Mountain West Football: Which Teams Return The Most Production In 2022?
In 2021, Mountain West football had a number of extremely experienced teams. In 2022? Not so much.
Could the title hunt be wide open?
Ahead of revealing his early off-season SP+ projections, ESPN’s Bill Connelly unveiled his count of returning production figures for every team in college football this morning.
Unlike last season, when a bevy of super seniors returning for an extra year of eligibility pushed eight Mountain West teams into the top 40 nationally, the situation in the conference is much different this time around thanks to graduations, transfer portal departures, and early exits to the professional ranks.
How is the percentage measured? According to Connelly, it considers the following three questions: “How good has your team been recently? How well has it recruited? And perhaps most importantly, who returns from last year’s roster?” Additionally, quarterback production tends to weigh the heaviest of any individual position on offense, accounting for more than one quarter of production, while defensive backs account for slightly more than half of the overall figure on defense.
- 131. Nevada — 27% (20% offense, 34% defense)
- 130. Hawaii — 33% (33% offense, 33% defense)
- 115. San Diego State — 54% (44% offense, 64% defense)
- 113. Utah State — 55% (63% offense, 47% defense)
- 112. Wyoming — 55% (51% offense, 59% defense)
- 107. San Jose State — 57% (58% offense, 55% defense)
- 101. New Mexico — 57% (44% offense, 71% defense)
- 73. Colorado State — 64% (55% offense, 73% defense)
- 70. Air Force — 65% (70% offense, 59% defense)
- 38. Boise State — 73% (65% offense, 81% defense)
- 22. Fresno State — 78% (83% offense, 73% defense)
- 17. UNLV — 80% (76% offense, 84% defense)
James Madison’s move up from the FCS ranks means that there are now 131 FBS teams. That, in turn, means that the Warriors and Wolf Pack, following their respective chaotic early off-seasons, currently stand as the two least experienced squads anywhere in the country ahead of spring practices. Both of last year’s Mountain West football championship participants, San Diego State and Utah State, also face an uphill battle in replacing talents, albeit on different sides of the ball.
On the other hand, Connelly notes that the Fresno State Bulldogs are one of seven FBS teams who finished last year in SP+’s top 50 and currently sit among the top 30 in returning production. The Boise State Broncos aren’t too far behind them, either, after a down year relative to their historic expectations, which could bode well for their chances to rebound in the Mountain division, but the real surprise is UNLV leading the way as the only team in the conference to clear 80%. Coincidentally, that trio of Mountain West teams are the only ones above the current national average of 66%.
How can all of this be important to this year’s championship race? As Connelly explains, 11% of FBS teams on average return less than 50% of their production and, assuming a top-40 team, tends to have a regressive impact worth about 27 spots in the overall SP+ rankings. This likely means that Hawaii and Nevada fans may want to start taking a long view and that nearly everyone else may have a chance to surpass expectations given the close separation in the middle.
Conversely, a top-40 team from 2021 returning at least 80% of its production would improve by 25 spots in the overall SP+ rankings the following year. While the Rebels haven’t yet reached that level of quality, it does provide some optimism about their chances to take a big leap toward bowl eligibility in 2022.