College football betting preview: Mountain West

July 28, 2022 08:01 PM
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The VSiN college football experts have been hard at work this summer, writing up team previews and predictions for all 131 FBS teams, including their favorite individual season win total and College Football Playoff bets.

Here are the team previews for the Mountain West:

BOISE STATE

Andy Avalos’ first season as head coach at his alma mater was a disappointment. Boise State went 7-5 and lost three games on the Smurf Turf, one of which was as a 14-point favorite against Wyoming. The Broncos have plenty of returning talent, but the play of QB Hank Bachmeier will decide how far this team goes.

Offense

Eight starters return for Boise State on offense, but those starters will have to show real development after an underwhelming 2021 campaign. The Broncos put up 29.2 PPG last season, but their running game was stagnant with an average of 3.1 YPC and the offense overall averaged just 5.3 YPP. All three of those statistical marks are the lowest for the Boise State program in seven seasons. Bachmeier is back under center as well, and while his numbers from last season look good -- 3,079 yards, 20 touchdowns – his play left a lot to be desired. He had multiple TD passes just twice in the final seven games of the regular season and his tendency to hold onto the football caused him to take a career-high 24 sacks. He also loses his top target from last season, Khalil Shakir, and three of the top four receivers from last season’s team overall. Bachmeier will need to progress as a passer if Boise State is to rebound from a poor offensive season.

Defense

If the Broncos are going to return to the top of the Mountain West this season, they will get there on the back of this defense. Nine starters are back from a dominant unit that allowed 19 PPG and 5.5 YPP last season. Their defensive line is arguably the best in the conference with Scott Matlock, a first team all-conference defensive tackle, back in the interior. Boise State’s secondary is deep as well, with the entire unit back from last season. Opponents completed just 57.8% of their pass attempts against this group while averaging a pitiful 207 yards passing. JL Skinner is in contention for best defensive back in the conference and Phil Steele ranks this as the 30th-best defensive backfield in the country. While linebacker has some question marks, this unit as whole comes into this season as the best defense in the conference and it will keep the Broncos in every game.

Outlook

The onus will be on this offense to perform at an acceptable level if Boise State wants to surpass its win total and live up to the billing of preseason favorite. Their schedule does them no favors in achieving that goal, though. The Broncos open the season on the road in three of the first four weeks -- Oregon State, New Mexico and UTEP -- and they will be the underdog in two of those affairs. In conference play they draw each of the big boys in San Diego State, Fresno State, Air Force and Utah State. Luckily three of those games will be at home – they go to Colorado Springs after their bye in October – but they must also host BYU at the beginning of November. Given what we know about this offense, the quality of competition in conference and caliber of nonconference opponents, it’s hard to foresee this team surpassing its win total, let alone winning the Mountain West.

Pick: Under 9

FRESNO STATE

After two down years, the Bulldogs returned to prominence in 2021 with a 10-win season that included a quality win at the Rose Bowl over then-No. 13 UCLA. Fresno State brings back 15 starters from that team and Jeff Tedford is stalking the sidelines once more as the Bulldogs look to win their second Mountain West title in five seasons.

Offense 

Any conversation about the Fresno State offense begins and ends with quarterback Jake Haener. The senior signal-caller returns after flirting with a transfer to Washington and he is the main reason this team has conference title aspirations. Haener threw for 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, leading the Bulldogs to 33.4 PPG and 6.3 YPP, both marks the highest since the 2018 season. With Haener back under center, this team should be able to match that output this season.

Seven other starters are back with Haener, including his top pass-catchers Jalen Cropper and Josh Kelly, who combined for 1,677 yards and 14 TDs. Leading the way at running back is Jordan Mims, who rushed for 710 yards and 5.6 YPC in 2021. Mims and Haener will line up behind an offensive line that loses an all-conference right tackle along with two rotational linemen, but there is plenty of returning talent to offset the departures.

Defense

Fresno State allowed just 20.5 PPG, 3.6 YPC on the ground and 5.3 YPP last season, and seven members of that unit return, including all-conference defensive end David Perales. Malachi Langley and Levelle Bailey are part of one of the better linebacker corps in the Mountain West, and Tedford added USC transfer Raymond Scott to the mix to strengthen the position. Both defensive line and linebacker are stout positions for the Bulldogs, but it is the secondary which is arguably this unit’s biggest strength. Evan Williams is arguably the best safety in the conference and Elijah Gates is a former UCLA transfer which will roam the back end of the defense with him. Fresno State also adds Hawaii transfer Cameron Lockridge at corner to offset the loss of DaRon Bland. There is no question that this defense will be one of the best in the Mountain West, and it could mirror the dominant squads which terrorized the conference under Tedford from 2017-2019.

Outlook

The 2022 season has the potential to be a great one for the Bulldogs. There is a strong argument to be made that Fresno State -- not Boise State -- is the best team in the Mountain West and there is value on them to win the conference title at + 230 or better. Their schedule sets up well for them to surpass their win total, too. Fresno’s nonconference slate opens with Cal Poly before a visit from Oregon State that proceeds their trip to the Coliseum for a meeting with Southern Cal. They must make the trip to Boise to face the Broncos, but their toughest road game after that is New Mexico, which is projected to win about three games this season. Four of their final five opponents this season have a win total of five or lower.

Given the returning production and favorable schedule, it would be disappointing should this program miss out on a berth in the Mountain West title game at the very least.

Pick: Over 8.5

AIR FORCE

Double-digit win seasons have become the norm in Colorado Springs lately, and Troy Calhoun has an experienced group in 2022 that should be in the mix to win the Mountain West title. Fifteen starters return from last year’s 10-3 squad which missed out on a berth in the championship game by virtue of a tiebreaker, and those players have their eyes squarely on the program’s first conference title.

Offense

In 2021, this offense was downright dominant at times. The Falcons averaged 31 PPG and 424 YPG, that latter mark being the highest per game average since the 2016 season when Air Force averaged 452 yards per contest. The Falcons have eight starters back from last year’s unit and they are led by first team All-Mountain West fullback Brad Roberts (1,356 yards on 4.5 YPC). Roberts and quarterback Haaziq Daniels, who also returns, combined for 2,174 yards and 24 TDs on the ground last year. Their offensive line was a Joe Moore award finalist last season and it loses just one key member in guard Hawk Wimmer, which means this running game should be almost as dominant as it was in 2021. The returning production at key positions is vast for Air Force; this should once again be one of the best running games in the country.

Defense

Air Force having an extremely effective rushing attack is no surprise, but what made the Falcons so effective in 2021 was their defense. Opponents averaged just 19.8 PPG and 297 YPG last season against Air Force. The Falcons front seven was extremely stout, posting the best per-carry average allowed (3.4) since 2016 and the least average rushing yards allowed per game (102) in the last seven years. Seven starters from that group return, which should lead to another effective defensive season, albeit maybe not as efficient as 2021. Defensive end Jordan Jackson and defensive backs Tre Bugg and Corvan Taylor all depart in the offseason -- a blow for Troy Calhoun’s defense. However, the Falcons have a solid interior with defensive tackle Chris Herrera and Vince Sanford at linebacker, so bettors can expect this to be a top half of the conference defense at the very least heading into 2022.

Outlook

The sky is the limit for this Air Force program in 2022, especially if this offense can at least maintain its production from last season. Four of their first five games are at home and they should be favored in each one before a trip to Logan on Oct. 8 for a revenge game against Utah State. They make the trip to San Diego as well in their regular-season finale, but the schedule sets up very well for the Falcons overall. Five of their conference foes and seven of their opponents on the schedule overall have win totals of 5.5 or lower at DraftKings. Air Force could be favored in all but two games this season which sets up for a successful campaign and a very realistic opportunity to not only surpass their win total of 8.5 but their conference win total of 5.5 as well. Do not be surprised to see the Falcons in the Mountain West title game this season.

Pick: Over 8.5

SAN DIEGO STATE

San Diego State enters the 2022 season with plenty of buzz. It will open a new on-campus stadium when the program hosts Arizona on Sep. 3 and they bring in Braxton Burmeister from Virginia Tech in hopes of adding some sizzle to their perpetually bland passing attack. If everything hits, the Aztecs could find themselves in the Mountain West title game for the second consecutive season.

Offense

For four consecutive seasons, San Diego State has not averaged more than 199 yards per game passing. Brady Hoke is hoping that changes with the depth at quarterback the Aztecs bring into this season. Burmeister started 16 games over the course of the last two seasons at Va. Tech, and redshirt freshman Will Haskell was highly touted coming out of Glendale. Whichever player starts gets the benefit of throwing to Jesse Matthews, who led the Aztecs in receiving last season. The ingredients are there for SDSU to be more dynamic with their passing attack, but anyone who has followed this conference knows the strength for this program comes its ground game.

They lose their leading rusher, but Chance Bell will take over lead duties after running for 359 yards on 72 attempts last season.  The biggest question is how effective this offensive line will be after losing three starters, one of whom was an All-American and the other a sixth-round draft pick. In all, this unit is a question mark.

Defense

While the offense might be an unknown, there are no questions about this defense. Last year SDSU allowed just 19.8 PPG and 4.7 YPP, but even those figures don’t do this unit justice. The Aztecs were dominant up front in 2021, allowing a paltry 80 rush yards per game and 2.7 YPC, and Hoke gets back seven starters back from that group. Cameron Thomas departs from the defensive line, but Jonah Tavari and Keshawn Banks are back at the defensive end spots (both were all-conference members last year). Patrick McMorris was one of the best linebackers in the conference and picked off four passes in 2021. With this trio back, along with other production, the Aztecs could come close to the defensive heights the 2019 squad reached when it allowed 12.7 PPG in a 10-win season.

Outlook

Despite having an incredible defense on paper, it is hard to get excited about the Aztecs’ prospects this season. They are favored in their season opener against Arizona, but the intensity ratchets up almost immediately. Their first two road games are against Utah and Boise State, two incredible defenses that will present a massive challenge for this new offense. The team must also make the trip to Fresno to face the Bulldogs and play host to Air Force in the regular-season finale.

DraftKings has their win total set at 7.5 and shaded to the over, a price that is too steep given what we know about this team. The offense might have some redeeming qualities, but there is no reason to believe that it will take a different form than the one we’ve known for a better part of a decade. Add to that equation the litany of experienced defenses this team must face and all signs point to this being an Under for San Diego State.

Pick: Under 7.5 

NEVADA

Nevada has won 30 games over the course of the last four seasons, but this is going to be a different year for the Wolf Pack. Jay Norvell departed for Colorado State and he picked apart the roster on his way out, bringing a load of talent with him to Fort Collins. Ken Wilson has just six guys back from 2021 and a total rebuild on his hands.

Offense

There is no question that Nevada will fail to reach the heights it did last season on offense. The Wolf Pack put up 35.7 PPG on 6.1 YPP in 2021, but nine starters from that group are gone including QB Carson Strong. Wilson grabbed Oklahoma State transfer Shane Illingworth in the portal to fill Strong’s shoes at QB, but there is little to work with at the skill positions. Running back Toa Taua ran for 766 yards last season and scored six touchdowns … and he is by far the best weapon back from that team. Aaron Frost is a quality offensive lineman, but the rest of offense lacks continuity and talent. Wilson added a plethora of bodies in the transfer portal, but this team could be one of the poorer offenses in the Mountain West this season.

Defense

The same could be said of Nevada’s defense. Only four players return from a defense that was somewhat weak up front last year. The Wolf Pack gave up 4.7 YPC, 407 YPG and 26.5 PPG last season. It would be a positive if the program was retooling with talent that had been developing with the team for a few seasons, but that is obviously not the case. There are some transfers from great programs like Darion Green-Warren coming from Michigan or William Green from Liberty, but this is a complete overhaul for co-defensive coordinators Kwame Agyeman and Mike Bertha. The bright spot will be defensive lineman Dom Peterson for Nevada as he has been an All-Mountain West defender each of the last two seasons. This lack of talent and plethora of new faces does not bode well for the Wolf Pack in 2022.

Outlook

It can’t be overstated how much Norvell’s departure set this program back. Not only is he a solid coach, but he raided the Nevada roster and took much of the returning talent with him to Colorado State. Wilson could turn out to be a fine head coach himself, but he has herculean task in front of him with this rebuild -- and this schedule will do him no favors. Nevada has a nonconference road game against Iowa on Sep. 17 and their conference schedule includes Air Force, San Diego State, San Jose State, Boise State and Fresno State. They get SDSU, Boise and Fresno in Reno, but those three teams will be prohibitive favorites in those contests. DraftKings has the Wolf Pack win total at five shaded to the Under at -120 and that is more than a fair price to lay here. Expect a massive fall down the standings for this program.

Pick: Under 5

UNLV

Marcus Arroyo enters his third season as head coach of UNLV with just two victories on his record, but there were signs of progress last season. The Rebels went 7-5 ATS in their 12 games and competed against the likes of San Diego State and Fresno State while winning consecutive games down the stretch.

Offense

Six starters return from the 2021 team, but there is a gaping hole to fill at the running back position. UNLV’s all-time rushing leader Charles Williams departs after six seasons with the program and Marcus Arroyo hit the transfer portal to fill the spot, and landed Louisville transfer Aidan Robbins. The sophomore RB will line up in a backfield with an unknown quarterback at this time. UNLV returns two players who saw time at the position last season in Doug Brumfield and Mountain West Freshman of the Year Cameron Friel. They also bring in Tennessee transfer Harrison Bailey to compete for the starting job.

Whomever wins the job will have a plethora of weapons to throw to. Kyle Williams is back at wide receiver and he leads what is arguably the strongest position group on offense for UNLV. The Rebels were average on offense last season, but with returning production at QB and a strong WR room, this has the potential to be Arroyo’s best group.

Defense

UNLV switched their defensive scheme to a 3-4 when Arroyo arrived in 2020, and over the last two seasons there has been improvement. The Rebels allowed the fewest amount of points (32.8), yards (410), YPC (4.5) and YPP (6.1) since 2016 and their 21 sacks were tied for the most in that same span. Only six starters return, but the ones that do are impactful ones. Brennon Scott and Adam Plant Jr. combined for 17 TFL last season and both return. Second leading tackler and middle linebacker Austin Ajaike is back to run the defense, and the secondary has both Nohl Williams and Ricky Johnson back (5 INT combined). The bar is not high for this team to show improvement for a third consecutive season, but there have been statistical improvements each year under Arroyo -- and that should be the case again this year.

Outlook

Although the wins were few last season, the Rebels did show improvement -- and that gives them an opportunity to push for three or more wins in 2022, especially with a few programs in the conference slipping this year. Nevada, Hawaii and New Mexico are all programs with win totals of 4.5 or lower and the Rebels open the season at home against Idaho State. UNLV could sweep those contests, but a fifth win is going to be hard to come by. Their road schedule is a bear with trips to Cal, Utah State, San Jose State, Notre Dame and San Diego State. They must also host North Texas, Air Force and Fresno State. If UNLV can score an upset in one of those contests, then bettors have themselves an Over, but it is hard to lay -140 on that happening. The Rebels should be a good ATS team once more, but it is hard to envision five or more wins with this schedule.

Pick: Under 4.5

HAWAII

Todd Graham wore out his welcome after just two seasons in Honolulu, and he made sure to burn the place down on his way out. The Rainbows experienced a mass exodus of transfers and departures in the offseason, and the result is a roster devoid of talent and with only six returning starters. Hawaii legend Timmy Chang has a lot to deal with in his first season as head coach.

Offense

Despite the noise and angst surrounding the program, last season the statistical output was solid for Hawaii. They put up 28.8 PPG and 5.9 YPP, but a vast majority of that production is gone. Only three starters return from that team … and all of them are on the offensive line. Brayden Schager made three starts last season at QB and will compete with Washington State transfer Cammon Cooper for the job. This offense is expected to have some “Air Raid” and “Run-and-Shoot” qualities, so the play at this position will be vital. The top three pass-catchers from last year all depart and the leading returnee in terms of receiving yards is Dedrick Parson, their starting running back for this season. This offensive system will help make up for the lack of talent at wide receiver, and a quality offensive line will help maximize the QB play, but its logical to expect a step down from the 2021 numbers.

Defense

Hawaii has never been an elite defensive program and that is not going to change this season with just two starters back. The Rainbows gave up 31.4 PPG on 5.8 YPP last year, so it’s not like returning production would have done much anyway, but Chang does have quite a few holes to fill here. Only one defensive lineman who had more than four tackles returns, their entire linebacking corps departs and seven players with starting experience are gone from this secondary. There are some intriguing transfers like linebackers Wynden Ho’ohuli from Nebraska, Kaulana Makaula from USC and safety Virdel Edwards from Iowa State, but all in all this is going to be a massive work in progress. Do not be surprised to see Hawaii at the bottom of multiple defensive categories this fall, especially with the caliber of offenses the program will face in conference play.

Outlook

It’s not great. Hawaii’s schedule sets up like that of a program heading into its third year under a head coach. That means there are a litany of challenging opponents for what was assumed to be a developing program. The Rainbow Warriors open with Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky at home, two games in they will be underdogs. On Sep. 10, they go to The Big House to face Michigan before hosting Duquesne in a winnable contest. Their conference schedule is rough: road games against San Diego State, Fresno State and San Jose State as well as a home game against Utah State. Hawaii does face programs like Nevada, Wyoming and UNLV at home -- three teams on a similar level that the Rainbows could potentially beat -- but it’s still hard to find five wins on this schedule for a rebuilding program like this.

Pick: Under 4.5

UTAH STATE

Blake Anderson hit the ground running in his first season at the helm in Logan, leading Utah State to its first ever conference title and an 11-3 season. This year the Aggies bring back 12 starters – seven of which are on offense – and this team has its sights set on a second consecutive Mountain West championship.

Offense

The backbone of this team in 2022 is going to be its offense, much like it was in 2021. Senior quarterback Logan Bonner returns after starting all 14 games and throwing for 3,628 yards and 36 touchdowns last season. Bonner enters his sixth year as a collegiate signal-caller and each of those seasons have been played under Anderson. Their continuity with one another helped lead the Aggies to 32.6 PPG and 5.8 YPP last season, but their wide receiver room will look much different this time around. Utah State loses its top three pass-catchers from their title winning team and that includes Deven Thompkins who caught 102 balls for 1,704 yards. The offensive line is experienced with 102 career starts and Calvin Tyler is a potential 1,000 yard running back, but the loss of 3,328 total receiving yards and 31 touchdowns will hurt this unit. Alabama transfer Xavier Williams joins the team this season, but this offense will likely take a small step back with the loss of production at wide receiver.

Defense

Where Utah State will regress the most is on defense, and this was not a dominant unit by any stretch last season. The Aggies allowed 24.4 PPG and 5.8 YPP in 2021 and two opponents – Air Force and Wyoming – put up more than 40 points. Only five starters return from that defense and most of the losses come up front. They lose two All-Mountain West defensive linemen and a first team linebacker in Justin Rice as well, so it is likely aa defense that allowed 162 rush yards and 4.4 YPC regresses somewhat in 2022. Anderson brought in Gurvan Hall from Miami (FL) to shore up the secondary, but that unit see two starters depart from last year’s squad. There is enough talent here for this defense to rank in the top half of the league, but in comparison of the other contenders this is the weakest defensive unit of the bunch.

Outlook

When a team returns a quarterback as experienced and skilled as Logan Bonner it is going to have a chance, and that is exactly what the Aggies have. The middle of the Mountain West is somewhat soft as well, which gives Utah State an opportunity to inflate their win total with wins over middling programs. Their schedule has tough road games against Alabama, BYU and Boise State, but seven of their opponents this season have a win total of 5.5 or lower at DraftKings. They have the benefit of hosting Air Force as opposed to making the trip to Colorado Springs as well. However, it is likely the Aggies lose all four of the games just mentioned which means it would have to be perfect in a schedule littered with coinflip spots and that is not something to bet on, as a 7-5 seems like a perfect year for this program.

Pick: Under 7

SAN JOSE STATE

Brent Brennan enters his sixth season as head coach of San Jose State and it has been an odd tenure. The Spartans have posted losing records in four of his five previous years, but the lone outlier was a 7-1 record and a Mountain West title in the COVID shortened 2020 season. Fourteen are back from last year’s squad, so perhaps San Jose State can post a winning record in a 12-game season for the first time under Brennan.

Offense

Six starters return for San Jose State this season and there is some real intrigue at the skill positions for this program. Chevan Cordeiro (a four-year starter at Hawaii) transfers in and Nick Nash, who attempted 138 passes for this team in 2021, returns. The quarterback depth is solid no matter who wins the starting job and around him will be plenty of depth. Leading receiver Derrick Deese departs, but the remaining eight players who caught a pass last season return. Leading rusher Tyler Nevens is gone, but the three other top rushers behind him – including Nash – are back as well. Brennan also added impact transfers at both positions, so there should not be much drop-off from this unit in 2021. San Jose State put up 20.0 PPG and 5.4 YPP while posting a -12 turnover differential. With better ball security this team should be better on offense this year.

Defense

The Spartans have one of the best front sevens in the Mountain West this season. Senior defensive end Cade Hall is arguably the best defensive lineman in the conference and he returns along with fellow first team All-Mountain West linebacker Kyle Harmon. In total this front brings back six starters and a plethora of depth from the 2021 squad which allowed just 3.5 YPC and 5.1 per play. This should be one of the best run defenses in the league and they will likely improve on the 26.5 PPG allowed in 2021. The secondary will have to replace three starters, but Nehemiah Shelton is back after landing on the third All-Mountain West team last season, so there is a cornerstone to build on with that position group. If some of the new faces in the defensive backfield this could be one of the best overall defenses in the Mountain West.

Outlook

It is somewhat troublesome that the lone successful season under Brent Brennan has been a pandemic shortened season, but this year has the potential to be a great one for the Spartans. Not only is there plenty of returning depth and talent on both sides of the ball, but the transfers brought it could be impactful right away. The schedule is extremely manageable as well. Five of their conference opponents have win totals of 5.5 or lower, they host Portland State in the season opener and they should be favored in a home game against Western Michigan. Throw in a coinflip spot on the road against New Mexico State and winnable games at San Diego State and Utah State and there is the potential that this team can put together a winning season. The betting market has bet this price up to -145 on the win total of 6.5 at DraftKings and the betting market is on the right track with that move.

Pick: Over 6.5

COLORADO STATE

In a shocking move this past offseason, Jay Norvell jumped ship from Nevada and landed in Fort Collins as head coach of Colorado State. Norvell brought along multiple transfers from the Wolf Pack roster as well, so this Rams squad is ready for a quick improvement on its 3-9 campaign in 2021.

Offense

Colorado State is listed as having six starters back on offense this season, but much of the production is going to come from the new faces Norvell brought over from Nevada. Redshirt freshman Clay Millen -- who played under Norvell in Reno -- comes in as the favorite to start the season at QB, and along with him Norvell pilfered a pair of 600-yard receivers in Tory Horton and Melquan Stovall. This trio’s familiarity of Norvell’s “Air Raid” offense will help Colorado State’s offense to avoid a slow start to the season. In front of Millen will be an offensive line that must rebuilt entirely, as seven offensive linemen who started a game in 2021 for Colorado State depart. Once again, transfers are the answer for Norvell who brought in Gray Davis and Jacob Gardner from Nevada, as well as a pair of transfers from FIU and Tulsa. The Rams were average on offense last season in putting up 23.7 PPG on 5.5 YPP, but with all the new faces those marks would be a success for Colorado State this year.

Defense

Norvell has his work cut out for him on both sides of the ball, but this defense is a particularly daunting project. Along the defensive line three starters depart, one of whom was first team All-Mountain West defensive end Scott Patchan. CJ Onyechi transfers in from Rutgers, but it’s obvious this unit is going to be the weakest link on this defense in 2021. The secondary is a question as well and the Rams are expecting three transfers – Chigoze Anusiem (Cal), Angel King (Nevada) and Ayden Hector (Washington State) – to patch up the holes on the back end. This group’s strength resides at linebacker where the top six return led by Cam’Ron Carter.

This defense took a massive step back over the course of the final four games of 2021, but with a bunch of new faces and a new scheme bettors can expect similar numbers – 28.3 PPG, 5.5 YPP – at the very least from the Rams in 2022.

Outlook

It is hard to project what Colorado State will be this season due to the influx of transfers at almost every position, but bettors can count on this team being well coached. Norvell went 33-26 overall at Nevada, and his last four years were wildly successful (63.8% win percentage). The Rams have some brutal road trips to Michigan, Washington State, Nevada, Boise State and Air Force on the schedule, and they host Utah State as well. If Millen is the player Norvell expected him to be at Nevada, then the learning curve might not be as sharp for Colorado State and it could surprise some in the Mountain West this season. However, one would need six wins to surpass this win total of 5.5 and the price of -145 (59.2% implied probability) is too high to lay with this team in its current state.

Pick: Under 5.5

WYOMING

If there is a team that will outperform preseason expectations its Wyoming. Craig Bohl is a tremendous coach who has led the Cowboys to a non-losing record in five of the last six seasons. Only eight starters are back in 2022 and Wyoming’s win total is five, but expect Bohl to get the most out of his roster.

Offense

Wyoming enters this season with an enormous question at QB. The two signal-callers who started games for them last year (Sean Chambers and Levi Williams) are gone, but in their place is Utah State transfer Andrew Peasley. Peasley started just two games for the Aggies in his time with the program, completing 53.8% of his passes and throwing seven touchdowns to five interceptions in mostly mop-up duty. Obviously Peasley will need to put forth better production as he is now the assumed starter in Laramie, and he will have to do it with a rash of new faces at wide receiver (three of the top four from last season depart). If there is a strength of this offense, it’s the potential ground game, which has always been a staple for Bohl’s teams. The Cowboys have averaged at least 212 yards rushing in the last three seasons and that will be their focus once more with Titus Swen at running back.

Defense

Despite bringing back all 11 starters from 2020, this unit was statistically one of the poorer defenses Bohl has had in his time at Wyoming. They allowed 23.7 PPG and 5.4 YPP, both marks the highest since the 2016 season. So, while only four starters return from last year, it might be a positive to get some new talent on the field. Defensive end is one of the stronger positions on the roster and they add Alabama transfer Keelan Cox to the mix this season. Easton Gibbs was their second-leading tackler at linebacker and returns to play alongside Michigan State transfer Cole DeMarzo, so bettors can expect some better production in stopping the run after this team was gashed for 4.6 YPC and 181 YPG in 2021. The entire secondary must be replaced and that is troubling in a league with some great passing attacks, but Bohl has always bled the most from that unit on defense.

Outlook

As previously stated, this is a program that is used to winning football games and the lone losing record in the last six years was the COVID season in 2020. Wyoming’s coaching staff and strong home-field advantage (7,165 feet above sea level) have led to a team that can usually outperform. This season will need to be one of Bohl’s best if he is to get above .500 with this squad, especially when you evaluate the schedule.

Wyoming gets four of the five single-digit short shots to win the conference title in Air Force, Utah State, Boise State and Fresno State. Three of them – Air Force, Utah State and Boise – must visit Laramie, which is a plus, but the Cowboys will be underdogs in those games. Add in road trips to Illinois and BYU and this makes for a tough schedule in 2022, with not many victories to be found.

Pick: Under 5

NEW MEXICO

Danny Gonzales’ first season as head coach was in 2020, and while the Lobos won only two games, they went 4-3 ATS and were very competitive. New Mexico did not build on that momentum in 2021 and went 3-9 SU/1-11 ATS while losing nine of the last 10 games, but there is hope that the Lobos can improve their win total for a third consecutive year under Gonzales.

Offense

Only five starters return for Gonzales on offense, but that might be a positive considering how pathetic this group was last year. New Mexico averaged just 12.2 PPG and 3.9 YPP, both the lowest marks for this program in a decade. The quarterback position was a revolving door, with four players starting 12 games and five attempting at least 10 passes. This year Isaiah Chavez -- the second-leading passer in 2021 -- returns and Gonzales brings in Kansas transfer Miles Kendrick as well, so expect one of those two under center when the season begins. Whomever starts gets Luke Wysong and Trace Bruckler back at wide receiver, the top pass-catchers from last season, and if it’s Chavez that could be a positive for this unit. The top rushers from last season depart, but big things are expected of Nathaniel Jones, who missed last season. It will not be confused with any of the top offenses in the Mountain West, but it will be hard for this group to be worse than the one that took the field last season.

Defense

Despite the poor returns from last year there were some positives and most of those came from this defense. New Mexico was a stout run-stopping unit, allowing 143 YPG but on 3.7 YPC. Opponents only averaged 5.3 YPP and the Lobos brought down opposing quarterbacks 25 times. Bettors can expect similar, if not better, production from this unit with seven starters back in 2022. Their linebacker room is a strength, with just one player missing from last year’s squad and a vast majority of returning production expected to be better as they were freshmen last season. The back end of this defense is underrated as well with three starters back alongside Pitt transfer Hunter Sellers at cornerback. Rocky Long is one of the best defensive minds in college football and always gets the most out of his defensive units -- that will be the same for New Mexico again this season.

Outlook

The betting market has moved this win total from 2.5 to 3 at DraftKings, and for good reason as this schedule has some opportunities for New Mexico to match their record from a season ago. Their winnable games come against Maine in the season opener as well as games against UNLV and Colorado State, but those two will be on the road. The Lobos also host Wyoming on Oct. 8 in a game that they should be slight favorites in, so you can understand why the market bet this over the opening mark. However, at the current number it’s hard to invest in this team winning four games this season even with some expected improvement. They draw the top five teams in the conference in terms of odds to win the Mountain West title and they must also make trips to LSU and New Mexico State. Three wins seems to be this team’s ceiling, so take the Under on the adjusted total.

Pick: Under 3

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