In our first three previews, the races have projected to be competitive with up to four teams figuring to contend for the divisional titles. In today’s Mountain West Conference preview, there is no such competitiveness. Boise State and San Diego State are prohibitive favorites in the divisional races, so much so that the Broncos received 27 of 29 first place votes in the preseason media poll, while the Aztecs selection as number one in the West was unanimous.
The PiRate Ratings concur–Boise State and San Diego State begin the 2016 season as clear-cut favorites. In the Mountain Division, Air Force is within striking distance, less than a touchdown weaker than BSU to start the season. In the West, SDSU begins the season more than a ten points ahead of the pack.
Our Buccaneers have spotted their first surprise team in this year’s previews. UNLV, picked by the media to finish fifth in the West Division, should better that by a lot this year. The Rebels start the season with the fourth best PiRate Rating in the West, but they benefit by hosting Fresno State, Colorado State, Wyoming, and Nevada, while playing at Hawaii, and this gives second year head coach Tony Sanchez a chance to give UNLV a chance to return to a bowl for the first time in three years. Sanchez lost five games in six years as head coach of Bishop Gorman High School in suburban Las Vegas. In his first season at Sam Boyd Stadium, the Rebels finished 3-9, but it was an almost two touchdown improvement in scoring margin. A defense which figures to improve yet again should allow the Rebels to shed another 7-10 points off their points allowed, and Sanchez will mold a credible offense and guide UNLV to bowl eligibility.
The other surprise team should not be a surprise team at all. New Mexico was selected fifth in the Mountain Division after Coach Bob Davie guided the Lobos to a 7-5 regular season record, the first winning season in Albuquerque since 2007. The Lobos return almost every defensive player that contributed last year, and they also return a competent quarterback in Lamar Jordan. The PiRate believe that UNM will not only return to a bowl game again this season, they will even improve on their won-loss record of last year.
Both San Diego State and Boise State figure to contend for the automatic bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl Game awarded to the top team not from a Power 5 league. The winner of the MWC Championship Game might need to be undefeated this year to take that bid, because there are a couple of teams in the American Athletic Conference capable of going 12-1 this year. Check the PiRate Ratings Friday for a preview of that league.
Here is how the MWC Media Predicted The Race
|Mountain West Conference|
|1||San Diego St.||29||174|
|3||San Jose St.||0||122|
The Media did not select an overall champion.
Here are the PiRate Ratings to begin the season.
|Mountain West Conference|
|San Diego St.||104.9||102.2||108.2||105.1|
|San Jose St.||91.0||91.0||91.9||91.3|
The PiRate Ratings are best used just to look forward to the next week game schedule. These ratings cannot really be used to predict won-loss records, so with that caveat, here are the projected won-loss records based on the ratings alone.
|Mountain West Conference Projected Standings|
|Boise St.||8-0||12-1 *||Las Vegas|
|New Mexico||5-3||8-4||New Mexico|
|San Diego St.||8-0||11-2||Poinsettia|
|San Jose St.||4-4||5-7|
|* Boise St. Projected to Win MWC Championship Game|
Coming Tomorrow–The PiRates will release a double feature–The Independents and the American Athletic Conference. Beginning Saturday, we will commence with the Power 5 conference previews.