College football

2017 Preview:
Mountain West Conference

Predicted order of finish

1 Boise State
2 Air Force
3 Colorado State
4 New Mexico
5 Wyoming
6 Utah State

1 San Diego State
2 Hawaii
3 Nevada
4 San Jose State
5 Nevada Las Vegas
6 Fresno State 

champion Boise State

Mountain Division

#10: Boise State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Boise State has not ranked as a top 25 team at the end of the regular season in back-to-back years for the first time since 2000-01, but there's no reason to panic under coach Bryan Harsin. The Broncos return eight starters this fall, including quarterback Brett Rypien and big-play receiver Cedrick Wilson. Sophomore Alexander Mattison looks like a breakout candidate at running back to replace Jeremy McNichols. Scoring points won't be a problem for Boise State. However, how fast can the defense reload after returning just four starters and suffering key losses at each level?

#17: Air Force | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Falcons have won 28 games over the last three seasons and face a huge rebuilding effort in 2017. Coach Troy Calhoun returns just one starter on defense, and the offense must replace standout receiver Jalen Robinette. Quarterback Arion Worthman is a rising star and could emerge as one of the league's top signal-callers by the end of 2017. With running back Tim McVey and three starters up front returning, the ground game should still rank among the nation's best. Air Force is one of the Mountain West's most reliable programs under Calhoun, but 2017 has the look of a rebuilding year with significant losses on both sides of the ball.

#50: Colorado State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Rams return 13 starters from last year's 7-6 squad. Colorado State has quarterback Nick Stevens and receiver Michael Gallup anchoring the offense. But the Rams defense needs improving. Last season the Ram defense surrendered 30.4 points per game last fall and ranked eighth in the Mountain West against the run.

#51: New Mexico | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
New Mexico turns over the head coaching reigns over to Bob Davie this season. The Lobos have some issues on defense to address. This unit allowed 31.5 points per game in 2016 and returns just three starters. The secondary is an area of great concern for coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, especially in non-conference matchups against Texas A&M and Tulsa. The Lobos led the Mountain West in scoring offense (36.7 ppg) and should be explosive once again with quarterback Lamar Jordan and running back Tyrone Owens leading the way. The passing attack needs to improve, and New Mexico regains the services of receiver Delane Hart-Johnson after he missed all of 2016 due to injury.

#79: Wyoming | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Wyoming has quarterback Josh Allen back, but lose running back Brian Hill and must deal with a revamped receiving corps and solid offensive line provide a good foundation. Similar to Colorado State and Boise State, Wyoming enters the year with question marks on defense. Coach Craig Bohl's group returns nine starters but struggled against the run and gave up too many big plays against the pass.

#100: Utah State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
Utah State's Matt Wells is looking to rebound after last year's 3-9 campaign. The three-win season snapped a string of five consecutive bowl berths for the Aggies. However, this program lost four games by seven points or less, suggesting some quick improvement is there for the taking in 2017. The addition of new coordinator David Yost should help quarterback Kent Myers in his development, and the secondary is among the best in the Mountain West. The top concern for Wells rests at the line of scrimmage. Both sides of the ball are undergoing renovations in the trenches - how quickly will the right answers emerge? A tough schedule also limits Utah State's hopes for improvement. The Aggies must play Wisconsin, Wake Forest and BYU in non-conference play, while catching swing games against UNLV, New Mexico and Air Force on the road.

West Division

#11: San Diego State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
San Diego State is in great shape to repeat. Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington should form an effective one-two punch on the ground. Quarterback Christian Chapman was steady in his first full year as the starter and should take a step forward in 2017. But the Aztecs don't have a deep collection of receivers, and the offensive line features four new starters. Even if the offense regresses on the stat sheet, the defense should remain one of the league's best with six returning starters. However, replacing standout cornerback Damontae Kazee, linebacker Calvin Munson and linemen Alex Barrett and Kyle Kelley won't be easy.

#65: Hawaii | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Rainbow Warriors showed marked improvement in coach Nick Rolovich's first year and played in the program's first bowl since 2010. With a full year as the starter from quarterback Dru Brown, along with a seven other returning starters, the offense should easily improve off last season's scoring total (28.3 ppg). A revamped secondary is Rolovich's top concern on defense, while All-Mountain West selections in linebacker Jahlani Tavai and end Meffy Kolomatangi anchor the front seven. Another bowl bid is easily within reach for Hawaii, but unless the defense shows marked improvement - 37.3 points per game in 2016 - the Rainbow Warriors will be right in the seven/eight-win range once again.

#86: Nevada | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Wolf Pack will be looking to running back James Butler, one of the Mountain West's top offensive players a season ago. Nevada returns seven starters return on defense and Alabama transfer David Cornwell should be a good fit at quarterback for the new scheme.

#102: San Jose State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Spartans won four games last year but are likely to struggle to reach that mark in 2017. Uncertainty remains under center for Brennan, and the offensive line allowed a whopping 50 sacks in 2016. Additionally, depth on defense - especially up front - remains a concern.

The Rebels are on the right track. UNLV has a dynamic offense, headlined by standout receiver Devonte Boyd and redshirt freshman Armani Rogers at quarterback. UNLV also returns one of the Mountain West's deepest backfields and top offensive lines this fall. But their defense has to improve. This unit gave up 36.8 points per game in 2016 and returns only two starters.

#127: Fresno State | ROSTER | SCHEDULE
The Bulldogs have a lot of holes to plug on both sides of the line. WR KeeSean Johnson, Jr is the lone bright spot on offense. And the defensive secondary remains a trouble spot.

2017 Preseason Ranking

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