2023 NCAAF: Mountain West Conference Preview

August 26, 2023


As far as the Group of Five conferences go, the Mountain West has typically produced some of the better teams in the country outside of the Power 5 programs. Much of this success is due to a few banner carriers both current and former, but as a whole the conference has been generally respected by the national media outlets.

Last year was a bit of a diversion in the negative direction, as the conference’s teams struggled to find success outside of the league and generally put together a lackluster collective performance on the national stage.

This year, that tide looks ready to turn back in the right direction, with several teams looking at early season opportunities to impress against non-conference foes and a hotly contested conference title race anticipated. The elimination of divisions within the conference means a more balanced league schedule and the opportunity for the two best teams to face off in a conference championship game.

Teams I Like

Air Force

The Falcons are always a disciplined football team, but recently they have been trending towards being a plain good football team. It is sometimes difficult to believe in big things for a service academy program, but Air Force is legitimately talented enough to win the Mountain West with its current cast.

Although you won’t find a ton of their players on the end-of-season All-Conference lists, the Falcons play a refreshing brand of team football on both sides, particularly on defense where they will once again seek to be one of the best in the country.

Fresno State

The Bulldogs ended the 2022 campaign on a nine-game winning streak, which now stands as the third longest such streak in the country behind Georgia (17) and Troy (11). Like the other Bulldogs, Fresno State must replace a talented quarterback but still feels a conference title is within reach thanks to a stacked defense.

Jeff Tedford’s team would love to begin 2023 more successfully than 2022 started, and much of that will hinge on how quarterback Logan Fife settles in. Given Tedford’s track record developing the position, Fresno State should feel good about its chances.

San Jose State

The Spartans feel like a dark horse in the Mountain West title race, if only because there are a few question marks about a defense that was quietly very productive last season. Replacing not one but two former conference DPOY recipients and their work rate is the unenviable task for defensive coordinator Derrick Odum.

On the offensive side, the Spartans still have Chevan Cordeiro, and that is great news. Cordiero is the most proven commodity at quarterback in the conference and is also deadly with his legs when he needs to be. Even if the defense isn’t quite as good as it was last year, it feels like Cordiero can keep San Jose State in the thick of things.

Not High On

San Diego State

The Aztecs have been incredibly consistent in the Mountain West for over a decade, and on paper this year’s team doesn’t look like one that should be in danger of missing the postseason. The problem is, on paper Jalen Mayden seems like he will take a big step forward. Be wary of this.

Mayden struggled heavily at points last season, including in San Diego State’s bowl game when the majority of college football’s eyes were on him (the Hawaii Bowl is typically the only sporting event on so close to Christmas in the Eastern time zone). Having watched this game, it’s hard to see San Diego State vying for much with Mayden behind center. Perhaps new offensive coordinator Ryan Lindley can bring out the best in him.

New Mexico

Maybe it isn’t worth pointing out at all, but we’re going to do it anyway. There has to be a pick for college football’s worst team in 2023, and New Mexico is the unlucky winner of this preseason award. The Lobos have gone to the transfer portal for a quarterback for the third straight season, but it unfortunately doesn’t appear it will make much difference in the overall win-loss columns.

This prediction was made easier by the fact that another candidate, Massachusetts, plays New Mexico early in the year. Is it unprofessional to refer to the September 23 game between the two teams as the Toilet Bowl?

Players to Watch

Taylen Green, Boise State quarterback

The 6’6”, 223 pound dual threat came to Boise with high expectations, but few (including now departed former starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier) expected him to take the reigns so quickly. The 2022 season was a pleasant surprise with an eye toward the future. Now the future is here, and Green will lead a potent Boise State offense with a year of learning the game at the college level already under his belt.

There is still room to grow, particularly as a passer, but Green is so athletic that sometimes it’s OK if he just lets his instincts take over. The Broncos will be expecting development in the pocket to continue, but in the meantime we shouldn’t forget to sit back and enjoy the show.

Tory Horton, Colorado State wide receiver

Try to remember the name, because Horton will be playing on Sundays not long from now. The league’s best wideout decided to stay in school and at Colorado State, which was great news to a coaching staff looking for ways to breath some more life into the offense.

In addition to his 1,131 receiving yards last season, Horton contributed in the return game, taking a punt back for a touchdown against Wyoming. He is likely to continue both roles this season and will undoubtedly be Rams quarterback Clay Millen’s most targeted option in 2023.

Games to Watch (Non-Conference)

Colorado State at Colorado (September 16, 10 PM ET)

The Mountain West will receive a little bit of the national spotlight in mid-September courtesy of Coach Prime, whose games are sure to attract attention regardless of Colorado’s overall record.

Boise State at Memphis (September 30, TBA time)

Those that are asserting Boise State’s only non-conference challenge is at Washington are grossly overlooking Memphis, which has the talent on both sides of the ball to give the Broncos fits in another road test.

Games to Watch (Conference)

Boise State at Fresno State (November 4, 10 PM ET)

These two teams faced each other twice last season, both on the blue turf. Fresno State won the arguably more important of the two (Mountain West title game) and this season will get to exact regular season revenge on its own, green turf.

Air Force at Boise State (November 24, 4 PM ET)

If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Air Force will face a critical juncture in its quest for a Mountain West title late in the season when it travels to Boise to face the Broncos, in what could be round one of a two part series.


  1. Boise State (10-2, [7-1])
  2. San Jose State (7-5, [6-2])
  3. Air Force (10-2, [6-2])
  4. Utah State (7-5, [5-3])
  5. Fresno State (8-4, [5-3])
  6. Colorado State (7-5, [4-4])
  7. Wyoming (5-7, [4-4])
  8. San Diego State (5-7, [4-4])
  9. Nevada (4-8, [3-5])
  10. Hawaii (4-9, [3-5])
  11. UNLV (2-10, [1-7])
  12. New Mexico (1-11, [0-8])

Conference Title Game

San Jose State at Boise State

Conference Champion: Boise State

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