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2014 College Football Preview: Mountain West
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 7/30/2014  at  12:01:00 PM
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To get you prepared for the upcoming college football season, we continue our run of all FBS conference previews over the next several weeks. For complete coverage, download your copy of the 2014 StatFox Edge Football Preview. Next up is the Mountain West, which retained all 12 of its members from last season. Boise State is the favorite to win the conference.

Here is the BetDSI Sportsbook breakdown of odds for the first week of the college football season:

Odds to Win Mountain West

(For the latest Odds, connect to Sportsbook.com)
29-to-20: Boise State
3-to-1: Utah State
13-to-4: Fresno State
15-to-2: Nevada
15-to-1: San Diego State
20-to-1: Colorado State
35-to-1: Wyoming
35-to-1: San Jose State
35-to-1: Hawaii
35-to-1: UNLV
35-to-1: Air Force
80-to-1: New Mexico

BOISE STATE BRONCOS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-5 (6-2 in MWC)
ATS Record: 6-7 (46%)
Over/Under: 7-6
Points Scored: 37.5 PPG (19th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 24.8 PPG (T-50th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 300/1

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 6
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
New Head Coach: Bryan Harsin
Chris Petersen left for Washington, leaving the nation’s top mid-major program in ex-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin’s hands. QB Grant Hedrick (7.5 YPA, 16 TD, 5 INT), but it’s likely going to be RB Jay Ajayi (1,425 rush yds, 18 TD) doing the heavy lifting as long as the rebuilt offensive line gets the job right. Boise also has major weapons in WR Matt Miller (88 rec, 1,140 yds, 12 TD) and diminutive playmaking WR Shane Williams-Rhodes (77 rec, 702 yds, 6 TD). The Boise defense is coming off one of its worst seasons in years, allowing more than 400 yards per game (413.4) for the first time since 1997. Though with improvement from sophomore LBs Ben Weaver (89 tackles) and Tanner Vallejo (51 tackles, 5.5 TFL), and a maturing secondary led by CB Donte Deayon (6 INT, 54 tackles), this fall should go better.

UTAH STATE AGGIES


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 9-5 (7-2 in MWC)
ATS Record: 9-5 (64%)
Over/Under: 6-8
Points Scored: 31.8 PPG (50th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 17.1 PPG (7th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 500/1

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 3
Defense: Starters Returning: 4
Despite the strong play of true freshman QB Darell Garretson (7.0 YPA, 1,446 yds, 10 TD, 7 INT), the offense will likely be given back to QB Chuckie Keeton (69.4% comp., 7.1 YPA, 1,388 yds, 18 TD, 2 INT). Keeton was considered a darkhorse Heisman contender before a knee injury cut his season short. If healthy, the dual-threat senior will be one of the nation’s best quarterbacks again. He’ll be working behind an offensive line that lost four starters, though LT Kevin Whimpey is a good one. RB Joe Hill (252 rush yds in 5 games) is also working back from a knee injury, though the Aggies have quality depth with RBs Kennedy Williams (3.2 YPC) and Rashad Hall. WRs Bruce Natson (59 rec) and Brandon Swindall (6 rec TD) give them strong catch-and-run threats. The Aggies fielded one of the nation’s best defenses last year, and while there will be a lot of turnover, they still bring back all-MWC LBs Zach Vigil (125 tackles, 3 FF) and Kyler Fackrell (82 tackles, 5 sacks) to lead the way. S Brian Suite (5 INT, 77 tackles) will have to lead an inexperienced secondary that could be Utah State’s Achilles’ heel.

FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 11-2 (8-1 in MWC)
ATS Record: 5-8 (39%)
Over/Under: 6-7
Points Scored: 43.4 PPG (6th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 30.3 PPG (87th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 5
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
The Bulldogs scored more than 40 PPG over the past two years, but have little chance at duplicating that success now that QB Derek Carr and top WRs Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse have moved on. Coach Tim DeRuyter plans on waiting until the end of fall to name Carr’s successor, with dual threat Duke transfer QB Brandon Connette (1,212 pass yds, 13 TD, 6 INT; 14 rush TD) and QB Brian Burrell (7-for-12, 51 yds) the leading candidates. Josh Harper (79 rec, 1,011 yds, 13 TD), one of three 1,000-yard receivers last year, returns as the top weapon, while RBs Josh Quezada (807 rush yds, 6 TD) and Marteze Waller (646 rush yds, 7 TD) will be relied upon more to run behind a finesse O-Line. Despite the occasional hiccup, Fresno’s defense is the most talented in the MWC, led by S Derron Smith (87 tackles, 7 INT, 4 sacks), LB Ejiro Ederaine (10 sacks) and NT Tyeler Davison (7.5 TFL).

NEVADA WOLF PACK


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 4-8 (3-5 in MWC)
ATS Record: 6-6 (50%)
Over/Under: 4-8
Points Scored: 26.9 PPG (75th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 34.4 PPG (103rd in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 10
Nevada’s pistol offense took a step back in the first year under Brian Polian, due in large part to struggles on the O-Line. They return four starters up front, but lost their best lineman, Joel Bitonio. Still, there should be some progress, and the Wolf Pack’s skill players are very good. QB Cody Fajardo (2,668 pass yds, 13 TD, 3 INT; 626 rush yds, 8 TD) played through nagging injuries for most of last season, but was of the nation’s top dual threats when healthy. WRs Richy Turner (61 rec, 755 yds, 4 TD) and 6-foot-5 Hasaan Henderson (326 rec yds) give him two excellent targets. DE Brock Hekking (9 sacks, 14.5 TFL) leads a solid pass rush, but the Wolf Pack struggled badly against the run last year (258.5 YPG allowed, second-worst in FBS). Shaky play in the secondary will ensure that Nevada will be in shootouts often.

SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-5 (6-2 in MWC)
ATS Record: 7-6 (54%)
Over/Under: 7-6
Points Scored: 29.8 PPG (59th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 31.7 PPG (93rd in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 6
Defense: Starters Returning: 5
QB Quinn Kaehler (60% comp., 7.7 YPA, 3,007 yds, 19 TD, 9 INT) is expected to be fully recovered from elbow surgery by the fall. Kaehler replaced Adam Dingwell early last season and went 8-3 as a starter, including wins in five of the Aztecs’ final six games. He and WR Ezell Ruffin (1,136 rec yds) should carry the offense after the departure of top RB Adam Muema. With Muema gone, 5-foot-9 Donnel Pumphrey (752 rush yds, 8 TD) will take a bigger workload. But at 170 pounds, SDSU will have to find someone to share carries with him. On defense, LB Jake Fely (90 tackles, 7 sacks in 2012) will lead the unit now that he’s fully recovered from a foot injury. Along with LBs Josh Gavert (68 tackles) and Derek Largent (32 tackles), this should be one of the best linebacking corps in the conference. The rest of the defense is full of question marks. The Aztecs use three safeties in their base and must replace Nat Berhe and Eric Pinkins at those spots. They do have experienced CBs J.J. Whittaker (3 INT, 11 PD) and Damontae Kazee (4 FF), who could be tested often considering how weak the pass rush is setting up to be.

COLORADO STATE RAMS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-6 (5-3 in MWC)
ATS Record: 10-4 (71%)
Over/Under: 9-3-1
Points Scored: 36.2 PPG (22nd in FBS)
Points Allowed: 29.8 PPG (82nd in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 6
Defense: Starters Returning: 7
The Rams lost star RB Kapri Bibbs and his 1,800 total yards and 31 rushing TD to the NFL, but they bring back one of the nation’s most explosive passing offenses. QB Garrett Grayson (3,696 pass yds, 23 TD, 11 INT) and WR Rashard Higgins (68 rec, 837 rec yds, 6 TD) should be even more productive this season as CSU goes more pass-heavy. C Weston Richburg, the leader of the offensive line, will be tougher to replace than Bibbs as the Rams try to rebuild their front five. Converted safety Jasen Oden and redshirt freshman RB Bryce Peters will battle to take Bibbs’ spot. ILBs Max Morgan (134 tackles, 6 PD) and Aaron Davis (120 tackles, 3 FF) lead a solid defense that returns most of its starters. The secondary must improve after allowing 33 touchdown passes last year, which was the second-highest total in FBS.

WYOMING COWBOYS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 5-7 (3-5 in MWC)
ATS Record: 5-7 (42%)
Over/Under: 6-6
Points Scored: 31.3 PPG (51st in FBS)
Points Allowed: 36.7 PPG (T-110th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
New Head Coach: Craig Bohl
The Cowboys’ offense will undergo wholesale changes under new head man Craig Bohl. Gone is star QB Brett Smith, and with him the spread offense Wyoming utilized under Dave Christensen. Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen have installed a pro-style offense, with senior QB Colby Kirkegaard (21-of-36, 160 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT career) likely to win the competition. The focus of the offense will be the power running game though, and Wyoming has an experienced O-Line and a solid tailback duo in RBs Shaun Wick (979 rush yds, 9 TD) and D.J. May (374 rush yds in 2012), who returns after missing his sophomore year (chest). WR Dominic Rufran (960 rec yds, 8 TD) leads a solid receiving corps. After allowing 36.7 PPG last year, the defense will undergo changes with former North Dakota State assistant Steve Stanard’s 4-3 scheme. He has some building blocks in DE Eddie Yarbrough (89 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and rangy LBs Jordan Stanton (133 tackles, 10 TFL) and Mark Nzeocha (101 tackles, 10 TFL). CB Blair Burns (7 PD) leads a secondary that figures to be one of the weakest in the conference.

SAN JOSE STATE SPARTANS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 6-6 (5-3 in MWC)
ATS Record: 6-6 (50%)
Over/Under: 6-5-1
Points Scored: 32.4 PPG (44th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 35.1 PPG (104th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 5
Defense: Starters Returning: 9
The Spartans offense is set to take a step back with the departure of QB David Fales, who had back-to-back, 4,000-yard seasons. QBs Blake Jurich (3-for-6, 22 yds, 1 INT) and Joe Gray will battle for the starting job this fall. Top receiver Chandler Jones and his 15 TD is also gone, but WR Tyler Winston (858 rec yds, 5 TD) picked up valuable experience as a true freshman, and should be one of the conference’s top receivers this season. The running game will take on bigger importance this season, though the Spartans must replace three starters on the offensive line. RB Jarrod Lawson (788 rush yds, 4 TD) leads their tailback-by-committee after a strong year as a redshirt freshman. After a disastrous season in which SJSU allowed 35.1 PPG (after allowing 21.3 PPG in 2012), longtime NFL and college assistant Greg Robinson takes over the defense to transition the unit to a 4-3 scheme. He has an anchor for the D-Line in DT Travis Raciti (37 tackles), and star LB Vince Buhagiar (89 tackles, 3 sacks in 2012) returns after missing last season with a shoulder injury. The secondary has experience, but will miss top corner Bene Benwikere.

HAWAII WARRIORS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 1-11 (0-8 in MWC)
ATS Record: 7-5 (58%)
Over/Under: 8-4
Points Scored: 27.4 PPG (72nd in FBS)
Points Allowed: 38.8 PPG (115th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 7
Defense: Starters Returning: 6
The Warriors have one MWC win in two seasons under Norm Chow. Sophomore QB Ikaika Woolsey (11-of-29, 143 yds, 0 TD, 3 INT) emerged this spring as the favorite to start. An erratic passer, his mobility gives Chow’s offense an added dimension. He’ll get help from the running game, especially if RB Joey Iosefa (523 total yds, 5 TD in 4 games) is fully recovered after missing the first half of last year with a foot injury. The ability to control the clock will be key. Their defense ranked ninth-to-last in FBS in yards allowed (494.7). Hawaii hired Utah State linebackers coach Kevin Clune as defensive coordinator, and he has made the switch to a 3-4 to take advantage of linebacker depth. They have LBs Jerrol Garcia-Williams (67 tackles), a healthy Julian Gener and UCLA transfer Jeremy Castro to lead that unit.

UNLV REBELS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 7-6 (5-3 in MWC)
ATS Record: 8-5 (62%)
Over/Under: 6-6-1
Points Scored: 29.9 PPG (58th in FBS)
Points Allowed: 31.8 PPG (95th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 9
Defense: Starters Returning: 6
After finding star QB Caleb Herring in their wide receiver corps last year, the Rebels are once again in search of a signal caller. It will likely be either QB Nick Sherry (4.5 YPA, 3 TD, 5 INT), who was unseated by Herring early last year, or JUCO transfer Blake Decker. The winner of that battle will be throwing to WR Devante Davis (1,290 rec yds, 14 TD), one of the MWC’s top receivers. They’ll also need to fill the opening left by 1,284-yard rusher Tim Cornett’s departure. Five-foot-8 RB Shaquille Murray-Lawrence (418 rush yds, 8.9 YPC) is likely to lead a committee at tailback. Despite the uncertainty there, UNLV should be able to run the ball behind an experienced offensive line that should be one of the conference’s best. The defense remains a work in progress. They allowed 215.5 rushing yards per game last year and lost both starting tackles but the Rebels’ linebacking corps is on the rise, as LB Tau Lotulelei (23 tackles) has all-MWC potential. Along with S Peni Vea (108 tackles, 2 INT) stopping the run, this unit should improve.

AIR FORCE FALCONS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 2-10 (0-8 in MWC)
ATS Record: 3-9 (25%)
Over/Under: 8-4
Points Scored: 24.7 PPG (92nd in FBS)
Points Allowed: 40.0 PPG (118th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 6
Defense: Starters Returning: 7
The Falcons moved away from the triple option a bit when QB Nate Romine (54.3% comp., 603 pass yds, 7.4 YPA, 5 TD, 1 INT) stepped in under center. He’ll battle the more athletic QB Kale Pearson (5-for-8, 46 pass yds), recovering from knee surgery, for the starting job. RB Jon Lee (429 rush yds, 6.5 YPC) is the most talented back on the roster, but nagging injuries threaten to derail another season for him. RB Broam Hart (469 rush yds, 6 TD) could end up taking on a bigger role running behind a very good Air Force line. Defensively there are going to be issues again. The Falcons surrendered 40.0 PPG and 490.3 YPG of offense, including 250.6 rushing YPG, last year, as their undersized front was pushed around. If top LB Joey Nichol (79 tackles, 7.5 TFL) stays healthy, there’s a chance for slight improvement.

NEW MEXICO LOBOS


2013 Statistics:
SU Record: 3-9 (1-7 in MWC)
ATS Record: 6-6 (50%)
Over/Under: 9-3
Points Scored: 32.8 PPG (42nd in FBS)
Points Allowed: 42.8 PPG (120th in FBS)
Odds to Win 2015 BCS National Championship: 100/1 (Field)

2014 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 6
Option QB Cole Gautsche (44.9% comp., 8.2 YPA, 639 pass yds; 777 rush yds, 8 TD) will run the Lobos’ pistol offense full-time this year. He’ll presumably make some strides as a passer, but his value is due to his size (6-foot-4, 223 lbs.) and running ability. Three O-Line starters return from the MWC’s top rushing attack. Tailback is a question mark now that Kasey Carrier graduated and RB Crusoe Gongbay (592 rush yds, 6 TD) was suspended indefinitely this spring pending investigation into a sexual assault allegation. Speedy RBs Jhurell Pressley (9.4 YPC, 6 TD) and Teriyon Gipson (5.8 YPC, 5 TD) would take on extended roles if Gongbay is out. WR Marquis Bundy (261 rec yds) has a chance to upgrade the passing game with a breakout year. The defense gave up a league-worst 42.8 PPG last year, but could improve from within. LB Dakota Cox (99 tackles) was the team’s leading tackler as a true freshman, and DE Brett Bowers (6 sacks) gives them a pass-rushing presence. The secondary never got it together last year, allowing 30 TD passes with just 4 INT and an FBS-worst 172.8 opponent passer rating.

All 2014 College Football Previews:

American Athletic Conference
Conference USA
MAC
Mountain West
Sun Belt - August 1
ACC - August 6
Big 12 - August 8
Big Ten - August 13
Pac-12 - August 15
SEC - August 20
Independents - August 22
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