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2023 Mountain West Football Predicted Order of Finish

Projected win-loss records for each team with a schedule analysis & predictions for every game

Posted on August 2, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

Over the past couple of months, we’ve brought you our 2023 Mountain West previews for each team as well as our All-Conference Teams.

Having brought you season previews for all 12 teams, here is my predicted finish for the Conference.

Below you’ll also find a schedule analysis, predictions for every game, a link to each team’s full preview, and a championship game pick.

1. Boise State (7-1, 9-3)  
The Broncos’ schedule is daunting. The non-conference slate sees trips to Washington and Memphis with visits from UCF and North Dakota.

The three FBS opponents all played in bowl games to end 2022 while North Dakota made the playoffs at the FCS level.

In Mountain West play, they don’t miss any of the contenders. San Diego State and Fresno State are road games while San Jose State, Wyoming, and Air Force come to the blue turf.

The visit from Wyoming comes following the Broncos’ bye, but the Cowboys will also be coming off a bye week. San Jose State will also have a full week to get ready for BSU.

While the schedule is demanding, it should not be anything Boise State can’t handle. The Broncos are the most talented team in the Conference and should find themselves playing for the championship again.

The Broncos’ consistent winning ways show no sign of ending this season, but they certainly hope the championship drought does.

Boise State Predicted Results

Sept 2 at Washington (L)
Sept 9 vs UCF (W)
Sept 16 vs North Dakota (W)
Sept 22 at San Diego State (W)
Sept 30 at Memphis (L)
Oct 7 vs San Jose State (W)
Oct 14 at Colorado State (W)
Oct 28 vs Wyoming (W)
Nov 4 at Fresno State (L)
Nov 11 vs New Mexico (W)
Nov 18 at Utah State (W)
Nov 24 vs Air Force (W)

Link to Full Boise State Preview
2. San Diego State (6-2, 8-4)

Three of San Diego State’s four nonconference opponents won at least nine games in 2022 in Ohio, UCLA, and Oregon State.

The good news is two of those three are at Snapdragon Stadium with the only road trip to Oregon State.

The Aztecs have just one win over UCLA in 23 meetings, but since 2016, San Diego State has collected six wins over Pac-12 opponents.

Ohio was a 10-win team in 2022 and will be a tough opener in Week 0.

The entire opening stretch ahead of their first bye week is brutal. Following the non-cons, the Aztecs open MW play with a visit from Boise State and a trip to Air Force.

There is a chance the record might not look really good at this point. Brady Hoke and the staff could have a challenge keeping this team together if they are sitting 1-5 or 2-4 at this point.

They rebounded from the tough open last season, and I’d fully expect this team to fully handle any early adversity that may come. On the flip side, if they enter that bye with a 4-2 or 5-1 mark, spirits will be high.

The back end of the schedule eases with Hawaii and Nevada ahead of a second bye. The four to end the season sees home games with Utah St and Fresno State with trips to San Jose State and Colorado State.

No matter how the Aztecs open after six games, they have a good chance to flip the script and finish strong.

Those two to open conference play could loom large at the end year in just how far the Aztecs find themselves in the Mountain West standings.

If there is not an all-out collapse after a rough start this team will be bowling in December.

San Diego State Predicted Results

Aug 26 vs Ohio (W)
Sept 2 vs Idaho State (W)
Sept 9 vs UCLA (L)
Sept 16 at Oregon State (L)
Sept 22 vs Boise State (L)
Sept 30 at Air Force (W)
Oct 14 at Hawai’i (W)
Oct 21 vs Nevada (W)
Nov 4 vs Utah State (W)
Nov 11 at Colorado State (W)
Nov 18 at San Jose State (L)
Nov 25 vs Fresno State (W)

Link to Full San Diego State Preview
3. Air Force (6-2, 10-2)
Air Force gets Robert Morris and Sam Houston in the nonconference portion of the schedule in addition to a trip to Navy and Army coming west to play in Denver.

Obviously, anything can happen in the games against the other service academies, but the Falcons would seem to have an edge talent-wise this season.

Getting Army in Colorado and Navy breaking in a new coach would seem to point to an unblemished nonconference mark for the Falcons.

In conference play, among the frontrunners, they get San Diego State and Wyoming at home along with UNLV and Utah State.

The Falcons are 42-10 at home since 2014. They are very tough to beat at Falcon Stadium. Last season the lone home loss was to Boise State.

The road portion of MW play takes them to San Jose State, Colorado State, Hawai’i, and Boise State.

Should the Falcons be able to hold serve at home and even get two of those first three on the road, the game with the Broncos on Thanksgiving weekend could be a preview of the Conference title game.

It could also be a de facto elimination game for the losing side.

Troy Calhoun has built a winning program in his 16 seasons at his alma mater. This season will be no different and could be the year Air Force takes the next step in their quest for their first MW Conference Championship.

The Falcons could be favored in each of their first 11 games of the season and could enter the finale against Boise State with double-digit wins.

Air Force Predicted Results

Sept 2 vs Robert Morris (W)
Sept 9 at Sam Houston (W)
Sept 16 vs Utah State (W)
Sept 23 at San Jose State (W)
Sept 30 vs San Diego State (L)
Oct 14 vs Wyoming (W)
Oct 21 at Navy (W)
Oct 28 at Colorado State (W)
Nov 4 vs Army (W)
Nov 11 at Hawai’i (W)
Nov 18 vs UNLV (W)
Nov 25 at Boise State (L)

Link to Full Air Force Preview
4. Wyoming (6-2, 7-5)

The last time the Cowboys hosted a Power Five program they beat Missouri 37-31 to open the 2019 season.

They will get a chance to spring another upset at home as Texas Tech visits to open this season. That will be the first of two games against Big 12 opponents as the Cowboys will visit Texas in the third game.

In conference play, Wyoming will open with New Mexico followed by a crucial three-game stretch that sees Fresno State come to town ahead of two road games against Air Force and Boise State.

Wyoming has a bye before the trip to Boise. No respite for UW in either of those tough road games though as both the Falcons and Broncos will have an open week prior to those meetings.

The Cowboys have won the Bronze Boot from Colorado State in six of the last seven meetings and a home date with the Rams kicks off a four-game stretch to end the regular season in which the Cowboys should be favored in each.

San Jose State and San Diego State are off the schedule this season to lessen the load a bit in conference play.

All in all, it is a schedule that sets up pretty well for Wyoming to make a lot of noise in the Mountain West if they can get past the three-game stretch in October.

The Cowboys have a chance to take that next step this season and get that first MW title, the offense will just have to produce a little more and stay on the field a little longer.

The defense is going to be very good but will need a little bit of help.

Wyoming Predicted Results

Sept 3 vs Texas Tech (L)
Sept 9 vs Portland State (W)
Sept 16 at Texas (L)
Sept 23 vs Appalachian State (L)
Sept 30 vs New Mexico (W)
Oct 7 vs Fresno State (W)
Oct 14 at Air Force (L)
Oct 28 at Boise State (L)
Nov 4 vs Colorado State (W)
Nov 11 at UNLV (W)
Nov 18 vs Hawai’i (W)
Nov 25 at Nevada (W)

Link to Full Wyoming Preview
5. San Jose State (5-3, 6-6)

This season, the Spartans open with a pair of Pac-12 contenders with a trip to USC to open things, followed by a visit from Oregon State.

The Spartans may not get a win in either of those games but should come out of them stronger. Cal Poly and a trip to Toledo close out the non-conference schedule.

In Mountain West play, San Jose State gets visits from Air Force, Utah State, Fresno State, and San Diego State. The only one of the big boys that the Spartans must travel to is Boise State.

They get a bye week to prepare for that one and another bye ahead of the rivalry game with Fresno State. New Mexico is the only team on SJSU’s schedule that will be coming off a bye week ahead of their matchup.

There are a few holes to fill, certainly, but this team should still be able to win games. Defensively the pressure will come, it’s just a matter of how quickly things can click.

Once it does, look for ball-hawking defensive backs to create plays and get the ball back once again.

How quickly that arrives, coupled with the offensive line being a cohesive unit this season will be the factors in if this team continues to play in bowl games to end the season or has a slight drop off from the 7-6 campaign of 2022.

San Jose State Predicted Results

Aug 26 at USC (L)
Sept 3 vs Oregon State (W)
Sept 9 vs Cal Poly (W)
Sept 16 at Toledo (L)
Sept 23 vs Air Force (L)
Oct 7 at Boise State (L)
Oct 14 at New Mexico (W)
Oct 21 vs Utah State (W)
Oct 28 at Hawai’i (W)
Nov 11 vs Fresno State (W)
Nov 18 vs San Diego State (W)
Nov 25 at UNLV (L)

Link to Full San Jose State Preview
6. Fresno State (5-3, 8-4)

Fresno State has a pair of Power Five road trips on the non-conference schedule with Purdue and Arizona State. Both of those teams have new coaches and should be near the bottom of their respective conferences.

The Bulldogs have not beaten a Big Ten team since 2010 and are 4-5 against Pac-12 opponents since 2017, but either one of these games could be there for the taking.

In conference play, they will open with Nevada and then travel to Wyoming and Utah State ahead of their bye week. That is a tough back-to-back.

Following the bye week, the Bulldogs host UNLV and then they have a difficult four-game stretch to end the season awaits with Boise State and trips to San Jose State and San Diego State among the final four of the regular season.

How they navigate that stretch could be the difference in getting a chance to defend their title or not.

Even in a rebuilding year, the Bulldogs should be in the MW hunt. The offense has a lot of weapons to get back into place, but they still have a lot of depth on that side of the ball.

A Jeff Tedford-coached team is going to get things working pretty quickly on offense. While the offense was the star of the show last season, it could be the defense in the spotlight this year.

Especially in those early season road tilts while the offense may still be finding themselves.

If things can click on the D-line and they can get to the QB then the Bulldogs could have a chance of running 2022 back.

Fresno State Predicted Results

Sept 2 at Purdue (L)
Sept 9 vs Eastern Washington (W)
Sept 16 at Arizona State (W)
Sept 23 vs Kent State (W)
Sept 30 vs Nevada (W)
Oct 7 at Wyoming (L)
Oct 14 at Utah State (W)
Oct 28 vs UNLV (W)
Nov 4 vs Boise State (W)
Nov 11 at San Jose State (L)
Nov 18 vs New Mexico (W)
Nov 25 at San Diego State (L)

Link to Full Fresno State Preview
7. UNLV (4-4, 6-6)

Looking at the schedule, UNLV should open with a win against Bryant, although they have lost a pair of games to FCS opponents since 2017.

The nonconference slate toughens up after that with a trip to Michigan followed by a visit from Vanderbilt. A trip to UTEP will be the final tune-up prior to conference play.

A good start to the MW slate is not out of the question. A couple of 50/50 games are there for the taking at the start with Hawai’i and a trip to Nevada following an open week.

A home game with Colorado State and a trip to New Mexico could get the Rebels four conference wins for the first time since 2017.

Needless to say, this is a program in need of some sort of jolt. The Rebels have not seen a player selected in the NFL Draft since 2010 and the last time (and only time since 2001) that UNLV went bowling was in 2014.

Barry Odom certainly has his work cut out for him. It is also fair to say that the new coach is certainly not starting from scratch.

Would I say the Rebels are going to get bowl eligible this season?

Probably not, but the possibility of six wins is certainly there, the Rebels will just need to make sure they take care of business in the games that are winnable.

They also need to stay healthy!

UNLV Predicted Results

Sept 2 vs Bryant (W)
Sept 9 at Michigan (L)
Sept 16 vs Vanderbilt (L)
Sept 23 at UTEP (W)
Sept 30 vs Hawai’i (W)
Oct 14 at Nevada (W)
Oct 21 vs Colorado State (L)
Oct 28 at Fresno State (L)
Nov 4 at New Mexico (W)
Nov 11 vs Wyoming (L)
Nov 18 at Air Force (L)
Nov 25 vs San Jose State (W)

Link to Full UNLV Preview
8. Utah State (3-5, 5-7)

The schedule sees the Aggies host Boise State and Fresno State in conference play with trips to San Diego State, San Jose State, and Air Force.

No other Mountain West team must face all five of those schools this season.

It makes the other three conference tilts versus Nevada, Colorado State, and on the road against New Mexico even more important for the Aggies.

The season opens with a trip to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes.

The Aggies are 1-15 all-time against Big Ten opponents, but the Hawkeyes were offensively challenged in 2022. Albeit a tall order, USU could force some turnovers to get a lead, and who knows?

The other nonconference games bring visits from James Madison and Idaho State and a trip across the country to face UConn. Those are all games the Aggies can get.

Expect the 2023 season to be more of a grind again. In nine seasons as a head coach, Anderson has had his team bowling at the end of the year in eight of them.

Making it nine in ten seasons will be a fight but I’d expect the Aggies will be up for it. The Aggies proved a season ago they can handle a rocky start and I’d look for them to be battling for a bowl bid when November rolls around.

Utah State Predicted Results

Sept 2 at Iowa (L)
Sept 9 vs Idaho State (W)
Sept 16 at Air Force (L)
Sept 23 vs James Madison (W)
Sept 30 at Connecticut (L)
Oct 7 vs Colorado State (W)
Oct 14 vs Fresno State (L)
Oct 21 at San Jose State (L)
Nov 4 at San Diego State (L)
Nov 11 vs Nevada (W)
Nov 18 vs Boise State (L)
Nov 25 at New Mexico (W)

Link to Full Utah State Preview
9. Colorado State (3-5, 4-8)

The schedule does not do the Rams any favors this season.

Their bye week coming on Week Two is sandwiched between a pair of games against Pac-12 opponents in Washington State and Colorado.

They have a pair of road games in the nonconference slate with the trip to Colorado followed by a trip to Middle Tennessee. Getting one of those road games, if not stealing both will be huge.

The middle part of the schedule is the toughest with a five-game gauntlet in conference play which sees them host Boise, Air Force, and San Diego State with road trips to UNLV and Wyoming sprinkled in.

The success of the season could be determined during that stretch and how well the Rams can recover from it with a pair of seemingly winnable games to finish with Nevada at home and Hawai’i on the road.

The bottom line is CSU has to score points this season. In their three wins last season, the Rams had a Red Zone TD rate of 40% in the nine losses that figure fell to 16.7%.

For Year Two of the Jay Norvell era to take off, the offense will need to produce.

Colorado State Predicted Results

Sept 2 vs Washington State (L)
Sept 16 at Colorado (L)
Sept 23 at Middle Tennessee (L)
Sept 30 vs Utah Tech (W)
Oct 7 at Utah State (L)
Oct 14 vs Boise State (L)
Oct 21 at UNLV (W)
Oct 28 vs Air Force (L)
Nov 4 at Wyoming (L)
Nov 11 vs San Diego State (L)
Nov 18 vs Nevada (W)
Nov 25 at Hawai’i (W)

Link to Full Colorado State Preview

10. Nevada (2-6, 4-8)

On the bright side, the Pack gets a home date with New Mexico this season.

usc logoOn the other side of the coin, the opener is a trip to the Coliseum for a date with USC.

But ignoring the opener, Boise State and Air Force are not on the schedule and that will certainly help.

The bottom line is this is a team that should be improved from a season ago—they really could not go much further the other way. They will be improved.

In a perfect world, the offense will be able to get the ground game going and Lewis can make things happen, especially with short precise passes feeding off the run.

But again, it will all come down to the line on offense. Last season the Wolf Pack were outscored 109-58 in the first quarter.

If they can avoid digging the early holes it will also help them keep balance on offense.

If they can get pressure on defense and the backend can allow the pressure time to get there the defense will be much improved.

There is still some room to go before things are back to what had been the norm for the last 18 years. But aside from the opener and a week two meeting with Kansas, the schedule is not daunting.

There is a pathway to four to five wins. When you get to that point you have got a chance.

Who knows? Were the Pack to steal another one or two games here or there, they could even be bowling again.

Nevada Predicted Results

Sept 2 at USC (L)
Sept 9 vs Idaho (W)
Sept 16 vs Kansas (L)
Sept 23 at Texas State (W)
Sept 30 at Fresno State (L)
Oct 14 vs UNLV (L)
Oct 21 at San Diego State (L)
Oct 28 vs New Mexico (W)
Nov 4 vs Hawaii (W)
Nov 11 at Utah State (L)
Nov 18 at Colorado State (L)
Nov 25 vs Wyoming (L)

Link to Full Nevada Preview
11. Hawai’i (1-7, 3-10)

The schedule did them no favors last season as they were destroyed in the opening three games by an average margin of 56-12 by Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky, and Michigan.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12They travel to Vandy for the opener this season and have a trip to Eugene to face the Ducks, but the nonconference schedule is manageable with visits from Albany, New Mexico State, and Stanford.

If they can navigate that stretch at 3-2 or 2-3 at least then the conference slate opens with a visit from UNLV in what could be a 50/50 game to set the tone for the season.

The schedule takes them to New Mexico and Nevada in games that could be winnable.

If things fall their way the season finale vs Colorado State could be with a bowl birth on the line, but again things will need to fall in place and that would be the best-case scenario.

Is this going to be the breakout season Timmy Chang is looking for?

Probably not. But things should be headed in the right direction and the progress for the Rainbow Warriors should be noticeable in 2023.

Hawai’i Predicted Results

Aug 26 at Vanderbilt (L)
Sept 1 vs Stanford (L)
Sept 9 vs UAlbany (W)
Sept 16 at Oregon (L)
Sept 23 vs New Mexico State (W)
Sept 30 at UNLV (L)
Oct 14 vs San Diego State (L)
Oct 21 at New Mexico (W)
Oct 28 vs San Jose State (L)
Nov 4 at Nevada (L)
Nov 11 vs Air Force (L)
Nov 18 at Wyoming (L)
Nov 25 vs Colorado State (L)

Link to Full Hawai’i Preview
12. New Mexico (0-8, 3-9)

The schedule opens with a daunting trip to College Station to face Texas A&M at Kyle Field.

Following that, the nonconference schedule opens for them. Tennessee Tech will be the home opener should get the record to 1-1, a visit from New Mexico State and a trip to UMass follow and both of those could be winnable.

Then it is conference play, and we will see if the improvement, especially on the offensive side of things, will come to fruition.

Divisions are a thing of the past in the Mountain West. The nonconference could yield a 3-1 mark and should be a 2-2 mark at the minimum.

The conference schedule has a trip to Nevada and a visit from Hawaii, both games that could be there for the taking.

Year Four of the Danny Gonzalez regime will need to produce wins. The head man has produced a 7-24 mark in three years in Albuquerque and he is just 3-20 in conference play during his tenure.

This appears to be a make-or-break year for him, but as mentioned, the schedule is set up for more success.

The nonconference portion needs to see them at 3-1 and in addition to Nevada and Hawaii the Lobos also get a visit from Utah State.

All three of those teams are projected to be in the bottom section of the conference—along with New Mexico. If they can get those six wins it will be a huge season for Gonzalez and the Lobos.

The best case is the Lobos get all six of those wins and go bowling, perhaps even stealing another win at home against UNLV or at Wyoming.

Worst case, nothing clicks, and the nonconference results in a 1-3 start and the conference season is long and difficult.

The recruiting class from last spring was solid and should point to more success in the future. The question is whether success will come fast enough for it to matter for the current staff.

New Mexico Predicted Results

Sept 2 at Texas A&M (L)
Sept 9 vs Tennessee Tech (W)
Sept 16 vs New Mexico State (W)
Sept 23 at UMass (W)
Sept 30 at Wyoming (L)
Oct 14 vs San Jose State (L)
Oct 21 vs Hawaii (L)
Oct 28 at Nevada (L)
Nov 4 vs UNLV (L)
Nov 11 at Boise State (L)
Nov 18 at Fresno State (L)
Nov 25 vs Utah State (L)

Link to Full New Mexico Preview
MW Championship game: Boise State over San Diego State

—More from Stephen Vilardo—