they are a thorn in the side of their opponents. Over the past three years the Aggies have won 30 games including winning the last Western Athletic Conference Championship in 2012 along with winning the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference in 2013.
For Utah State head football coach Matt Wells, he is hoping that senior quarterback Chuckie Keeton can bounce back healthy in 2015. The last two years have seen Keeton go down with knee injuries and after the NCAA granted him a special waiver for this year, he is looking to make the most of it as he can be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks within the conference.
The Aggies schedule in 2015 is far from easy as in their non-conference portion they’ll meet the Utah Utes and Washington Huskies of the Pac-12 Conference along with the BYU Cougars. Within the Mountain West, the Aggies will face the Boise State Broncos and San Diego State Aztecs in a two week span as those two contests will more that likely determine their fate in the conference this year.
Colorado State Rams 9-3 (5-3)
The Colorado State Rams have enjoyed some success in the past two years, but things will be a little bit different this year. After three years as the head football coach of the Rams, Jim McElwain was lured away from Fort Collins by the money and prestige of the Southeastern Conference and the University of Florida. But with McElwain’s departure, Colorado State went back to the SEC to find their next head coach football. This time the Rams went to Athens, Georgia and plucked Mike Bobo from the University of Georgia. Bobo was a quarterback at Georgia and he spent the past 14 years there either as a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator. But now at the age of 41, Bobo is ready to become a college football head coach.
The Rams did lose some talent on offense, but they still have junior wide receiver Rashard Higgins who has the potential to a first-team All-Mountain West player this year.
If Colorado State is able to take advantage of their non-conference schedule which includes a game against the Colorado Buffaloes of the Pac-12 Conference, they could gain the confidence that will be necessary for them to hang around in the race for the Mountain West Championship.
Wyoming Cowboys 6-6 (3-5)
The Wyoming Cowboys enter 2015 college football season looking for their first winning season since 2011. And for that to come to fruition for Wyoming head football coach Craig Bohl, he’ll rely heavily on sophomore running back Ben Hill to be a workhouse for him.
If Wyoming is able to take care of business in their non-conference schedule that includes games against North Dakota and Eastern Michigan, they might be able to do just enough in the Mountain West to in order to become bowl eligible.
New Mexico Lobos 3-9 (1-7)
The hot seat is warming up for head football coach Bob Davie in 2015 with the New Mexico Lobos. Davie is entering his fourth season with New Mexico where he has compiled a record of 11-26 without a bowl appearance. And with the Mountain Division in the Mountain West Conference expected to be tough, victories for the Lobos might be few and far between in 2015. The best chance for the Lobos to have success in 2015 will be for them to rely on senior running back Jhurell Pressley having an epic season. But with there not being too many soft spots in New Mexico’s schedule this year, it will be another long season for Davie and the Lobos in Albuquerque.
San Diego State Aztecs 9-4 (7-2)
The San Diego State Aztecs have seen their win total decrease in each of the last three seasons, but with this year expected to be a very down year for the Western Division of the Mountain West Conference, the Aztecs could find their way to the conference title game under head football coach Rocky Long.
The key to the Aztecs team will be junior running back Donnel Pumphrey and senior running back Chase Price. Together in 2014, Pumphrey and Price combined to rush for more than 2,500 yards and they are once again expected to effective in 2015.
With the Western Division expected to be weak, San Diego State will also avoid the heavyweights that are in the Mountain Division and they should have a relative easy road to the conference title game.
Fresno State Bulldogs 5-7 (4-4)
2014 saw the Fresno State Bulldogs have their toughest season since 2011 and for head football coach Tim DeRuyter, things won’t get any easier this time around. The State of California has long been a recruiting hotbed for high school football, but Fresno State typically tends to get over looked by the bigger schools that are in the Pac-12 Conference. Periodically Fresno State is able to find solid players, but they are in the midst of a dry spell right now.
This season the Bulldogs will be dealing a ton of adversity as their non-conference schedule includes road games against the Utah Utes of the Pac-12, the Ole Miss Rebels of the Southeastern Conference, and the BYU Cougars who are a football independent while within the Mountain West, they’ll travel to meet San Diego State and the Air Force Falcons which will make it difficult for them to become bowl eligible.
Nevada Wolfpack 5-7 (4-4)
The Nevada Wolf Pack were able to turn things around last season under head football coach Brian Polian. In Polian’s first year, Nevada went 4-8 while they were 7-6 last season. But for Nevada to have a chance as far as winning the Western Division of the Mountain West in 2015, Polian must find a player or players that can offset the loss of quarterback Cody Fajardo who is now pursuing a career in the National Football League.
Nevada will spend this season teetering on bowl eligibility, and with their last two games of the season taking place on the road against the Utah State Aggies and the San Diego State Aztecs, it will be tough for the Wolf Pack to find their way back to a bowl game.
UNLV Rebels 3-9 (2-6)
After three consecutive double-digit losing seasons, the UNLV Rebels were able to break through and post a winning campaign in 2013. But the losing trend re-emerged for the Rebels last season as they were 2-11 which resulted in a coaching change. The Rebels went to the high school ranks to find a new head football coach in Tony Sanchez who is out to show that he can produce a consistent winner in Vegas. And any opportunity for Sanchez to get things turned around while establishing himself in 2015 at UNLV will mean that senior quarterback Blake Decker and sophomore wide receiver Devonte Boyd must have big seasons.
UNLV’s non-conference schedule includes trips to face the Northern Illinois Huskies from the Mid-American Conference and the Michigan Wolverines from the Big Ten Conference with road games within the Mountain West Conference against the Nevada Wolfpack and Colorado State Rams as victories will be few and far between this for the Rebels in 2015.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors 4-8 (1-7)
After going 1-11 in 2013, there was only one way for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors to go under head football coach Norm Chow in 2014. Hawaii was 4-8 last year and they are hopeful that they can get over that hump in 2015 in order to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. Chow has a reputation in college of working with and developing quarterbacks. Junior quarterback Ikaika Woolsey will be Hawaii’s starting quarterback and he will need to improve on his 13 touchdowns from last season while decreasing his 13 interceptions to help the chances of the Rainbow Warriors in the upcoming college football season.
With a daunting schedule that includes a road game versus the Ohio State Buckeyes who are the defending national champs, Hawaii and Chow will have their work cut out form themselves this fall.
San Jose State Spartans 2-10 (1-7)
It’s hard to believe that in 2012, the San Jose State Spartans won 11 games as they’ve fallen apart rather quickly. The Spartans are coming off of a 3-9 season and things won’t get any easier for them this year in the Mountain West Conference. Ron Caragher is set to begin his third season as the head football coach at San Jose State where he’ll be fighting an uphill battle to get his team to compete as they lost eight games last season by 10 or more points. And with a schedule for San Jose State this year that includes games against the Air Force Falcons, Oregon State Beavers, Auburn Tigers, San Diego State Aztecs, and BYU Cougars, it will be another long year in Northern California for the Spartans.
Mountain West Championship Game: San Diego State vs. Boise State
Conference Champion: Boise State