Mountain West Odds: 2023 College Football Betting Preview
The Mountain West Conference (MWC) took some real steps back in 2022. According to Bill Connelly’s SP+ metric, the MWC bottomed out last season, posting an all-time low average ranking. Fresno State took the conference title after returning Jake Haener at QB, stealing the title from Boise State at Albertsons Stadium. Coming into this year, Boise State sits atop Mountain West odds boards, with Fresno State – along with Air Force, San Diego State, and Wyoming – in tow.
Grab a coffee and get ready to talk some late-night football. Welcome to your 2023 Mountain West betting guide, complete with conference odds, win total projections, and a forecast on all 12 teams. Find more college football odds and CFB betting analysis here.
Mountain West Odds: To Win The Conference
Compare Mountain West odds from the best sports betting sites below.
Following the national trends, the Mountain West axed divisions following the 2022 season. Like the ACC, American, Big 12, and Pac-12, the two top teams will compete in the conference championship game. Like the American, Conference USA, and Sun Belt, the MWC plays their conference championship on the highest seed’s home turf. Boise State hosted the title game last year, ultimately losing to Fresno State in bitter cold.
Boise State has a 33.3% implied win rate () for the conference, a notable gap over Fresno State (22.2%), according to BetMGM. Air Force (20%) closes a top-tier in terms of Mountain West odds before we fall into longshot territory.
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Mountain West Odds: Projected Wins, Win Totals
Projected wins below are derived from aggregate power ratings, including SP+, FPI, and more. Win totals are pulled from FanDuel Sportsbook as of Aug. 3.
|Team||Proj. Wins||Win Total||Price|
|Fresno State Bulldogs||9.0||8.5||+140/-176|
|Air Force Falcons||8.4||8.5||-104/-118|
|Boise State Broncos||8.3||7.5||-170/+138|
|San Diego State Aztecs||6.4||6.5||-134/+110|
|San Jose State Spartans||5.3||5.5||-154/+126|
|Colorado State Rams||5.2||4.5||-164/+134|
|Hawaii Rainbow Warriors||5.1||3.5||-118/-104|
|Utah State Aggies||4.9||4.5||-118/-104|
|New Mexico Lobos||3.7||3.5||-105/-115|
Mountain West Power Ratings
Table Key (all ranks except power rankings are national):
– Rank (Power ranking, conference)
– Proj. Wins (Projected total wins)
– Return (Returning production, total)
– Returning O (returning offensive production)
– Returning D (returning defensive production)
– PPD (Points per drive scored)
– PPDA (Points per drive allowed)
– L5 (Last five years recruiting average, national)
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Mountain West KFord Ratings
Mountain West Odds: The Favorites
Boise State Broncos
Following an embarrassing 27-10 loss to UTEP, Boise State fired their offensive coordinator and starting QB Hank Bachmeier hit the transfer portal. That opened the door for RS freshman Taylen Green to take the reigns. Before the 6-foot-6, 220-pound dual threat QB took over, Boise State was averaging 19.3 points per game against FBS opponents; that jumped to 32.5 points per game after the shakeup. The Broncos finished the regular season on a 7-1 run before falling in the conference championship.
Green returns as a potential All-MWC candidate and with plenty of help. Six of his top eight receivers return, although leading receiver Latrell Caples will miss the 2023 season after suffering a preseason injury. Alongside Green in the backfield is all-conference back George Holani (1,157 yards, 13 total TDs). Boise returns three starters on the offensive line, a unit that ranks second in the conference, per Phil Steele. Coming into this season, Boise’s offense should pick right up where it left off.
Defensively, the Broncos should dominate the line of scrimmage. Their defensive line ranks tops in the conference and the linebacking corps packs a punch. DJ Schramm led the team in tackles (107, 11 TFLs) and earned All-Mountain West honors last year. Despite losing multiple NFL Draft picks in the secondary, Boise returns corner Markel Reed from injury and has plenty of talent and veteran experience.
Despite the Broncos being in a lone tier atop the league – they rate 2.4 points higher than Fresno State on a neutral field – they play the toughest schedule in the MWC (86th nationally). Their non-conference includes Washington, UCF, and Memphis, and they play San Diego State and Fresno State on the road. Boise will almost certainly win fewer games than other teams in the conference, but they’ll be an interesting postseason conversation.
Fresno State Bulldogs
How much of Fresno State’s success over the past two seasons was attributed to Jake Haener? Without him in the lineup last season, the Bulldogs went 2-2, but failed to score 21 points in three of those games and lost a 19-14 stinker to UConn. Haener returned to the lineup and Fresno never dropped below 28 points, finishing the season on a nine-game win streak (seven under Haener).
This season, Fresno looks to replace the NFL Draft pick, bringing in UCF transfer Mikey Keene. In 11 starts with the Knights, Keene completed 61% of his passes and posted a 23-7 TD-to-INT ratio. Serviceable as the numbers might be, he’s a massive downgrade at the quarterback position and may not be a lock for the starting job. Six of the Bulldogs’ top seven receivers aren’t on the team this year and all-conference running back Jordan Mims left for the NFL. However, four starters up front return.
Defensively, Fresno returns seven starters, including two All-MWC selections – DT Johnny Hudson and LB Levelle Bailey – and Cameron Lockridge at corner, who co-led the conference with five interceptions in 2022. In contrast to the past two seasons, Fresno State will be a much more defensive-oriented team this coming year.
But even without the offensive prowess of years’ past, Fresno State is in line to win a bunch of games. Their schedule ranks third-easiest in the conference thanks to a non-conference slate of Purdue, Eastern Washington, Arizona State, and Kent State; all three FBS opponents are replacing coaching staffs and a majority of their rosters. Thanks to that strength of schedule, Fresno projects for 9.0 wins, most in the conference.
Air Force Falcons
Only three coaches nationally boast a better record against the spread than Troy Calhoun (60.5%). Only four coaches have been tenured longer at their school and none of them boast that kind of record ATS. In the last three complete seasons, Air Force has won 31 games and lost eight. They’ve won their last four bowl games and finished with a top-25 defense in each of those years. The bottom line is: Air Force is an excellent program immune from roster turnover.
This season, the Falcons have remarkably little roster turnover for a service academy. Thirteen starters return, including eight defensively and three on the offensive line. However, two big names do not: quarterback Haaziq Daniels and bell cow fullback Brad Roberts. Just 47% of production returns offensively (113th), including just one of the top five rushers from 2022. There’s likely regression inbound from an offense that scored 40+ points four times last year and finished 38th in points per drive.
There’s no reason to believe Air Force won’t field one of the top defenses and offensive lines nationally, though (Phil Steele ranks Air Force 16th). Payton Zdroik earned preseason All-MWC honors along the defensive line and leading tackler Trey Taylor returns at safety.
Just once this season does Air Force project to be an underdog (at Boise State in Week 13); only once more do they project to be around a field goal favorite (vs. San Diego State in Week 5). Their 126th-ranked schedule avoids any Power Five opponents and aids the Falcons to 8.4 projected wins.
Mountain West Odds: The Contenders
San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State hasn’t turned out a top-90 offense in points per drive since 2017. After bottoming out at 112th nationally, the Aztecs promoted passing game coordinator and all-time leading SDSU passer Ryan Lindley to call the offense. He works with talented but inexperienced QB Jalen Mayden, who posted the second-best QBR among returning starters in the Mountain West. Mayden has to find a new cast to throw to as his top two receivers don’t return. Chances are, SDSU will have to lean into the run game thanks to a serviceable offensive line and a deep running back room.
Defense is where the Aztecs hung their hat for the past several seasons and will do so again. Only 59% of production and six starters return, but the entire secondary is part of those returners. Linebacker Cody Moon, a transfer from New Mexico, earned preseason All-MWC honors after notching 105 tackles and four PBUs in 2022. SDSU must replace their entire defensive front, a unit that doesn’t have much size or experience.
The Aztecs host UCLA and visit Oregon State in the non-conference, plus host Ohio in Week 0, who may return one of the nation’s top QBs. SDSU projects to play as an underdog in three home games and another two times on the road, with a relative tossup at San Jose State. Because of that, my numbers project further regression, making SDSU for 6.4 wins in 2023.
Wyoming has fared pretty well for a team incapable of attempting a forward pass over the past two seasons. They won 14 games and nearly went 2-0 in bowls despite being a bottom-30 offense and not completing more than 60% of passes. Starting QB Andrew Peasley returns after a dismal year (52% completion, fourth-most turnover-worthy plays) and will likely be extremely limited in his work. Instead, Wyoming will turn to a rebuilt run game. 1,000-yard rusher Titus Swen departs and the Cowboys lost top offensive lineman Emanuel Pregnon late in the transfer cycle.
Northern Illinois transfer Harrison Waylee rushed for 5.9 yards per carry in two seasons, a nice complement to Wyoming’s team 5.6 average last season. He and Dawaiian McNeely lead the backfield that will run behind one of the conference’s biggest offensive lines. The offense fixes to be a quintessential Craig Bohl unit – run the hell out of the football, run a bottom-20 pace of play, and kick on fourth downs. Wyoming ranked dead last in go rate on fourth down (6.4%!!!) and second-to-last in Bill Connelly’s fourth-down profit metric (-1.4 points per game).
But defensively, Wyoming should improve on a decent showing from last season. Ten starters return from a unit that started eight freshmen and sophomores. Linebacker Easton Gibbs earned All-MWC honors in 2022 and again this preseason (121 tackles, six TFL). Two additional starters on the defensive line earned preseason all-conference honors, Jordan Bertagnole and DeVonne Harris.
The Cowboys host both Texas Tech and Appalachian State, plus Fresno State in league play. They’re projected for six one-score games, games more likely to be losses than wins given their offensive style and hesitancy on fourth down. Because of that, I project 5.7 wins for Wyoming.
A Mountain West Longshot To Potentially Back: Colorado State Rams
For a team that went 3-9 and finished in the bottom 10 in per-play offensive efficiency, Colorado State has a ton of talent on their roster. As a true freshman, QB Clay Millen logged the third-best passing efficiency mark in the Mountain West, and the best among returning QBs. His numbers are certainly helped along by stud receiver Tory Holton, who may contend for All-America honors this season. Holton was the recipient of 48.6% of all receiving yards on Colorado State and eight of 12 touchdowns thrown.
Three players land on the preseason All-MWC team, but at least five are all-conference worthy. Nevada transfer center Jacob Gardner is one of those “worthy” players, but the pieces around him on the offensive front are concerning. Per PFF, Colorado State graded out as the worst pass blocking team in the conference (eighth-worst nationally) and the third-worst run blocking team nationally last season. The Rams’ offensive line allowed a ridiculous 59 sacks (18.3% of all dropbacks!), the most in the country.
But outside of their extremely concerning OL is a cast of stud players, particularly on defense. Mohammed Kamara leads returning MWC players with 16 TFLs and 8.5 sacks from a season ago. Their secondary should again be solid, led by All-MWC selection Jack Howell. Around Howell is a bunch of experienced players, with all five being juniors and seniors. Last year, Colorado State finished 35th in PFF’s coverage grade and 42nd in EPA per pass allowed.
Their schedule sets up nicely, but a Week 2 bye followed by 11 straight games hurts a bit. Should the line pull together just enough, Colorado State could see a ton of success in 2023. They’re a team worth backing in the market, especially as the season moves forward.
A Mountain West Team To Fade: Utah State Aggies
The last five seasons have been a rollercoaster ride for Utah State fans. In each season, the Aggies saw at least a five-game difference from the year prior, be it an improvement or regression. Last season, Utah State fell from 11-3 to 6-7, including a blowout loss to Memphis in their bowl game. In 2023, just nine total starters return. They must replace 1,000-yard rusher Calvin Tyler, their top receiver, four starters along the offensive line, and four the top six tacklers from a year ago. Only six teams nationally return less, none of which are in the Mountain West.
Starting QB Cooper Legas posted the fourth-worst QBR among returning starters and managed just a 11-10 TD-to-INT ratio. He doesn’t get a ton of help up front (Steele ranks Utah State’s OL 11th) or among his receivers. Last year, Legas oftentimes forced the football downfield. He recorded both a bottom-20 mark in turnover-worthy plays and a top-15 mark in aDOT (11.4).
Aside from having scant talent on the roster, Utah State finished 4-0 in one-score games last season – a mark likely to come down. The Aggies take on all top-five projected teams in the conference, three of which come on the road. A rough year is likely inbound for Blake Anderson & Co., and I project 4.9 wins for them in 2023.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Most notably, Hawaii plays 13 regular season games in 2023. Over their win total becomes a bit more viable thanks to the extra game, which was one of my preseason win total bets. However, QB Brayden Schrager is among the least inspiring returning QBs nationally, completing just 55% of his passes last season. Defensively, Hawaii projects to be one of the worst units in the nation, ranking no higher than 10th in any individual unit, per Steele’s MWC unit rankings. They project for seven one-score games, although they will be favored in only two of them.
Last year, the market was far off on a Nevada team that lost virtually everything. They made for a gimmie under win total bet. This year, the pendulum has swung too far and the Wolfpack opened for a dismal 2.5 wins, a number that climbed almost immediately to . South isn’t an option for this team’s performance in 2023 and I favor them in three games with an additional two tossups. They land Brendon Lewis from Colorado to start at QB and have one of the better receiving corps in the conference.
New Mexico Lobos
Time might be running out for Danny Gonzales in Albuquerque. He ranks dead last among FBS coaches in record ATS, covering just 25.8% of games at New Mexico. The Lobos bring in UAB interim Bryant Vincent to coach the offense and QB Dylan Hopkins comes along with him – likely the most talented New Mexico QB in years. They return four starters on the offensive line and play the easiest schedule in the Mountain West. New Mexico hasn’t won more than three games since 2016, but with six projected one-score games and one which the Lobos will be favored in, 2023 looks as good a year as any to usurp 3-9.
San Jose State Spartans
Chevan Cordeiro was named first team All-MWC this preseason after accounting for 32 touchdowns a season ago. He’ll look to preseason All-MWC selection Justin Lockhart to fill the shoes of departing 1,000-yard receiver Elijah Cooks. The Spartans return all five starters on the offensive line, a unit that should be among the best in the MWC this season. Offense shouldn’t be an issue and the defense should be serviceable despite losing Junior Fehoko up front. However, the schedule is daunting, as SJSU handles USC, Oregon State, and Toledo outside conference play. Also of note: say goodbye to construction and grass hills! SJSU debuts their remodeled stadium this season.
UNLV made a drastic hire in bringing in big name Barry Odom as head coach. He hired on a couple talented coordinators, including Brennan Marion, one of the best receiver coaches in the country. QB Doug Brumfield showed a lot of promise last year, but he loses two of his top three receivers and dynamic back Aidan Robbins. Defensively, the Rebels fix to be a strong unit under 29-year-old coordinator Mike Scherer. Eight projected starters on defense are juniors or seniors and seven of their top nine tacklers return. The end of UNLV’s season is tough – at Fresno State (Bulldogs off a bye), at New Mexico, vs. Wyoming, at Air Force, and vs. SJSU.
Top Difference Makers To Know
Taylen Green, QB, Boise State: At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Green comes into his RS sophomore year as one of the most exciting QBs in the conference. He threw for over 2,000 yards, rushed for another 644 (10 starts) and won the MWC Freshman of the Year award. Seven of his top eight receivers return from a year ago as does 1,100-yard rusher Holani.
Tory Holton, WR, Colorado State: Holton isn’t just the top receiver in the Mountain West, nor in the Group of Five, but he’s among a handful of elite receivers in the country. In 2022, Holton hauled in over 1,100 of Millen’s 1,900 total passing yards and added eight touchdowns to his resume. Holton will be in consideration for All America status (landed on Phil Steele’s fourth team preseason) and should be an early-day NFL Draft selection.
John Hoyland, K, Wyoming: It’s not often specialists land on “difference makers” lists. Hoyland is absolutely deserving, as he’s generated All America buzz this preseason. Bohl is stingy on fourth down and Hoyland will get plenty of work for Wyoming. He hit 22-of-25 field goals and all 40 extra points as a true sophomore last season and was named first team All-Mountain West.
Mohammed Kamara, EDGE, Colorado State: The word that best describes Kamara off the edge: disruptor. He logged 16 tackles for loss (most among Mountain West returners) and 8.5 sacks (also most among returners) while adding another 11 QB hits. He ranks third nationally in Pro Football Focus’ PRP metric (percentage of hits, sacks, and hurries) among those with 200+ pass rush snaps.
Coaching & Coordinator Changes In The Mountain West
Most Impactful Hires
Barry Odom, HC, UNLV: There’s a specific niche program where a Group of Five school may not have the athletics prowess or budget to recruit at a top level, but their desirable location makes them an attractive place for top-name coaches. UNLV and FAU are two programs that fit that niche. UNLV was able to bring in Odom, who spent time as the head coach at Missouri and lately as an associate head coach with Arkansas. The hire brought in an immediate flux of coaching and playing talent, and makes UNLV an interesting team to monitor.
Ryan Lindley, OC, San Diego State: In two of the last four years, San Diego State won 10+ games while opting not to field an offense. Lindley is the Aztecs all-time leading passer and was promoted from QBs coach to the offensive coordinator. Not since 2017 has SDSU ranked inside the top 90 in points per drive and, after a 7-6 season where the offense bottomed out at 112th, a change had to be made.
- Bush Hamdan, OC, Boise State (Missouri QBs)
- Pat McCann, OC, Fresno State (Passing game coordinator)
- Bryant Vincent, OC, New Mexico (UAB interim HC)
- Troy Reffett, DC, New Mexico (Defensive assistant)
- Mike Scherer, DC, UNLV (Arkansas LBs)
- Joe Cauthen, DC, Utah State (SF Austin DC)