Which teams will surprise in the Mountain West in 2015?

On Wednesday, we started our discussion on the Mountain West Conference and that discussion will continue today and tomorrow. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtable discussing all things college football.

On Wednesday we talked about players to watch in the MWC. Today we dig deeper into the MWC as we are joined by Jeremy Mauss of Mountain West Connection and David Frerker of San Diego Sports Domination.

Question: Which team will be the biggest surprise in the Mountain West?

Jeremy Mauss:

On Twitter @JeremyMauss

This probably will sound a bit crazy but New Mexico could very well break through and make a bowl game. Their offense has been dangerous in the Mountain West for the past few years with their unique run-based option attack which has many looks including the pistol or a triple-option look similar to Army or Navy. Go back and check the stat line of when they nearly upset Boise State last year. The Broncos had a very good defense and the Lobos attack made them look silly, and if not for an injury to one of the running backs New Mexico very likely would have upset Boise State. The ground attack was fourth in the nation last year and they return both Jhurell Pressley and Teriyon Gipson. That duo combined for 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns, and that is before you include rushing yards from quarterback Lamar Jordan who added another 600 yards.

This offense was already fast-paced and will get even faster with a hurry up, no huddle style this fall. One big change on offense will be the opening up of the passing game.That is where this team struggled on offense and any time the Lobos were in a passing situation the defenses would sit back and make the quarterback beat them and the defense nearly always one. They have the talent in Carlos Wiggins and the New Mexico added a number of wide receivers on signing day, including multiple junior college athletes to step in right away. For the Lobos to make that next step they need their defense to improve and not give up 36 points per game. If they can cut that down to under 30 then a bowl game could be in their future.

David Frerker:

On Twitter: @DavidFrerker

Once again my answer is going to be San Diego State. Many writers believe this is the season that SDSU will finally crack that 10 win mark. San Diego State will play to their strengths this season with the aforementioned monster offensive line and monster running game. I truly believe that SDSU does not have strong competition in the western bracket.

Bart Doan:

On Twitter @TheCoachBart

You can call me all kinds of crazy if you want, and part of it might be house money you’re playing with, but go ahead and give me Wyoming and at the very worst, say they’re going to a Bohl Game. Terrible puns aside, while coach Craig Bohl isn’t healing football leprosy with just his presence, there’s something to be said for winning and having a history of doing it. His last three years before Wyoming, he’d lost a total of two games. His first year at Wyoming? They lost eight.

But the reasons for optimism for one are the fact that the players are another year into the system. Another reason for optimism is the fact that Indiana transfer Cameron Coffman should provide a spark at quarterback and the running game will continue to be stout behind Brian Hill and Shaun Wick, who combined for nearly 1,600 yards rushing. The schedule is conducive to a large spike in wins too. The toughest non conference game is Washington State, and while trips to Boise and Utah State is the MWC version of shaving with a rusty razor, potential swing games against teams like Colorado State and Nevada could be the reason they snare their requisite wins and get to a bowl game. Look for a large year two jump.

Kevin Causey:

On Twitter @CFBZ

The power in the MWC is clearly in the Mountain Division. With four teams winning ten games last season in the Mountain and none in the West Division, it’s clear to me that the surprise (if it’s a good surprise) has to come out of the West.

San Jose State was quite simply a disappointment last year and they finished the year with the whimper. So why should we think they will have a turnaround?

First off, they had a great (and quite large) recruiting class. Secondly, the have a new offensive coordinator in Al Borges. Third? They return the second most starters in the league (tied with Utah State) including 9 on offense.

The biggest issue for SJSU will be stopping their opponents (especially on the ground). The defensive front will have quite a different look this year and if the newcomers can have a big impact then the Spartans could go as far as winning their side of the conference (which is wide open for the taking).

After a 3-9 season, I see the Spartans minimally making a turnaround big enough to be bowl eligible and after last season that will be quite a surprise to some.

Terry Johnson:

On Twitter @SectionTPJ

The biggest surprise in the Mountain West Conference will be the Colorado State Rams.

This pick will certainly raise a few eyebrows. After all, CSU loses its head coach, the best quarterback in school history, and a 1,250-yard rusher. Given the magnitude of these departures, it’s only natural that most experts would expect the Rams to take a step back this fall.

I disagree with this line of thinking. Yes, the losses above leave a handful of huge holes to fill. However, there’s plenty of talent returning on offense, including WR Rashard Higgins (led the nation in receiving yards and TD catches) and TE Steven Walker (All-MWC last year). On the other side of the ball, new DC Tyson Summers will switch to a 4-3 under alignment, which is a much better fit for CSU’s personnel than the 3-4 look it used a year ago.

Adding these factors together, the Rams will definitely surprise some people this fall – many of whom expect them to take a step back.

But, does the word surprise mean “bowl eligible” or “another ten-win season”? Be sure to check out our Colorado State preview in the Bloguin Top 50.