NCAA Previews

2018 Mountain West College Football Preview – Mountain Division

Boise State Broncos Are Bucking for a Title

There is one team from the Mountain West Conference presently in the top 25. That is the Boise State Broncos. This team is a perennial bowl attendee. Our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview sees their toughest competition as coming from the Utah State Aggies. The Aggies have a fine rush attack and a better than average defense. Wyoming comes into this season with a defense that can be dominating. But there’s a big question concerning who will be the primary signal caller.

Looking at the other teams in our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview, we see that each has a major question mark. The Air Force Falcons will try to mount a defense, while relying on the ground attack for points. Look for the Colorado Rams to put their trust in Washington grad transfer QB K.J. Carta-Samuels, as they attempt to replace Nick Stevens. The New Mexico Lobos also have quarterback questions along with a struggling D. After perusing our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview, please be sure to get the full picture of this conference by reading our 2018 MW West Division preview.

2018 MW Mountain Division College Football Betting Preview

The Broncos, as usual, sit atop the projections in our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview. They come into this season with another dynamic offense and an overall solid defense. The Aggies should finish second, partly due to their experienced offense and a fairly light schedule. The Cowboys drop down a notch from last season, as they deal with replacing veteran quarterback Josh Allen. Still, we expect each of these teams to be bowl bound. All of the final three, the Falcons, Rams, and Lobos, have weaknesses on defense and both Colorado and New Mexico possess quarterback challenges as well. Here’s our full 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview with an analysis of each team.

1. Boise State Broncos

Offense

The Boise State Broncos come into this season in good shape. They’ve retained most of the talent that helped them be successful in 2017. That includes senior QB Brett Rypien (62.6 COMP%, 16 TDs, 6 INTs). Rypien is an active passer who has tossed the ball for more than 9,000 yards in his college career. The Broncos averaged 262.4 YPG in passing in 2017, which placed them third in the Mountain West and 37th nationally. Rypien covered close to 3,000 yards in the air just last year. He’s got a great contingent of receivers, as well as a solid offensive line. The rush attack is anchored by junior Alex Mattison (1,086 YDs, 5.1 YPA, 12 TDs). He’s also an able receiver.

Defense & Special Teams

Last season, the Bronco D held teams to 22.9 PPG (4th MW, 38th Nationally). They see just about everyone return except Leighton Vander Esch (141 TKLs, 4 SCKs, 4.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 3 INTs, 1 QBH). He was a top conference player. Still, there is plenty of talent and experience on this side of the ball. Senior corner Tyler Horton (44 TKLs, 11 PBU, 2 INTs), selected All-Mountain West, is a major force. Sophomore corner Avery Williams, who started in his freshman season, defended eight passes while making two picks in 2017. Sophomore Curtis Weaver, the STUD end, had a massive frosh season as he nailed 33 tackles, 11 sacks, and two tackles for a loss. The D-line returns all three starters.

Special teams are in fine shape. Williams is experienced and dangerous on run backs. He took two punts in for TDs last season. Senior punter Quinn Skillin (40.4 YPP, 18 w/in20) is solid. PK Haden Hoggarth (57-57 XP, 18-13 FG), also a senior, is reliable from up to 40 yards. After reading our complete 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview, take some time to access more information on this team by going to our top-25 preview of the Boise State Broncos.

2. Utah State Aggies

Offense

The Utah State Aggies are on the upswing due partly to their experienced and talented offense. The offensive line welcomes back five starters and should be a major force on the field. Sophomore QB Jordan Love (54.9 COMP%, 8 TDs, 6 INTs), who started the last six games of the season, looked solid in 2017. Senior WR Ron’quavion Tarver (48 REC, 11.9 YPC, 7 TDs) is a major threat. There is some fine talent in the receiving ranks, but the Aggies need some of that talent to step up and contribute more in 2018. The rush attack loses its top performer, LaJaun Hunt, who was also a capable receiver. This running back unit should be in good shape, as five of the top six rushers return and junior college transfer Darwin Thompson is added to the roster. The Aggies averaged 30.2 PPG (5th MW, 51st Nationally) in 2017. Our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview projects them as upping that average this season.

Defense & Special Teams

The Utah State defense was ranked fourth in the conference and 19th nationally against the pass. But the loss of star secondary players Dallin Leavitt and Jalen Davis, who together defended 20 passes and made nine picks, will affect the Aggie pass D. However, there is good news in the linebacking and defensive line areas. The LB group includes three of the team’s top four returning tacklers. ILB Suli Tamaivena (111 TKLs, 3 SCKs, 3.5 TFL) is a truly dominant force. In 2017, the three players starting on the D-line combine for 10.5 TFL and 107 tackles. Special teams include senior punter Aaron Dalton (42.0 YPP, 26 w/in20), an especially reliable talent, and junior PK Dominik Eberle (47-47 XP, 18-24 FG), an accurate kicker with a strong leg. His longest field goal last season sailed 52 yards. The return units are good.

3. Wyoming Cowboys

Offense

In developing our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview, we found that the Wyoming Cowboys have some major question marks going into this season. None is bigger than who will quarterback this team? Tyler Vander Waal, a freshman, may start at QB. If not him, then senior Nick Smith, who in 2017 tossed 70 passes and completed 40 of them for 471 yards, two TDs, and two picks, could get the call. The top seven pass catchers return, including Austin Conway who had 62 receptions and C.J. Johnson who caught seven TD passes. RBs Trey Woods and Kellen Overstreet, each of whom had close to 500 rushing yards, are also both back. The offensive line is experienced and talented, and if they stay healthy, will be a huge asset.

Defense & Special Teams

The defense had a nation’s best 38 turnovers and was ninth nationally and first in the conference in points allowed (17.5 PPG). The Cowboys were 8-5 last year partly due to their stellar defense, as they scored just 23.5 PPG (9th MW, 104th Nationally). Senior DE Carl Granderson (77 TKLs, 9.5 SCKs, 6.5 TFL) and junior DT Youhanna Ghaifan (69 TCLs, 7 SCKs, 8.5 TFL), both All-Mountain West in 2017, return to headline on one of the best D-fronts in the conference. SS Andrew Wingard (114 TKLs, 3 PBU, 5 INTs) and FS Marcus Epps (68 TKLs, 4 PBU, 4 INTs), both seniors, are terrific defenders. Wingard also notched seven TFL and Epps had four. Logan Wilson (119 TKLs, 1 SCK, 7 TFL), the team’s top tackler last year, anchors the linebacking unit.

Junior Tyler Hall performed well bringing back kicks on special teams. He had two TDs and averaged 33.9 YPR. Junior placekicker Cooper Rothe (36-37 XP, 15-18 FG) is accurate. His longest field goal sailed 49 yards. Punter Tim Zaleski (39.2 YPP, 33 w/in20) had a fine freshman year and comes back for his second season.

4. Air Force Falcons

Offense

After enjoying three-straight winning seasons, the Falcons struggled last year, posting a 5-7 mark. Their offense generated 31.4 PPG (3rd MW, 44th Nationally) with 307.4 rushing yards per game (1st MW, 4th Nationally). Their pass attack was ranked 12th in the conference and 126th in the nation. Senior QB Arion Worthman (49.9 COMP%, 10 TDs, 4 INTs) is a tough competitor. Although not the most accurate passer, he offers decent running chops. In 2017, he gained 831 yards, averaging 3.8 YPA and scoring 13 times. WR Ronald Cleveland (11 REC, 23.7 YPC, 2 TDs), a senior, returns as the team’s second-leading rusher. He had 44 carries for 418 yards and three touchdowns, as he averaged 9.8 YPA. The three top receivers from last season return. The Air Force front line is seasoned and better than one might expect. In creating our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview, we find this side of the ball to be very strong.

Defense & Special Teams

The Falcon defense was lacking last season. At least, when it came to stopping the run and curbing opponent scoring. Teams averaged 32.4 PPG (9th MW, 101st Nationally) against the Air Force and gained 222.8 ground yards per game (10th MW, 118th Nationally). The defense did hold opponents to 171.1 YPG in passing, which was first in the conference and 10th in the nation. Our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview, likes this team’s linebacking unit and D-line. Their secondary should also be pretty solid.

Senior OLB Kyle Floyd (60 TKLs, 7 PBU, 1 INT) returns as the team’s top tackler and pass defender. Sophomore OLB Lakota Willis (47 TKLs, 2 SCKs, 4 TFL) had a fine freshman season, and should be even more effective in 2018. Corner Jeremy Fejedelem (34 TKLs, 1 TFL, 4 PBU) and safety James Jones (52 TKLs, 1 PBU, 1 INT) offer solid skills and experience. Special teams include experienced punter Charlie Scott (42.1 YPP, 13 w/in20). Reliable placekicker Luke Strebel has to be replaced as does kick return specialist Tim McVey.

5. Colorado State Rams

Offense

The Colorado State Rams finished third last season and played Marshall in the New Mexico Bowl, losing 28-31. They scored a conference-best 33.4 PPG (31st Nationally). The Rams were ranked first in the conference and 20th nationally in passing yards. The guy who was responsible for so much of that offense, QB Nick Stevens, is gone. But the Rams may have a solution in that they landed Washington grad transfer QB K.J. Carta-Samuels. He’ll have a sound group of receivers to pass to, including Olabisi Johnson (41 TKLs, 14.5 YPC, 2 TDs). Top RB Dalyn Dawkins is gone, but there’s some solid experience and depth in that unit. The O-line sees three starters return as two All-MW players depart. That loss may be tough for the rush attack to deal with.

Defense & Special Teams

The Ram defense gave up 27.8 PPG (6th MW, 72nd Nationally) in 2017. They had an especially tough time against the pass, as the D allowed 244.5 YPG (10th MW, 97th Nationally). With just five starters returning, we expect this group to struggle. However, there is good news, as the team’s top tackler and defensive anchor, MLB Josh Watson (109 TKLs, 2 SCKs, 3 TFL), returns. Watson, a versatile and smart player, broke up seven passes and garnered two picks in 2017. The LB unit is the best group on this side of the ball. The frontline is less experienced and will be challenged while the D-backs are about the same.

Special teams include sophomore punter Ryan Stonehouse, who averaged an impressive 45.9 YPP and placed 24 within the 20 in his frosh season. Senior PK Wyatt Bryan (53-55 XP, 15-18 FG) was two-for-two last season at 50-plus yards. Johnson was solid on punt bring backs. He is back. Our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview notes that the Rams need to replace both kick return men. That won’t be easy.

6. New Mexico Lobos

Offense

Last season was certainly a disappointment for the New Mexico Lobos, as they went from two straight winning seasons to a mark of 3-9. The team averaged a mere 20.7 PPG (11th MW, 114th Nationally). Transfer Sheriron Jones, of Tennessee, may get to start at QB. The top two receivers from last year are back. Sophomore WR Jay Griffin led the team in catches with 29. He averaged 13.6 YPC and crossed the goal line four times. Senior running back Tyrone Owens (770 YDs, 5.5 YPA, 4 TDs) will have the benefit of an improved O-line.

Defense & Special Teams

The defense allowed opponents 31.8 PPG (7th MW, 93rd Nationally). Our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview sees the linebacking group as the best part of this defense. Senior MLB Alex Hart (51 TKLs, 4.5 TFL, 3 PBU) is the leader on D. He notched five QBHs last year. Senior corners D’Angelo Ross and Jalin Burrell broke up 11 and 10 passes respectively. They are the core of a secondary that does include three returning starters. The defensive is thin and inexperienced. The line and secondary are the weakest parts of this group and are probably the weakest of these units in the conference. Special teams include the elusive Elijah Lilly on kick returns. He averaged 23.6 YPR and ran one back for a score in 2017. Both punter Corey Bojorquez and placekicker Jason Sanders are gone. Bojorquez had a booming leg and nailed 32 within the 20, while Sanders was exceptionally reliable. They will be tough to replace.

2018 MW Mountain Division Preview

Bowl Projections

Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs Boise State
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Wyoming vs Toledo
New Mexico Bowl: Utah State vs Marshall

2018 MW Mountain Division College Football Betting Preview

Projected Best Bets

Aug 25: Hawai’i @ Colorado State – We like the Rainbow Warriors at +10 or better.
Sept 1: Boise State @ Troy – Broncos by about 25.
Sep 1: Incarnate Word @ New Mexico – Take the home team here. Lobos by 14 points.
Sep 13: Tennessee Tech @ Utah State – It’s the Aggies at -11.5 or fewer.
Oct 6: San Diego State @ Boise State – It’s the Broncos. They win by just over a TD.
Oct 20: Utah State @ Wyoming – Aggies take this away game by under a touchdown.
Oct 27: New Mexico @ Utah State – We like NM away. Take the Aggies at -6.5.
Nov 3: BYU @ Boise State – Bet the Broncos by -6.5 or less.
Nov 10: New Mexico @ Air Force – Falcons are flying high. AF wins by about 10.
Nov 17: Air Force @ Wyoming – Like the Cowboys at approximately -3.0.

Use our 2018 MW Mountain Division college football betting preview to its fullest and to get the edge when wagering. Also, be sure to see our 2018 MW West Division preview. To access other conferences and teams go to our hub page.

pmroczka

Paul has been writing about sports betting and sports for more than a decade, offering picks on the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA, as well as on college sports and European football. He's written thousands of season and post-season previews, innumerable articles on sports betting strategies, and various books on sports and sports betting.

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