Mountain West Odds, Picks & Futures: How to Bet Fresno State, Air Force & UNLV As Conference Play Ramps Up

Mountain West Odds, Picks & Futures: How to Bet Fresno State, Air Force & UNLV As Conference Play Ramps Up article feature image

Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: The UNLV Rebels.

The Mountain West is transforming into the MAC in terms of its unpredictability. Through the first month of the season, we've seen this conference flip upside down.

This is the last season that the conference will operate with two divisions. Starting next year, the top two teams will meet to play for the championship.

Half of the Mountain West already has a conference game under its belt, while the rest of the programs open Mountain West play this weekend. Below, we look at how each program fared in nonconference play and identify the contenders and pretenders in the conference.

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Mountain West Contenders

Fresno State Bulldogs, 1-2 (0-0)

Fresno State’s odds to win the conference have improved despite losing two of its first three games this season.

That’s because those losses came to Pac-12 opponents in USC and Oregon State. The loss to the Beavers was a heartbreaker that came on a walk-off touchdown.

Walk off win for Oregon State over Fresno State at the buzzer! Amazing

— Alex Micheletti (@AlexMicheletti) September 11, 2022

But the Bulldogs have looked as good as advertised behind head coach Jeff Tedford, who returned for his second stint with the program.

Fresno State entered the season ranked among the top in the nation in returning production, and that has shown.

Quarterback Jake Haener is averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt and just shy of 300 passing yards per game. He’s completing 72% of his passes and has tossed four touchdowns to one interception coming against Power Five defenses. As he enters Mountain West play, he'll have some opportunities to pad those numbers.

Haener has done a terrific job spreading the ball around, finding 10 separate receivers who are averaging over 10 yards per game. Speedster Nikko Remigio and Jalen Moreno-Cropper have been his go-to targets, combining for 32 catches and 350 yards.

The Bulldogs are the clear team to beat in this conference. San Diego State’s offense looks to be nonexistent, and it will be up to one of the dark horses — UNLV or San Jose State — to battle to represent the West Division.

Air Force Falcons, 3-1 (1-1)

Air Force has emerged as the second favorite to win the conference for a good reason — it's a wagon. The Falcons are 3-1 on the season with one hiccup against a Wyoming defense that's familiar with the triple-option.

In the other three games, Air Force has outscored its opponents, 136-47. The Falcons' triple-option attack has been dominant, and that should continue in Mountain West play.

Air Force sits at 1-1 in conference play after dropping a game to Wyoming and beating Nevada. But the program has one of the softer schedules remaining that includes likely victories over Utah State, New Mexico and Colorado State. The Falcons' toughest games come against UNLV, Boise, and San Diego State.

Troy Calhoun’s squad avoids Fresno State in the regular season, though I believe they will likely meet in the conference championship.

UNLV Rebels 3-1 (1-0)

UNLV has been the pleasant surprise of the Mountain West at this point. After appearing in only one bowl game since 2000, the Rebels have become real contenders to make a run at the Mountain West title.

Marcus Arroyo’s group is 3-1 on the season and very well could be undefeated had it found pay dirt on the final drive against Cal.

The offense has doubled its points per game from 20 last season to 40 this year. Quarterback Doug Brumfield has been phenomenal, averaging 250 yards per game and completing 70% of his passes. The 6-foot-5 quarterback has thrown eight touchdown passes to just one interception.

The Rebels have three reliable wide receivers in Ricky White, Kyle Williams and Jeff Weimer. The trio has combined to haul in 53 passes for 732 yards this season.

The Rebels have started Mountain West play 1-0 with a road victory over Utah State last week. The defense carried the program in that victory, coming up with seven turnovers (five interceptions, one fumble and one turnover on downs).

A victory on the road over last season’s Mountain West champions will give the Rebels confidence that it can compete with anyone in the conference.

They may not be worth a play after dropping from +8000 to +800, but I would still look to play them as underdogs, as they’ve had the ability to keep games close.

college football-odds-picks-thursday-week 8-betting-unlv vs. san jose state-smu vs. tulane-charlotte vs. florida atlantic-louisiana vs. arkansas state-october 21
Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, home of the UNLV Rebels football team.

Mountain West Pretenders

San Diego State Aztecs, 2-2 (0-0)

The Aztecs preached all offseason that this would be a revamped offense that isn’t afraid to go down the field. Through the first month, we’ve come to realize that talk is cheap.

San Diego State’s offense hasn’t changed a lick. It's a run-heavy group that's afraid to pass the ball. On the season, the Aztecs are averaging 5.8 rushing yards per attempt and over 220 yards per game. Sixty-four percent of all plays have been runs.

There's no sugarcoating how bad quarterback Braxton Burmeister has been. He’s averaging 3.6 yards per pass attempt and only 58 yards per game — numbers we would normally see from a service academy.

The lack of offense has led the Aztecs to a 2-2 start. Arizona and Utah outscored SDSU, 73-27. It survived its matchup against Toledo last week thanks to an injury to the Rockets quarterback Dequan Finn that kept him out for part of the game.

San Diego State has yet to play a Mountain West game but has seen its odds nearly double to win the conference.

Unless the offense makes some drastic improvements quickly, the program will go as far as the defense can carry it — and that isn’t to the Mountain West Championship.

Utah State Aggies, 1-3 (0-1)

The Aggies are learning that what goes up must come down.

Utah State enjoyed an unprecedented run to the Mountain West crown last season with preseason odds of 100-1. This season, the Aggies have fallen back to earth at a meteoric pace.

No team has looked worse through its first four games than Utah State. Blake Anderson’s group struggled to put away UConn in Week 1 and was dismantled by Alabama, 55-0.

But it’s been the last two weeks that have caused the most concern.

The Aggies were steamrolled at home by FCS opponent Weber State, 35-7. That was followed up with a 34-24 loss to UNLV that was highlighted by a 6-0 turnover margin in favor of the Rebels.

The loss of Utah State's top three receivers has proven to be too much to overcome. The offense lacks its explosive identity, and the defense hasn’t gotten off the field when it has needed.

The first month of the season has shown that last year’s Cinderella run was full of pixie dust. The Aggies' odds have dropped from +550 to +7500 after playing only one conference game this season.

If you want a longshot, then the Aggies may be your team since they've played just one conference game. But they will need to turn things around immediately to stay relevant.

Boise State Broncos, 2-2 (1-0)

I’m a bit shocked that Boise State didn’t see its odds plummet after this past weekend. The Broncos are coming off of a 17-point loss as 17-point favorites against UTEP. That loss dropped the program to 2-2 on the season.

Boise State now opens Mountain West play this week against San Diego State.

The Broncos offense has serious issues. The group is mediocre on the ground, averaging 3.6 yards per carrying and 120 rushing yards per game. But the air attack is a whole different story — and it's even worse.

Quarterback Hank Bachmeier is not the answer. He’s completing just 54% of his passes and averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. Reports on Monday morning indicate that Bachmeier is hitting the transfer portal and will be leaving the program. That news comes two days after offensive coordinator Tim Plough was fired.

Boise State is in full rebuild mode, and the next five weeks will show the true colors of this program. The Broncos will likely plummet to the middle of the standings after matchups against Fresno State, Air Force and BYU over the next month.

I would avoid Boise at the low odds of +300 at all costs.

Analysis & Plays

The Mountain West has largely been a disappointment this season. The conference has found itself on the wrong end of all major upsets this season, including two losses to FCS opponents.

  • Boise State (-17.5) vs. UTEP, L 27-10
  • Air Force (-17) vs. Wyoming, L 17-14
  • Colorado State (-13.5) vs. Middle Tennessee, L 34-19
  • Utah State (-7) vs. Weber State, L 35-7
  • San Diego State (-6) vs. Arizona, L 38-20
  • Nevada (-4) vs. Incarnate Word, L 55-41

Some anticipated top contenders in Utah State, Boise State and San Diego State have been playing themselves out of contention. Fresno lost both of its Pac-12 matchups, and Air Force slipped up against Wyoming.

Colorado State, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Hawaii look to be the doormat of the conference and will likely only find victories against one another.

UNLV or San Jose State can play the role of spoiler, but ultimately, I see the inevitable matchup of Fresno State against Air Force in the conference championship. That matchup would be a phenomenal chess match on contrasting offensive styles.

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