When it was all said and done, the Mountain West didn’t really leave us with any excitement.
There were some teams that were more competitive than what was anticipated and a couple of squads that didn’t reach their full potential. In the end, though, it was who everyone expected playing in the title game: Fresno State and Boise State.
Fresno did this with an impressive midseason turnaround. Losing Jake Haener in Week 2, the Bulldogs went on to drop four straight games and were staring at a 1-4 record. That included a conference loss to Boise.
But that was the only conference loss for Fresno. And they avenged it.
The Bulldogs rattled off a nine-game win streak, not losing another game on their way to a MW title and a win over Washington State in the LA Bowl.
Boise was almost as hot as Fresno going into that championship game. Outside of a loss to BYU in Week 9, the Broncos had won their last seven games and capped the regular season with a victory over Utah State.
The transition to Taylen Green at QB and some coaching changes helped the Broncos quickly change its season around early — just as Fresno did. Boise finished the year with a win over North Texas in the Frisco Bowl.
Before the loss to Boise, Utah State was on a three-game win streak and was 5-2 in conference play. The Aggies had picked up quality wins over Air Force and San Jose State. Their losses had come to UNLV in late September and Wyoming four weeks later.
The Rebels were turning heads early in the year but quickly fell off.
On the other hand, UW picked up a huge win over Air Force in Week 4 but dropped its next two to BYU and San Jose State. The Cowboys won their next four — albeit beating teams in the bottom pack of the league. They finished the regular season with losses to Boise and Fresno, followed by a loss to Ohio in the Arizona Bowl.
Surprisingly, Air Force tied with USU and UW at 5-3 in the conference, but the Falcons lost to both of those teams. Their other loss in the league came to Boise before closing the regular season with a five-game win streak, defeating San Diego State 13-3 in their final regular season outing. AF went on to beat Baylor in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Always competitive, it was sort of a ho-hum season for the Aztecs in their third season of the Brady Hoke era. The Aztecs didn’t necessarily have any eye-popping wins, and their best conference win was probably a 43-27 win over San Jose State in Week 10. They even dropped their bowl game to Middle Tennessee State.
It was the same boat for SJSU, who didn’t have any victories to write home about and whose best win was probably over Wyoming. Still, the Spartans finished 7-4 and 5-3 in MW play.
With the Aztecs and the Spartans finishing second and third in the West Division — where they were selected to in the preseason media poll — there wasn’t much of a surprise on that side of the conference. The biggest was probably Nevada not going 0-8 in league play.
Looking ahead to next season, Boise is the early favorite to win it all, but that’s a long ways away and things can and will probably change. The transfer portal is still open for a couple of days.
Let’s just hope whatever happens, that maybe the MW can provide a little more intrigue in 2023.