2023 Mountain West Conference Season Preview & Best Bets: Don't sleep on Colorado State

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Caleb Wilfinger


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Deputy Editor for Pickswise with years of experience handicapping and giving out winning picks. Lover of all US sports and Southampton FC. For Caleb Wilfinger media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
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The 2023 college football season is finally on the horizon. The battle for a spot in the College Football Playoff begins on August 26 and won’t slow down until December. Last season’s National Championship game saw Georgia knock off TCU in lopsided fashion to claim its second straight national title. Could we see the Bulldogs 3-peat this season? It’s certainly possible.

With the offseason chaos in the rearview mirror, it’s time to delve into the futures market for each conference. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Mountain West, a conference that is no stranger to making some noise against Power 5 opponents. There are a handful of major contenders at the top, and I could conceivably see up to 5 teams potentially winning this league come December. This should be a league with plenty of strong defenses, and plenty of questions at the quarterback position. Let’s take a look at the odds and best bets to make before the season starts.

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Mountain West Championship Odds

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing

Boise State (+185)
Fresno State (+380)
Air Force (+430)
San Diego State (+750)
Wyoming (+1300)
San Jose State (+1500)
UNLV (+1600)
Colorado State (+2000)
Utah State (+3400)
Nevada (+5500)
Hawaii (+11100)

2022 was an excellent season for the Mountain West, as the likes of Fresno State, Boise State, San Diego State and Air Force all had aspirations of capturing the conference championship. In the end, it was the Fresno State Bulldogs that rode Jake Haener and their stout defense to a championship, dispatching longtime conference stalwarts Boise State in the process. Will Fresno State be able to repeat in 2023? Let’s take a look at the serious contenders for the Mountain West title and my best bets.

Mountain West Contenders

Boise State

The Boise State Broncos are used to being the top dogs in this conference, and that is one against the case this season if the oddsmakers are to be trusted. Boise State’s defense should be excellent under head coach Andy Avalos, much as it was last season en route to an appearance in the conference championship game.

For the Broncos to be the best team in this league, they’ll need a better season from quarterback Talen Green, who showed flashes of brilliance but was too inconsistent overall to be a reliable presence under center. Another issue the Broncos will face is a schedule, as they’ll open the season as a massive underdog against Washington before hosting UCF the following week. In conference, Boise State will have road games against San Diego State, Colorado State and Fresno State, while also traveling for a midseason nonconference road game against Memphis. This could be a very difficult season if the offense doesn’t click.

Fresno State

The defending conference champions have a lot on their plate in 2023, and it all starts at the quarterback position. Logan Fife does have experience as a starter, but most of it came in spot starts for Jake Haener while the longtime Fresno State quarterback was injured last season. Fife struggled with turnovers and the team turned to the ground game and relying on its rock sold defense to gut their way through some wins in conference play. That style of play could very well be more indicative of what the Bulldogs do this season. The schedule features games against Purdue and Arizona State in the nonconference, as well as road tests against San Diego State and Wyoming in league play. There are too many questions with this team to recommend placing a future on them in either direction.

Air Force

One of the more quietly consistent programs in the Group of 5 has been Air Force, and the Falcons are expected to be strong once again in 2023. This team had a puncher’s chance of running the table a season ago, but ultimately stumbled down the stretch. However, they should be right in contention once again for a Mountain West championship this fall. The Falcons can be expected to run the ball and control the trenches against their opponents, and they also return 8 of their top 11 tacklers from an elite defense a season ago. The schedule is very manageable, with at least 9 games where the Falcons should be favored and a late-season contest against Boise State potentially being the difference in the Falcons making the Mountain West title game.

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Mountain West best bet: Colorado State over 4.5 wins (-160) & over 5.5 wins (+100)

Odds available at FanDuel Sportsbook at time of publishing.

Last season, I backed Fresno State to win the Mountain West at 3/1 odds, but I’ve got major questions with all of the contenders for the conference this season. Therefore, I’ll look a little further down the board for my best bet, which will focus on the Colorado State Rams to go over 4.5 wins, and an alternate win total at over 5.5 wins as well. This way you have the option to skip out on the heavy juice if you’d prefer to just place one wager. Win totals often come down to projections made in the offseason, and I just don’t think the sportsbooks are properly rating the talent that head coach Jay Norvell has on this roster.

Norvell took over a program in disarray a season ago, and the results were what most could expect. The Rams couldn’t block, they struggled on defense and they got poor injury luck on top of that. However, this is a terrific coach who has proven success in this conference, particularly in his second season on the sidelines. In his first season at Nevada, the Wolfpack went 3-8, but he followed that up with an 8-5 campaign in year 2. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw a similar case here. Defensively, the Rams return 8 starters, while they’re essentially getting a brand new offensive line this season. Most importantly, Colorado State has one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Clay Millen, who’s about to start his second season under center. All signs point toward the Rams making a significant jump this fall.

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