Mountain West 2024 preview: Breaking down Boise State, Fresno State and other contenders

Can Ashton Jeanty and Boise State make another run at the MWC crown? Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire

There's a lot of new in the Mountain West this year. Six of the conference's 12 teams have new head coaches, and eight will have new starting quarterbacks, some more promising than others.

There are two new pseudo-members, too: Though Oregon State and Washington State have not joined the MWC (and are therefore not in this preview), they have entered into a scheduling arrangement with the conference.

As we delve further into this new era of college football -- with particularly destructive conference realignment moves, NIL money, heavier transfer volume and a newly expanded College Football Playoff -- it feels like the MWC is trying to find its place. It hasn't produced the best Group of 5 team in nine seasons (according to the CFP committee), but with new blood comes new opportunity. The AAC has been weakened by recent realignment moves, and while the Sun Belt grades out as the best Group of 5 conference, per SP+, the MWC has two stalwart contenders (Boise State and Fresno State) and UNLV, an exciting up-and-comer. Can one of these teams nab the Group of 5's guaranteed playoff spot? Can some of the new blood find immediate success and bring a little more depth back to what is now the only FBS conference based in the West?

Let's preview the Mountain West!

Every week through the summer, Bill Connelly will preview another FBS conference exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 134 FBS teams. The previews will include 2023 breakdowns, 2024 previews and team-by-team capsules. Here are the MAC, Conference USA and AAC previews.

Jump to a section:
2024 projections | Best games
Title contenders | Who's close?
Hoping for 6-6

2023 recap

We saw quite the midseason plot twist in 2023. Air Force began the season 8-0, pairing a particularly strong option attack with another excellent defense and putting itself in position to perhaps snag the G5's New Year's Six bowl bid. Fresno State, meanwhile, started 8-1; with Boise State stumbling to a 4-5 start and firing coach Andy Avalos, it looked pretty clear that we were cruising toward a Falcons-Bulldogs MWC championship game.

Air Force quarterback Zac Larrier got hurt, however, and the Falcons' offense ground to a halt during a four-game losing streak. Fresno State lost three in a row while collapsing equally on offense and defense. Boise State rose from the dead to win three straight, and new coach Barry Odom's UNLV Rebels sneaked up on everyone, winning eight of nine at one point. Out of nowhere, we had a BSU-UNLV title game, and Boise interim coach Spencer Danielson ended up earning the full-time job with a 44-20 blowout of the Rebels. Per the SP+ ratings, BSU and Air Force ended up almost equal, though the former had to rise into the 40s while the latter fell there.