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The Aztecs finished 4-4 in 2020 and that was playing home games in a stadium 115 miles from campus and where they will reside in 2021. They won three out of their four games there so maybe that isn’t a big deal. They return 17 starters from that team and if they played in the Mountain division they would have a great chance to contend for the title. But, they are in the West, and it is considerably tougher. Still, is a team that cause havoc in the MW, especially if they can settle their quarterback situation.
Players to Watch: RBs, Greg Bell and Chance Bell, T, Zachary Thomas, WR, Kobe Smith, DE, Cameron Thomas, LB, Caden McDonald
Must Wins: New Mexico State, Towson, New Mexico, at UNLV
Toss-up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Arizona, at Air Force, at Hawaii, Fresno State
Probable Losses: at San Jose State, Nevada, Boise State
Predicted Finish: 4th Place in MW West Division
Overall Record: 6-6
The Cowboys are always difficult to beat but have trouble winning very many games. In 2021, their defense is loaded again and they have to find a quarterback, and more importantly, keep him healthy. They are in the Mountain division which is the weakest of the two and that gives them a chance to move up in the standings.
Players to Watch: QB, Sean Chambers, RB, Xazavian Valladay, WR, Ayden Eberhardt, DE, Solomon Byrd, LB, Chad Muma
Must Wins: Montana State, at Northern Illinois, Ball State, UConn, New Mexico, Colorado State, Hawaii
Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Air Force, at Utah State, Fresno State
Probable Losses: at San Jose State, at Boise State
Predicted Finish: 3rd Place in MW Mountain Division
Overall Record: 7-5
The Falcons are in search of a quarterback for the triple-option offense. They always play hard and are fundamentally well-coached. No one wants to play them in the MW as they can always beat you. They have a favorable non-conference schedule that should help them attain a winning record.
Players to Watch: RB, Brad Roberts, WRs, Brandon Lewis and David Cormier, DE, Jordan Jackson, LB, Demonte Meeks, CB, Tre’ Bugg
Must Wins: Lafayette, at Navy, Utah State, FAU, UNLV, at New Mexico
Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Wyoming, San Diego State, Army, at Colorado State
Probable Losses: at Boise State, at Nevada
Predicted Finish: 2nd Place in MW Mountain Division
Overall Record: 8-4
The Rainbows have a up-tempo offense that is always dangerous to prepare for. Mountain West teams struggle with the trip to Honolulu, but it isn’t easy for Hawaii when they come to the mainland and play road games so it all evens out. Coach Todd Graham knows how to win and they are a very dangerous team.
Players to Watch: QB, Chevan Cordiero, RB, Calvin Turner, WR, Jared Smart, C, Kohl Lavao, LB, Darius Muasau, CB, Khoury Bethley
Must Wins: Portland State, at New Mexico State, New Mexico State (yes they play them twice), at UNLV, Colorado State
Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Oregon State, at Utah State, San Diego State, at Wyoming
Probable Losses: at UCLA, San Jose State, Fresno State, at Nevada
Predicted Finish: 5th Place in the MW West Division
Overall Record: 7-6
The Rams are switching to a run-oriented, punishing style of offense and moving away from the up-tempo passing attack they have been accustomed to. Will that fit into the Mountain West? They are strong on defense and the offense needs to find a quarterback which is the most important position on the team. The schedule is tough and it remains to be seen how this all plays out.
Players to Watch: RB, Marcus McElroy, WR, Dante Wright, DE, Scott Patchan, DT, Manny Jones, LB, DeQuan Jackson,
Must Wins: South Dakota State, at New Mexico, at Utah State
Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Vanderbilt, at Toledo, at Wyoming, Air Force,
Probable Losses: at Iowa, San Jose State, Boise State, at Hawaii, Nevada
Predicted Finish: 4th Place in MW Mountain Division
Overall Record: 4-8
Utah State fared poorly in the 2020 pandemic year winning only one out of six starts. To say the offense was anemic, might be an understatement. And the defense was only slightly better. So while I am I picking the Aggies last in their division, I still think there is hope for the future. They have hired Coach Blake Anderson who had consistent success at Arkansas State, especially on offense. Getting him to Logan was a major hire. The turnaround will be slow, but there will be improvement in 2021.
Players to Watch: QB, Andrew Peasley, WRs, Justin McGriff and Deven Thompkins, DE, Nick Heninger, LB, AJ Vongphachanh, S, Shaq Bond
Must Wins: North Dakota, at UNLV, at New Mexico State
Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Hawaii, Colorado State, at New Mexico
Probable Losses: Washington State, at Air Force, Boise State, BYU, at San Jose State, at Wyoming
Predicted Finish: 5th Place in the MW Mountain Division
The Lobos went 2-5 last year and played every game on the road or at neutral site Las Vegas, because of COVID. There is optimism from New Mexico’s wins over Wyoming and Fresno State in the last two games of the season. There is a highly regarded transfer at quarterback and if he can come through they might be a surprise team in the MW.
Players to Watch: QB, Kentucky-transfer Terry Wilson, RB, Bobby Cole, DE, Joey Noble, LB, Devin Sanders
Must Wins: Houston Baptist, New Mexico State, at UTEP, UNLV, Utah State
Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Might Lose: Air Force, at San Diego State, Colorado State
Probable Losses: at Texas A&M, at Wyoming, at Fresno State, at Boise State
Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Finish: 5th Place in MW Mountain Division
Finally, there is UNLV. They are perennial challengers for the worst program in the country and it looks like they have a shot to contend again. They lost all 6 games they got to play in 2020 but they have had two straight decent recruiting seasons plus they added a couple of transfers to help on defense. The focus has got to be getting something positive established and then, hopefully building from there.
Players to Watch: RB, Charles Williams, DE, USC-transfer Connor Murphy, LB, Arizona-transfer Kylan Wilborn, S, Bryce Jackson
Must Wins: Eastern Washington, Utah State.
Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at UTSA, at New Mexico, Hawaii
Probable Losses: at Arizona State, Iowa State, at Fresno State, San Jose State, at Nevada, San Diego State, at Air Force
Predicted Finish: 6th Place in the MW West Division
Overall Record: 1-11
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