San Jose State was one of the biggest surprises in college football last year and the Spartans won their first Mountain West Conference title by upsetting Boise State. College football oddsmakers give three schools the only realistic chances of winning the Mountain West this year. Here’s a breakdown of each with their odds.
Analysis College Football | Mountain West Conference Football 2021
Boise State Broncos (-130)For the ninth-straight season, Boise State is predicted to top the Mountain Division in the Mountain West’s preseason poll. That marks every season the MW in 2011 that the Broncos were voted on by media to claim either the conference or the division crown. Since joining the MW, the Broncos have claimed four conference titles, tying them for the most in league history, despite being a member for just 10 of the conference’s 22 seasons.
Boise State’s Kekaula Kaniho, John Ojukwu, Khalil Shakir and Jake Stetz were named to the 2021 Preseason All-Mountain West Football Team.
With the exit of head coach Bryan Harsin to Auburn, former defensive coordinator Andy Avalos returns to Boise as head coach after two years at Oregon. Avalos played for the Broncos from 2001-05 and later returned as a defensive assistant and took over as defensive coordinator in 2016 before leaving for Oregon. The hiring of Avalos continued Boise State’s trend of keeping the job running the program within the Broncos family. Boise State has hired either an assistant within the program or a former player to run the show dating back to Dirk Koetter taking over in 1998.
The Broncos return 16 starters from a team that went 5-2 in the abbreviated 2020 season. Boise State has two capable quarterbacks in Jack Sears and Hank Bachmeier. The Broncos return a deep and experienced group at the wide receiver position headed by star senior Khalil Shakir and senior CT Thomas. Last season, Shakir recorded 52 receptions for 719 yards and six touchdowns. He added 148 rushing yards and was one of only two players nationally with 700 yards receiving and 100 yards rushing last season. Oregon transfer Cyrus Habibi-Likio joins starter George Holani in the backfield.
Nevada Wolf Pack (+450)Nevada finished the 2020 season with a 7-2 overall record and third-place finish in the Mountain West. The Wolf Pack concluded its season with a 38-27 victory over Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Last season, a school-record 15 Wolf Pack players earned all-conference honors, highlighted by quarterback Carson Strong becoming the first player in Nevada history to be named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year.
Strong, who is back, paced the Mountain West in passing yards (2,858), passing touchdowns (27), completion percentage (70.1), and ranked in the FBS top 10 in completions per game (27.7, second), passing yards per game (317.6, seventh), completion percentage (seventh), and touchdown passes (ninth), while coming in 11th in passing yards. Strong also finished the year with an interception rate of just 1.13, throwing just four picks over 355 attempts.
This season and for the first time in Norvell’s tenure and since joining the Mountain West, Nevada is the preseason favorite to top the West Division. Nevada placed four players on the 2021 preseason All-Mountain West team, led by earning preseason Offensive Player of the Year honors. Joining Strong on the All-Mountain West preseason first team were senior wide receiver Romeo Doubs, senior tight end Cole Turner and junior place kicker Brandon Talton.
San Jose State Spartans (+450)Long a doormat in the Mountain West — the Spartans had six straight losing seasons, with just eight combined wins the previous three years before last fall — SJSU enters the 2021 season as one of the league favorites fresh off its first league title since winning the Big West in 1991. The Spartans finished the 2020 season with a 7-1 loss record, a berth in the Arizona Bowl and were ranked 24th nationally in the final Associated Press poll.
Other than a couple of its top receivers, SJSU is returning nearly every starter from its championship team thanks to the extended eligibility the NCAA granted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Coach Brent Brennan has worked wonders with the program.
Quarterback Nick Starkel leads the returning starters. Starkel earned second-team All-Mountain West honors and was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player of the Mountain West championship football game throwing for 453 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a 34-20 victory over Boise State. He completed 64.2 percent of his passes overall for 2,174 yards and 17 touchdowns directing an efficient offense that averaged almost 29 points a game.
Defensively, Cade Hall has been named a preseason All-American candidate. Hall is the first San Jose State football player to receive USA Today preseason All-America honors and is his latest recognition for a 2020 season in which he was credited with 10.0 quarterback sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss in the seven games he played.Expert PredictionBoise State over Nevada in Mountain West title game
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