The Idaho Press is counting down the top 20 questions facing the Boise State football team during the 2020 season. Today is question No. 12: Are the Broncos the favorites to win the Mountain West?
This will be the first question to actually get answered in this series as the Mountain West plans to announce the predicted order of finish on Tuesday, as the league begins to announce its preseason polls and honors. These were originally supposed to be announced at the league’s Virtual Media Days July 27-29, but that was postponed by the Mountain West on Monday.
The answer should be a simple one: yes, the Broncos are the favorites to win the Mountain West.
Air Force will probably get some votes — Street and Smith’s preseason magazine actually had the Falcons as the preseason pick over the Broncos — but Boise State should be the top spot when the official poll is released.
The main reason Boise State should be considered the favorites? It’s Boise State. The Broncos have consistently been the top team in the division, and they should continue to be the preseason pick until someone else can prove otherwise. Boise State has won the Mountain Division in four of six years under coach Bryan Harsin, including the last three in a row. That alone should make them the favorite in 2020 regardless of what the rosters or stats would say.
But the rosters also agree. The Broncos bring back quarterback Hank Bachmeier, running back George Holani, receivers Khalil Shakir and CT Thomas and tight end John Bates on offense, as well as a deep list of linebackers and corner/safeties on defense.
The one reason to doubt the Broncos would be nine new starters along the offensive and defensive lines. Only left tackle John Ojukwu is a returning starter on either line, and he’s making the switch from right tackle.
Air Force has the second-longest active win streak in the country at eight entering 2020 but loses 30 seniors. ESPN’s Bill Connelly has Air Force 128th out of 130 FBS teams in returning production.
But the Falcons do bring back 1,000-yard rusher Kadin Remsberg and a pair of likely preseason all-league linemen — a nice place to start for a triple-option offense. Air Force will start five seniors along the offensive line, though just two are returning starters.
And Boise State fans don’t need to be reminded about the weird games against Air Force in the past. The Falcons won three straight against the Broncos from 2014-2016, and Boise State has lost two of its past three games at the Academy — where the game is on Sept. 12.
Wyoming should also be improved this year and contend in the Mountain Division. Boise State needed overtime to top the Cowboys last year in Boise, and this year’s matchup on Nov. 21 is in Laramie. The Cowboys topped Missouri last year and went 8-5 overall — and the return maybe the best running back in the conference in 1,000-yard rusher Xazavian Valladay.
Utah State should take a step back this year with Jordan Love gone, while Colorado State and New Mexico both seem to be rebuilding.
There’s a ton of change on the west side with new coaches at San Diego State, Fresno State, Hawaii and UNLV. Typical challengers San Diego State and Fresno State should compete, but both Nevada and Hawaii could win the West as well.
Cases could be made for both Air Force and Wyoming, but those that look at the facts and try not to get cute should vote for the Broncos. History says it. The returning rosters confirm it.
We’ll see Tuesday if the rest of the media that covers the league agrees.