3. San Diego State
Position depth ranking: QB: 7 | RB: 2 | WR/TE: 7 | OL: 3 | DL: 1 | LB: 2 | CB/S: 2 | K/P: 9
What the ranking means: Yes, the Aztecs have to replace a lot of talent, but it might be easy to forget they’ve been doing that for about a decade at this point. While setting the bar at 12 wins again might be high, there’s every reason to believe they’ll remain in the mix for another conference title.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: The passing game got better in the second half of last year and found a new gear in the Frisco Bowl against UTSA, so despite the turnover at quarterback, they have the talent in their passing game to hold onto those gains.
The biggest question heading into fall: Considering how much field position matters to San Diego State’s success, how much regression will there be from Matt Araiza to Jack Browning?
A reason for optimism: The Aztecs don’t need an all-conference quarterback to win it all, but Braxton Burmeister looks more than capable of staving off a drop in production from Lucas Johnson and Jordon Brookshire.
A name worth remembering: Brionne Penny, WR
2. Air Force
Position depth ranking: QB: 6 | RB: 1 | WR/TE: 4 | OL: 1 | DL: 7 | LB: 5 | CB/S: 4 | K/P: 5
What the ranking means: The Falcons might have been undersold as a conference title contender.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: On his own, Haaziq Daniels is clearly better than the sixth-best quarterback in the Mountain West. Air Force may also be the rare team that doesn’t need to be above average across the board if they can continue doing what they do best with ruthless efficiency.
The biggest question heading into fall: Now that Jordan Jackson is with the New Orleans Saints, who will step up and help Vince Sanford reinforce the pass rush?
A reason for optimism: Air Force has made a habit of gradually breaking in lots of up-and-comers every year, so losing pieces like Jackson, Tre Bugg and Hawk Wimmer may not be a huge deal when Jayden Thiergood, Eion Castonguay, and Kaleb Holcomb have likely been tabbed as the next cadets up already.
A name worth remembering: TD Blackmon, LB
1. Boise State
Position depth ranking: QB: 3 | RB: 4 | WR/TE: 5 | OL: 2 | DL: 2 | LB: 6 | CB/S: 1 | K/P: 3
What the ranking means: Top to bottom, the song remains the same on the blue. This is a team that has the talent to win another conference championship if they can iron out the sluggish offense that held them back last season.
Why the ranking could be deceptive: You can’t get any higher than first, but the Broncos aren’t without questions of depth at key positions and injury luck hampered their outlook last fall.
The biggest question heading into fall: The Broncos had 52 plays that went for at least 20 yards in 2021 and Khalil Shakir accounted for 18 of them. No one else had more than six last year, so who will provide the explosive plays on offense now that he’s moved on?
A reason for optimism: Hank Bachmeier is healthy. If he stays that healthy, he’ll have a chance to cement himself as the best quarterback in the Mountain West and that’ll go a long way toward cementing the Broncos as a favorite to win the conference.
A name worth remembering: George Tarlas, EDGE