The Mountain West Conference has traditionally been one of the strongest sections of the NCAA. This division has produced a number of champions in various sports, and it’s generally been strong in its football.
As the teams involved in the Mountain West prepare for another campaign, it’s a good opportunity to look back to last season and see if there are any pointers for 2023.
A Big Draw
Around 20 million viewers tune in to watch college football each year. It’s an important sport in its own right and many of those fans enjoy it as much as the NFL. College athletes play at an exceptionally high level, with the ultimate goal of landing a contract in the professional game.
College sport has a great infrastructure to support it. The live TV broadcasters consider it to be a significant part of their overall package, while the sportsbooks offer almost as much coverage to college games as they do for the NFL.
While the NFL odds are published as soon as the schedules are announced, college football markets are also announced some weeks in advance. In short, the college game is big business, but who came out on top in 2022?
The Mountain West Championship game was contested between the Boise State Broncos and the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Albertsons Stadium in Boise was the setting for this December 3 contest which saw the winners progress through the NCAA playoff system.
After a decade of dominance in the Conference, Boise went into the game as clear favorites. The benefit of home advantage was also in their favor, but the team were in for a shock.
Following a first quarter without a score on either side, Fresno got into the game, landing 14 points in the second period. Boise clawed their way back and, as the final quarter began, the tie was nicely poised with Fresno leading 14-9.
Tired Boise legs contributed to a dominant performance by the Bulldogs in the final period, and they lifted the Conference Championship trophy with a 28-16 scoreline.
Both teams had performed well in the regular season, with Boise posting a 9-3 record as opposed to Fresno’s 8-4. As 2023 approaches, the Broncos will be looking for revenge, but each of these sides will remain strong moving forward.
The Strongest Challengers
Behind the teams that qualified for the Championship game, five colleges finished their regular seasons with 5-3 records. Boise and Fresno were, therefore, some way ahead in the MW Mountain and the MW West divisions respectively.
Both of the teams who contested the 2021 Championship game returned those 5-3 records. Much was expected of champions Utah State and the runners up San Diego State, but neither team impressed during the regular campaign.
In each case, it was a surprise that neither Utah nor San Diego could return better records in the regular season contests. The other teams to return those 5-3 records were Air Force, Wyoming and San Jose. Each college has the capacity to improve in 2023 and burst beyond the chasing pack.
Underdogs who can Bite Back
One team in each division finished the season without a win. In the Mountain Division and the West Division, respectively, New Mexico and Nevada returned 0-8 records, and will be looking for significant improvements in 2023.
Neither team is expected to make a genuine challenge next season, but they will both be targeting an improvement and to get a win on the board at the very least.
If any underperforming side can climb the standings in 2023, it might just be UNLV. They have steadily improved over recent seasons, and their 3-5 record last term may not have done them justice.
There’s always room for a shock result but, in reality, the teams who performed well last year are likely to be strong once again.
While many key players will have graduated from the class of 2022, we probably shouldn’t look too far beyond last season’s successful teams. Boise State Broncos have been strong at this level for some time, and they are tipped to bounce back and make another challenge this term.
Fresno State Bulldogs will be aware that it’s always tough to claim back-to-back wins, but we should expect them to finish high in the standings once again.
The biggest threat to the top two might just come from the 2021 finalists. Both Utah State and San Diego State were underwhelming last season, and they will be determined to silence a few doubters. With fresher squads and new talents, they could be the teams to watch.
Irrespective of who comes out on top, we should be in for another thrilling season in the Mountain West Conference, but it will be tough to match the highlights from 2022.