NCAA Football 2017 Season
MW West Preview
San Diego State has claimed back-to-back Mountain West titles, and coach Rocky Long’s team begins 2017 in great shape to repeat. The Aztecs should be solid on defense once again, with the offense expected to lean heavily on the one-two punch of Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington to replace Donnel Pumphrey at running back. San Diego State is a heavy favorite to return to the conference title game. Hawaii and UNLV headline the league’s sleeper teams in the MW West to watch this fall. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
San Diego St. Aztecs
San Diego State went 16–2 against conference foes while winning back-to-back Mountain West titles and expects to compete for a third. The Aztecs have won 11 games just four times in school history, with two of those seasons coming in the past two years. Long has established San Diego State as a sturdy program that can prevail at a level higher than the collective talent. The formula of physically running the ball with an opportunistic defensive assault wears down opponents and has helped lead to a school-record seven consecutive bowl appearances. The Aztecs routed Cincinnati and Houston by a combined 76–17 in their past two bowl games and should be one of the top non-Power 5 teams in the nation this season.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Now that Hawaii has broken a five-year string of losing seasons, the expectation for Year 2 of Nick Rolovich’s tenure as head coach is for the Rainbow Warriors to capture their first winning season since 2010. The target is reachable thanks to a less arduous schedule — Hawaii traveled more than 46,000 miles in 2016, double most NFL teams — and a strong returning core on offense. But the Warriors will have to shore up a defense that yielded an average of 37.3 points per game and reduce an overall propensity for penalties, an area where they ranked 127th in the nation, to make the climb.
The Rebels have improved their win total by one game in each of Tony Sanchez’s first two years as head coach, which was good enough to earn the former prep national championship coach at nearby Bishop Gorman High School a three-year contract extension through 2021 and a $100,000 per year raise. With Mountain Division heavyweights Boise State, Colorado State and Wyoming all coming off the schedule rotation this year and a deeper squad to work with, UNLV will have an opportunity to take another step foward in 2017. The Rebels should field one of the conference’s top scoring offenses this year. The question is: Will they be able to slow opponents down enough to parlay that into the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility?
Nevada Wolf Pack
Rebuilding will take some time. Adopting a new offensive system and reforming a defense that has struggled will lead to growing pains. And with many of its toughest games on the road, including dates against Northwestern, Washington State, Boise State and San Diego State, easy wins will be scarce for Nevada. They do have some talent, but bowl eligibility is a long shot.
Fresno St. Bulldogs
Head coach Jeff Tedford got a five-year contract with huge performance bonuses and rollovers that could make it an eight-year deal. In other words, plenty of time to clean up this mess. He’ll need it after inheriting a roster with few returning standouts, low scholarship numbers and a losing culture. Tedford has resurrected lifeless programs before, but Fresno State’s rugged non-conference schedule (Alabama, Washington, BYU) likely means .500 is at least a year away.
San Jose St. Spartans
Brent Brennan takes over as a first-time head coach, but he is familiar with the program — he was an assistant at the school for six seasons (2005-10), and his father played at San Jose State in the late 1960s.
He faces challenges at quarterback and finding enough quality players to fill out the front seven on defense, so it is hard to see San Jose State improving on last season’s 4–8 mark — even though the Spartans do not face Boise State or Air Force from the Mountain Division.