Please note that power rankings are meant to rank teams based on current team strength on a neutral field. It is not necessarily a projection of where I think teams will finish or who has a better resume. It is forward thinking but does not factor in strength of schedule, schedule breakdown, etc.
ICYMI Other Conference Preseason Power Rankings:
2021 Mountain West Preseason Power Rankings
- Boise State: They lost to San Jose State in the conference championship last year, but on paper they look like the team to beat this year. They have 17 starters back and two very capable QB in Hank Bachmeier and Jack Sears. HC Bryan Harsin left for Auburn however, so we will see if there is an adjustment period with Andy Avalos taking over.
- Nevada: I bet Nevada a ton last year and they almost always delivered for me. They should have the best passing game in the conference with QB Carson Strong (249-355, 2858 yards, 27-4 TD-INT) and WR Romeo Doubs (58-1,002-9 TD) coming back. They have their Top 4 WR back and on defense they have 10 starters back. This team looks like it is for real and is the favorite to win the West division.
- San Diego State: The Aztecs are typically a tough team but they kind of fell off last season when RB Greg Bell got injured. They averaged 280.3 rushing yards per game in the first 4 games, but only 118.5 in the last 4 after losing him. He’s back in 2021 and so is a very strong defense but I do have concerns about Lucas Johnson at QB and Brady Hoke at HC.
- Fresno State: I think the Bulldogs might be a surprise team this year. They have 19 starters back and should be able to score plenty of points this year. They have a really good QB back in Jake Haener (150-232, 2021 yards, 14-5 TD-INT) and also return stud RB Ronnie Rivers (100-507-7 TD) and Phil Steele’s #1 ranked WR unit in the conference highlighted by Jalen Cropper(37-520-5 TD) and Keric Wheatfall (23-363-1 TD). The question will be if they are able to get the stops when they need them to win the big games. They have a challenging schedule.
- Wyoming: Unlike Fresno, the schedule makers did seem to do Wyoming some favors. Craig Bohl also has a lot of talent coming back with two nice options at QB (it sounds like Sean Chambers will get the first crack at the starting position), along with a really good RB in Xazavian Valladay (99-550-4 TD) and a nice O-Line and defense. Craig Bohl likes to win with defense and running the ball and he has the roster to do it that way. Laramie is a very tough place to play because of the weather and elevation so I typically give Wyoming an extra bit of home field advantage when handicapping games.
- Air Force: Air Force was a strange team last year as they lost a ton of players on defense with all the turnbacks (essentially opting out of school for a semester because of covid). This year all those guys are back (plus the guys that played last year) which should make for a crowded and competitive depth chart. Hazziq Daniels is back at QB and he does a good job running the option for them. They will be a competitive team this year.
- San Jose State: They won the conference last year (and did it while overcoming some big covid challenges), but I still can’t help but think that was a one-year thing. Lots of other teams in the conference should be better this year and I think the Spartans will be worse. They lost their strong duo of WR and will be a targeted team after last season. They’re still good, but I just like other teams more.
- Colorado State: The Rams are coached similarly to Wyoming. They have a more old school approach and want to win games by running the ball and playing good defense. The D-Line is an absolute strength of this team but I don’t think the LB and secondary are up to par. Special teams was also a disaster last season and needs to improve for them to have a shot at breaking into the top half of the conference.
- Utah State: I’ve got a pretty hefty futures bet on Utah State over 3 wins (-125) that you can read about here. To quickly summarize what I wrote then: I really like the energy and enthusiasm that Blake Anderson will bring to the Aggies and they have a ton of transfer talent coming in. I think this is a team that will get better as they year goes on and will be much improved from last year when everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
- Hawaii: Todd Graham did better than I expected with Hawaii last season leading them to a bowl win and a 5-4 record. They only played 3 road games last season however (losing two of them) and I always worry about the Rainbow warriors when you get them off the island. The defense does have everyone back, so there is an opportunity for them to surpass my rankings but with 7 road games this year it should be a bigger challenge for them.
- New Mexico: New Mexico had a brutal start to the season in 2020. They had no Spring football and couldn’t practice or play at home due to the really strict New Mexico covid guidelines which led to an 0-5 start. They actually rallied to win their last 2 games and added transfer QB Terry Wilson from Kentucky. A bunch of players opted to return this year leading to a deep roster. The talent may not be where it needs to be, but it should be more competitive than last year.
- UNLV: I think it’s going to be a rough year for the Running Rebels. They play in a very tough division with five other teams that could end up being bowl eligible and according to Phil Steele’s rankings they have the worst O-Line, D-Line, and Linebackers in the conference. This is shaping up to be a tough season in Vegas.