2021 MWC College Football Preview and Predictions

August 24, 2021 by Staff

2020 was a down year for the Mountain West as San Jose State gave the conference its highest finish in the Congrove Computer Rankings at No. 27, just ahead of Boise State at No. 28 and Nevada at No. 33. But the championship delivered by the Spartans was historic and fitting for the "Covid season".

SJSU hadn't enjoyed a winning season since 2012 and had lost all 14 previous meetings with the Broncos. This time, San Jose State prevailed, 34-20, in the conference title game on December 19 in Las Vegas.

Boise State finished 5-2 with the loss and opted out of the bowl season. Bryan Harsin then resigned as head coach on December 22 to succeed Gus Malzahn at Auburn who was fired on December 13. Former Boise State linebacker Andy Avalos (2001-2005) was named on January 12 as the new head coach of the Broncos. Avalos was an assistant with Boise State from 2012-2018, but spent the last two seasons at Oregon as defensive coordinator under Mario Cristobal.

San Jose State's perfect run came to an end on New Year's Eve when Ball State finally broke into the bowl win column in its 8th try, knocking off the Spartans 34-13 in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson. Both teams finished 7-1. It was the first bowl game for the Cardinals since 2013 and the first for the Spartans since 2015. The loss was San Jose State's first in a bowl game since 1987, snapping a four-bowl win streak.

Utah State is the only other MWC program to make a head coaching change. The Aggies fired Gary Andersen two days after a 34-9 loss at Nevada on Saturday, November 7. The once beloved head coach, who was in his second tenure with the school, had fallen out of favor quickly in Logan after an 0-3 start with all of the losses by 25 points or more. Blake Anderson resigned as the head coach of Arkansas State on December 10 to fill the void at Utah State. The in-coming Anderson left the Red Wolves with a 4-7 thud, his only losing campaign in his 7-year tenure. His teams were 51-37 overall, and 38-18 in Sun Belt play with an outright conference title in 2015 and a co-title in 2016. The Red Wolves went to bowl games in each of his first six years, going 2-4.

Despite all that, the Congrove Computer Rankings still project the Broncos as the team to beat in 2021.

Boise State is picked to go unbeaten in conference play, and then edge Nevada in the conference championship game which BSU will host as a reward for having the better conference record.

San Jose State comes up short in its bid to return to the title game by falling at Nevada on November 6.

Boise's path to the Mountain division title appear to be easy as Wyoming is the only other team in the division that's even projected to have a winning record.

33 Boise State 10 3   8 0 71.58 84
53 Wyoming 9 3   6 2 63.27 113
96 New Mexico 5 7   3 5 55.19 120
99 Colorado State 4 8   3 5 60.32 86
110 Air Force 3 9   2 6 57.98 112
120 Utah State 2 10   0 8 55.38 114
51 Nevada 9 4   7 1 70.93 101
40 San Jose State 9 3   7 1 71.35 110
58 Hawaii 8 5   5 3 64.50 119
74 San Diego State 6 6   4 4 66.06 107
97 Fresno State 4 8   2 6 63.53 93
121 Nevada-Las Vegas 2 10   1 7 52.74 77
** - Boise State by 3.65 over Nevada. Nevada advances with tie-breaker win over SJSU.