Even with a new head coach, Boise State is the betting favorite in the Mountain West yet again. Boise State, entering its first year under Andy Avalos after Bryan Harsin’s departure for Auburn, has been the league’s premier program since it joined in 2011, but has maybe not been quite as dominant as perceived.
In those 10 seasons, the Broncos have three outright conference titles, with one shared title in 2012. But San Diego State and Fresno State have also each won the conference twice outright, in addition to both sharing it with Boise in 2012.
Entering 2021, there are a lot of intriguing teams in the Mountain West. That includes defending champion San Jose State. There will also be a lot of attention on Nevada, a team with a potential first-round QB in Carson Strong.
(All odds via BetMGM.)
Boise State: +110
San Jose State: +800
San Diego State: +800
Fresno State: +900
Air Force: +2000
Colorado State: +8000
Utah State: +10000
New Mexico: +15000
Best bet: San Jose State (+800)
Even though it lost head coach Bryan Harsin to Auburn, I still expected Boise State to be the Mountain West betting favorite. What I did not expect was to see San Jose State all the way down at +800. That’s downright disrespectful for the defending conference champions. Brent Brennan’s Spartans return pretty much their entire team from 2020, aside from a pair of decent receivers. I suspect SJSU and Nevada will be competing for the MWC West title, but Nevada’s schedule (road games against San Diego State, Fresno State and Boise State) looks much more difficult. On top of that, I’d rather take SJSU at +800 (over Nevada at +400) with the potential to get a more lucrative return on my investment.
Team to avoid: San Diego State (+800)
In Year 1 under Brady Hoke, San Diego State looked a lot like it did under Rocky Long. The Aztecs played very good defense and were mediocre on offense. When the offense clicked, it clicked via the ground game — mostly with Greg Bell. But unless one of the quarterbacks on this roster really takes a step forward, I have a hard time picturing much success in the passing game. SDSU’s defense is going to be good enough to keep it in most games, but I don’t think this is a team that can win a conference championship.
Sleeper: Air Force (+2000)
To me, the MWC’s Mountain Division is a lot more navigable than the West. In the West, there’s really only one pushover (UNLV). In the Mountain, there are three teams (New Mexico, Utah State and Colorado State) either with a first- or second-year head coach. Boise State has a first-year coach, too, in Andy Avalos, but the Broncos have a much higher-caliber program. All that is to say that I think Air Force can have a big year. Playing Boise State on the road will be tough, but I think the Falcons have a pretty good chance in every other conference game they play. Maybe if Boise State slips up along the way and Wyoming experiences another QB injury, Air Force can sneak into the title game. At +2000 odds, it’s a long shot worth considering.
Boise State: 9
San Jose State: 8
San Diego State: 6.5
Air Force: 6.5
Fresno State: 6
Colorado State: 5
New Mexico: 4.5
Utah State: 3.5
Mountain West win total best bets
Air Force over 6.5 (-120)
Air Force broke in a ton of new players last year and managed to beat up on the bad teams it played, but it also lost close games to the good teams it played. The Falcons aren’t as experienced as the teams bringing back a bunch of super seniors, but there’s still a solid core in place. That experience and the easy early-season schedule give me the confidence to go with the over here. Excluding 2020 (when only six games were played), Air Force has won at least seven regular-season games in nine of its 13 other seasons under Troy Calhoun.
New Mexico over 4.5 (-125)
I liked what I saw from New Mexico late in its first season under Danny Gonzales. The Lobos lost a few close games and then upset Wyoming and Fresno State to end the year. They still went run-heavy on offense and the addition of Kentucky transfer Terry Wilson at QB will allow them to expand the offense even more. If the defense shows some improvement, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Lobos hit six wins. Houston Baptist, New Mexico State, UTEP, Colorado State, UNLV and Utah State are all winnable games.
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