Mountain West Football: Early 2022 SP+ Rankings Revealed
ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his early preseason projection of who could be among Mountain West football’s most efficient teams next fall.
How does the conference measure up?
SP+, which measures efficiency on both sides of the ball (success rate, explosiveness, and more) and is adjusted for tempo and quality of opponents, reflects returning production, overall recruiting and recent history into its ratings. So how the Mountain West look in this early part of the off-season?
- 39. Fresno State — #28 offense, #56 defense
- 43. Boise State — #72 offense, #16 defense
- 65. Air Force — #65 offense, #62 defense
- 67. San Diego State — #118 offense, #12 defense
- 85. Wyoming — #102 offense, #65 defense
- 86. Colorado State — #108 offense, #57 defense
- 91. Utah State — #73 offense, #102 defense
- 96. San Jose State — #110 offense, #74 defense
- 109. UNLV — #114 offense, #92 defense
- 120. Nevada — #128 offense, #109 defense
- 122. Hawaii — #117 offense, #119 defense
- 126. New Mexico — #131 offense, #78 defense
After four Mountain West teams reached the top 60 by the end of 2021, many in the conference are projected for something of a soft reset, though that isn’t unusual. Connelly notes that, on average, no conference lost more 2021 production across the board, enough to account for a -4.5 adjusted points drop that is more than double of any other.
Fresno State and Boise State lead the way, though the splits on offense and defense reveal where there’s work to be done for the Bulldogs and Broncos. In particular, Boise State’s offensive SP+ projection is, for now, the team’s worst outlook on that side of the ball ever.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most balanced projection for any perceived contender in the Mountain West belongs to Air Force, whose offensive and defensive outlook are separated by just three spots. On average, the projected difference between a Mountain West team’s best and worst unit is 36 spots.
Case in point, San Diego State once again has one of the widest splits of any team in the country, carried by a defense for which SP+ sees no drop-off. In this way, the Aztecs are in the same boat with the likes of Virginia (#6 offense, #116 defense), Coastal Carolina (#30 offense, #112 defense), and USC (#33 offense, #100 defense).
As for defending champion Utah State, the Aggies’ prognostication is much improved from this time a year ago but personnel losses on defense will provide the biggest challenge in this year’s climb. Interestingly, their unit splits are almost a mirror image of the conference champions who preceded them, San Jose State, though both have taken to the transfer portal to reinforce where SP+ has taken its most conservative views.
The bottom of the rankings should come as no surprise, though, since both Nevada and Hawaii suffered heavy production losses through the portal and New Mexico is saddled with what projects at present as the nation’s worst offense. If Lobos fans are looking for upside, however, Rocky Long’s defense carries a better 2022 projection than some of last year’s most successful teams, like UTSA, UCLA and Wake Forest.
The only teams starting ahead of where they finished last season are Colorado State (up one spot) and UNLV (up six spots).