NCAA Previews

MW West Football Preview

San Diego Will Rush to Victory

MW West football previewThe MW West football preview for 2019 sees the Aztecs as being the betting favorite. Also, our MW West football preview projects that Fresno State and Hawai’i will be competitive. Those three teams, the San Diego State Aztecs, Fresno State Bulldogs, and Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors, should make it into the college football bowl season. We anticipate that three teams will not earn a bowl berth. Those clubs are the Nevada Wolf Pack, UNLV Rebels, and San Jose State Spartans. Of those three teams, one, the Nevada Wolf Pack, did go to a bowl game last year. The Wolf Pack played in the Arizona Bowl where they outlasted Arkansas State in OT 16-13.

Our 2019 MW West Football Preview

Fresno State MW West football previewThis MW West football preview projects that the San Diego State Aztecs will top this division. This team’s rush attack is first-class, and their LBs and deep backs are solid. After that, we like the Fresno State Bulldogs and their defensive line and defensive backs. The Dogs finish second. We see the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors as moving up in the ranks. The Warriors bring a fine pass attack to the field and an improved defense.

The Nevada Wolf Pack have quarterback questions, and on defense, their secondary is weak. They will give up points, as they come in fourth. The UNLV Rebels offer a good offense, but their defense is very weak. The Rebels finish fifth as the San Jose State Spartans, who will struggle on both sides of the ball, end up in last place in the MW West.

1. MW West Football – San Diego State Aztecs (7-6)


MW West football preview Aztecs logoSan Diego State averaged just 20.6 PPG (119th) last season. The Aztecs were ranked 74th in rushing, 100th in passing, and 111th in total yards. With a new spread offense, we expect senior QB Ryan Agnew to be more productive and put up better numbers than his 51.5% completion rate, 10 TDs, and six INTs. Four of six top receivers return. However, Tim Wilson, who averaged 19.1 YPC last season, may miss the season due to injury. The rushing game looks to be one of the better ones in the conference. Senior Juwan Washington, who scored 10 TDs and gained 999 yards last season, could have a huge year. The O-line is in fine shape and includes three starters and Oregon transfer Jacob Capra.

Defense and Special Teams

In 2019, SDS held opponents to 22.2 PPG (32nd). They were seventh versus the rush (103.8 YPG) and 66th against the pass (230.8 YPG). The D was ranked 21st in total yards. This D looks tough as five-of-seven top tacklers return. The line won’t be as sound as it was last season, as they break in three new starters. But they’ll still be good. The LBs include MLB Kyahva Tezino, who led the team in tackles (127). Tezino notched 8.5 sacks, six TFL, and 17 QBHs. The secondary is experienced and deep. Included are starters Trenton Thompson, Tariq Thompson, and Darren Hall who had 57, 60, and 45 tackles. They defended a total of 13 passes and grabbed five INTs. The return games look solid, as does punter Brandon Heicklen 941.8 YPP0. Red-shirted freshman Matt Araiza replaces PK John Baron who was five-of-five last season from 50-plus yards.

2. MW West Preview – Fresno State Bulldogs (12-2)


Bulldogs logo- MW West football previewOur MW West football preview envisions the Bulldogs being not quite as productive as they were last season when they averaged 34.6 PPG (26th) and 267.1 YPG in passing (29th). There’s talent at QB, but it’s doubtful anyone can replace Marcus McMaryion who completed 68.6% of his passes for 3,629 yards and 25 TDs while he ran for eight more scores. The O-line is solid, which will help the passing and rushing games. The top two running backs return with junior Ronnie Rivers covering 743 yards, averaging 5.6 YPA, and scoring 10 TDs. Four-of-six of Fresno State’s most productive receivers return, but not KeeSean Johnson who had 95 catches for 1,340 yards and eight TDs. Senior Jared RIze, who grabbed 55 passes in 2018, looks to have a breakout season. Two junior college tight ends join the team and will be utilized.

Defense and Special Teams

Fresno State put the third-ranked defense on the field as they allowed just 14.1 PPG. This D was 23rd in passing yards and 30th versus the rush. They allowed 321.6 YPG (17th). Six-of-seven top performers on the line return, making this unit very experienced and tough. The LBs lose some of their edge, but this is still a quality group. MLB Mykal Walker, a senior, tops all returning players in tackles (87), sacks (4.5), and TFL (9.5). The backs are sound and include senior SS Juju Hughes who made 84 tackles, four INTs, and eight PBU. Senior corner Jaron Bryant returns having broken up a dozen passes and made one INT. Sophomore PK Asa Fuller was 57-61 on extra points and 14-22 on FG. Punter Blake Cusick averaged 42.2 YPP and placed 31-of-65 within the 20. Most of the punt and kick returners leave, but both units are strong.

See our comprehensive preview of NCAAF #18 Fresno State in our College Football Top 25 Guide for 2019.

3. MW West – Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (8-6)


Last season, the Rainbow Warriors, who averaged 30.8 PPG (49th) and passed for 310.3 YPG (9th) did much better than most expected. Now, our 2019 MW West football preview does expect them to put up winning numbers. Junior QB Cole McDonald threw for 3,875 yards and completed 58.9% of his passes. He tossed 36 TDs and 10 INTs. Three of the most productive wideouts are gone, but WRs Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward, who had 79 and 51 catches respectively, are back. Each had nine TD catches. The O-line is overall solid, while the rush attack, with three top running backs returning, should be effective. Senior RB Dayton Furuta will start. In 2018, he averaged 4.9 YPA.

Defense and Special Teams

Hawai’i’s defense could not stop the run. They allowed 204.6 YPA (103rd), while giving up 235.1 passing YPG (76th). The Rainbow Warriors were 100th in overall yardage and 109th in points allowed (35.1 per game). The D-line is deeper and experienced and should do better. Senior DE Kaimana Padello returns having recorded 8.5 sacks, five TFL, and five QBHs. The LBs include WLB Solomon Matautia. He led Hawai’i with 92 tackles, while MLB Penei Pavihi recorded 87 tackles, five TFL, and two PBU. We anticipate that the backs will be more effective this season. Three starters return, while junior college transfer Cortez Davis joins the team. Corner Rojesterman Farris returns. He notched 11 PBU and one INTs, while SS Ikem Okeke returns with 83 tackles, three TFL, and three PBU. On special teams, Justice Augafa is solid on returns. PK Ryan Meskell and punter Stan Gaudion performed well.

4. MW West Football – Nevada Wolf Pack (8-5)


In 2018, Nevada averaged 31.1 PPG (45th) and passed for 278.7 YPG (24th). Their 152.0 YPG on the ground tied them for 92nd. They were ranked 38th in total yards with 430.8 YPG. QB Ty Ganji, who tossed 24 TDs and 13 INTs and threw for 3,331 yards while competing 60.5% of his passes, is gone. Former Florida State QB Malik Henry will likely win the job. All but the top pass catcher returns. WR Elijah Cooks grabbed six TD passes, while WR Kaleb Fossum led the team with 70 receptions. This is a strong unit. Even stronger is the ground group, which returns the top three rushers. Sophomore Toa Taua is back as the lead rusher, having gained 872 yards and scored six times while averaging 4.9 YPA. The O-line looks good, but they are not quite as sturdy as they were last season.

Defense and Special Teams

The Wolf Pack’s 63rd-ranked defense allowed 26.9 PPG. They gave up 142.0 YPG on the ground (39th) and 245.5 YPG in the air (89th). Total yardage came to 387.5 YPG (58th). Nevada’s frontline and LBs are solid, while the defensive backs have less experience and depth than last season’s group. In 2018, sophomore DE Dominic Peterson recorded 44 tackles, three sacks, and 7.5 TFL. He anchors the D-line. Senior MLB Gabe Sewell returns as the top tackler (92). He recorded three sacks, 4.5 TFL, and two PBU. SLB Lucas Weber, who made 56 stops, 5.5 sacks and five TFL. Senior corner Daniel Brown notched 53 tackles, 11 PBU, and one INT. Special teams must replace placekicker Ramiz Ahmed. Punter Quinton Conaway is back having averaged 43.6 YPP, while punt returner Romeo Dubs, who averaged 17.8 YPR, and kick return specialist Daiyan Henley, who was good for 22.2 YPR, return.

5. MW West Preview – UNLV Rebels (4-8)


UNLV MW West football preview 2019The Rebels were a rushing team last season, placing 19th with 224.3 YPG. But they were 113th in passing (166.8 YPG). UNLV was 77th in total yards and 66th in points per game (28.8). The UNLV O-line is experienced and sound. The Rebels have two possible starters at QB. We expect junior Armani Rogers, who completed 44.4% of his tosses and threw 10 TD passes and four INTs, to win the job. However, junior Max Gilliam, who completed 55.4% of his passes and threw 14 TD passes and eight picks, is ready to go. Rogers is a dual threat, Last season, he averaged 6.1 YPA and rushed for eight TDs. Charles Williams will replace 1,000-yard rusher Lexington Thomas. Williams averaged 5.1 YPA last season. Six of the seven top receivers return. Wideout Tyleek Collins returns having caught 31 passes, averaged 13.6 YPC, and scored six times.

Defense and Special Teams

Our MW West football preview notes that the Rebels’ defense allowed 37.3 PPG (119th). They gave up 267.6 passing YPG (118th) and 186.6 rushing YPG (88th). They were 115th in total yards. The defense in 2019 will still have issues, as the two top tacklers from 2018 are gone and just five starters return. The line should improve its numbers, but it’s still the weakest D-line in the Mountain West. The LBs are deeper than last season’s. Senior SLB Javin White is UNLV’s top returning tackler (74). In 2018, he notched 4.5 TFL, four PBU, and four INTs. Senior BUCK Gabe McCoy recorded 4.5 sacks and nine TFL while scoring 46 tackles. Two starters are gone from the secondary, but four junior transfers should help fill them out. The return units are weak, while PK Evan Pantels must be replaced. Punter Hayes Hicken returns having averaged 43.8 YPP.

6. MW West – San Jose State Spartans (1-11)


This MW West football preview notes that San Jose State had trouble on both sides of the ball. They were ranked 116th on offense in points with 21.3 PPG. A positive was they posted the 32nd-ranked pass attack, but then they owned the 129th-ranked ground game. Senior Josh Love, who connected on 56.1% of his passes, was good for 14 TDs and 1,963 passing yards. He tossed nine INTs. The receiving group has been weakened, losing three of its top five performers. WR Tre Walker returns having made 39 receptions, while averaging 18.3 YPC and scoring five times. There’s good news for the rushing game, as the line brings back all but one starter. This group should show improved performance. Returning junior RB Tyler Nevens averaged 4.1 YPA and gained 554 yards, scoring four times.

Defense and Special Teams

The SJSU defense allowed 36.6 PPG (115th). They were 107th in defending the rush and 126th versus the pass. Those numbers may improve but not substantially. The 2019 line should be on par with last season’s. Sophomore DE Cade Hall is the only returning starter. This is one of the weakest D-lines in the MW. The LB group returns five players with starting experience. This group is improved and includes MLB Ethan Aguayo who led the team with 106 tackles. He also posted four TFL, five PBU, and two QBHs. The secondary loses its starting corners, while both starting safeties, Jonathan Lenard and Tre Webb, return. Lenard recorded 91 tackles, 5.5 TFL, and four PBU. Webb posted 72 tackles and six PBU. Just about all of the major players on special teams are gone, including punter and placekicker Bryce Crawford. Yale graduate transfer Alex Gallard comes in to punt.

2019 MW West Football Preview

Bowl Projections

New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 21 – Marshall Thundering Herd and San Diego State Aztecs
Hawai’i Bowl, Dec. 24 – BYU Cougars and Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors
Arizona Bowl, Dec. 31 – Fresno State Bulldogs and Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

2019 MW West Football Preview

Projected Best Bets

Aug. 29 – Northern Colorado @ San Jose State – Take the Spartans by approximately -7.
Aug. 31 – Southern Utah @ UNLV – Take the Rebels carefully.
Sep. 14 – Weber State @ Nevada – Wager on the Wolf Pack.
Sep. 21 – Central Arkansas @ Hawai’i – We like the Rainbow Warrior by about -18,
Oct. 5 – San Diego State @ Colorado State – Aztecs win by about 20.
Oct. 26 – Colorado State @ Fresno State – Bulldogs at -15.
Nov. 9 – San Jose State @ Hawai’i – We like the Warriors.
Nov. 16 – Hawai’i @ UNLV – Bet the Rainbow Warriors at around -7.
Nov. 23 – Nevada @ Fresno State – It’s the Bulldogs by 14.
Nov 30 – BYU @ San Diego State – We like the Aztecs in this game.

Utilize this 2019 MW West preview to give yourself an added edge this NCAA football season. For more information on the MW, go to our MW Mountain preview. You can access other conferences through our hub page.


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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