Wilson’s 2019 MWC Betting Guide: Plenty Of Island Magic Expected

Credit:

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Hawaii Warriors quarterback Cole McDonald (13).

This may be the most predictable conference in all of FBS, but not because of Boise State.

Since the inception of two divisions and a conference championship game in 2013, only Fresno State and San Diego State have represented the West division.

New Mexico and Colorado State are the only teams in the Mountain division to not reach the championship game.

It is expected that Boise State will return, as they are the only team in the Mountain West capable of signing 4-star recruits. A retuning production rank of 22nd on defense for a unit that ranked 38th in S&P+ should equal the best conference defense in 2019.

As for the Western half of the Mountain West, there are plenty of quarterbacks to contend against the monopoly of Aztecs and Bulldogs.

In this piece I will look for value in the MWC Mountain and West division futures, give out my projected win totals compared to what sportsbooks have posted and break down my favorite futures bets for the conference.

MWC West Notes

West discussions should begin with San Diego State and Fresno State. Both teams will have a different look in 2019. Fresno State ranks 129th in returning production losing quarterback Marcus McMaryion, wide receiver KeeSean Johnson and plenty in the defensive line and backfield.

The Bulldogs have finished above fourth in the Mountain West in recruiting only once over the past four years. Fresno State’s new players will start with USC and Minnesota before a conference slate that includes travel to San Diego State, Air Force and Hawaii.

The Aztecs have one of the highest rates of rush versus pass in all of FBS, so the announcement to move to a spread formation was eye opening. San Diego State finished 123rd in passing downs S&P+ with a success rate outside the top 100 in 2018. Even with the move to the spread, look for the Aztecs to run just as much per Rocky Long.

The conference road schedule could not be any better, as the Aztecs travel to bottom dwellers Colorado State, San Jose State and UNLV. A trip to Hawaii comes right after hosting division rival Fresno State.

If the tarot cards read correctly, the Rainbow Warriors scheduling breaks may help Hawaii be the first team to win the West other than the Aztecs and Bulldogs.

After an Oct. 12 game in Boise, Hawaii will only leave the island twice in the remaining seven weeks of play. The Warriors started off red hot in the first half of the 2018 season, with a loss coming in a cross country morning game at Army.

The key point of the season was the injury to quarterback Cole McDonald.

Their overall rank of ninth in returning production will be dependent on defensive contributions. With Cole McDonald a healthy go, the Run-and-Shoot offense makes the Warriors a contender for the division.

Nevada earned negative marks in the offseason for second-order win total and returning production. Quarterback Ty Gangi departs an offense that was 25th in IsoPPP. There will be number of players competing for starting quarterback, including Independence Community College transfer Malik Henry.

The biggest losses on the Wolfpack are in the secondary, namely their top three safeties. Nevada’s first two games against Purdue and Oregon should expose that weakness, while a conference schedule includes back-to-back trips to San Diego State and Fresno State.

Out of eight conference games on the Wolfpack schedule, three teams will be coming off a bye week.

Both UNLV and San Jose State round out the bottom of the West division. The Rebels will again be dependent on the rush with quarterback Armani Rogers.

That does not bode well for a schedule against the best run defenses in the league with Boise State, Fresno State, Wyoming and San Diego State. A bye week before the soft defensive front of Hawaii may be a last ditch effort for head coach Tony Sanchez.

If there is good news for the Spartans, they finished +5 in net turnovers against the Mountain West in 2018. Head coach Brent Brennan posted a 7-5 against the spread mark and cannot get any worse running the ball with a 2018 rushing S&P+ rank of 130th.

MWC Mountain Notes

The Boise State offense lost leading producers at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. The Broncos, who consistently reload through recruiting, will have their playmakers identified by conference play and returning every offensive lineman should bridge the gap.

A conference road schedule includes teams outside the top 100 in FBS including UNLV, San Jose State and Colorado State.

Utah State got negative marks across the board during the offseason. Besides second-order win total, returning production and power rating mean regression, the Aggies took adjustments in the hiring of head coach Gary Andersen.

The former head coach from 2012 had a buyout at Wisconsin and departed Oregon State midseason with 12 million dollars left on the table. Jordan Love returns at quarterback, but Utah State loses their top four receiving targets and return just 19 career starts on the offensive line.

The real MVP of the 2018 Air Force squad was the rush defense. The Falcons blew out Navy and covered heavy rush attack teams like San Diego State and Army. The defensive leaders return in each unit as Air Force takes on plenty of rush heavy offenses.

While Air Force could contend in the Mountain, a back to back road trip to Boise State may knock the Falcons out of contention. Air Force will have plenty of frequent flyer miles after October with trips to Navy and Hawaii.

Wyoming and Colorado State took the biggest dips in returning production. The Cowboys offense that finished 117th in Success Rate loses top running back Nico Evans. There will not be any Laramie home field advantage late in the season, as Wyoming hosts only Colorado State in the month of November.

The Rams may of had all of us fooled after a victory against Arkansas in 2018. Colorado State went on to finish outside the top 100 in offensive, defensive and special teams S&P+. The offensive line and skill positions are depleted while the schedule includes San Diego State and Fresno State from the West.

There was interest in New Mexico moving from a triple option based offense to the spread. The Lobos had no difference in plays per game from a 2017 average of 67 snaps per game to 66 in 2018. The final three games of last year saw an average of 58 plays per game.

A standard downs S&P+ rank outside the top 100 did head coach Bob Davie no favors in staying off the hot seat. If there is good news for the Lobos, the schedule projects to have nine games against teams outside the S&P+ top 90.

Bets to Watch

  • Boise State to win MWC -105: Offensive skill positions missing and a new defensive coordinator may doom the Broncos in the opener against Florida State. Because of the schedule and lack of contenders in the division, Boise State is the best bet to make the conference championship game. The Broncos will not be a pick em, thus giving value to this future.
  • Hawaii to win the MWC +2500: If there is a year where San Diego State or Fresno State do not win the West division, 2019 may be it. Keep in mind that San Diego State switching schemes after a seven-win season and Fresno State losing every player on the roster without reloading could help the Warriors. A healthy Cole McDonald can beat anyone in the conference with the Run-and-Shoot, regardless of how bad the defense is. Five of the last seven games are on the island, and that includes division rival Aztecs and Bulldogs. Any sports book offering division odds would also be worth an investment on the Warriors.
  • New Mexico Under 5: New Mexico has new coordinators for a spread attack that got slower as the year went on. The Lobos lose their top six tacklers in the secondary and will plug holes with junior college transfers. All of the new faces on the roster and the coaching staff will play three of their first four FBS games on the road. Despite having a defense outside the top 100, you can succeed in the Mountain West with an explosive offense. The Lobos offensive IsoPPP rating has moved from 2nd in 2016, to 39th in 2018, to 111th last year. The Under is juiced, but should be played through 4.5 and 4.
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