The Mountain West Conference has adopted divisional play this season with the additions of Utah State and San Jose State, two teams coming off 11-2 seasons in 2012.
Even with the success both the Aggies and Spartans enjoyed last season, neither club is expected to win its respective divisions. Utah State is the 5-2 second choice to take the Mountain Division (Boise State is the favorite), while San Jose State is the 9-2 third choice (behind Fresno State and San Diego State) in the West Division. (Boise State is the 3-2 favorite to win the conference title.)
Something else to keep in mind when wagering on MWC teams is how well some of them do inside conference play. For example, Boise State is 4-11 ATS the last two seasons, Air Force is 8-15 ATS (5-12 as the betting favorite) over the last three years and Wyoming is 19-12 ATS since 2009.
Time now to take a deeper look into the league, along with predicted straight- up (overall and conference) records for those wagering on over/unders for total team victories. The over/under number posted is for the entire season, not conference totals. In addition, all statistics provided in the offensive and defensive sections are from conference-only play unless otherwise indicated (all odds to win the league title and totals courtesy of 5Dimes).
6) NEW MEXICO (125-1) - The Lobos are 6-1 ATS off a SU win the last four years.
Offense - Trending down. New Mexico averaged 24 points per game (ppg), a 17- point increase from 2011. The key was an improved ground attack that averaged 327 yards per game (ypg). Coach Bob Davie wants the team to throw more in 2013, which might not be a good thing, especially with Cole Gautsche taking over at quarterback.
Defense - Trending down. Last year, the defense allowed five fewer ppg (compared to 2011) but gave up a full yard more per play. With the loss of 10 of the top 15 tacklers, look for the Lobos to allow more points this season.
Prediction - New Mexico has not finished above .500 ATS since 2006. That streak will continue for at least one more year. Over/under total - 4.5 (2-10, 1-7).
5) AIR FORCE (50-1) - The Falcons are 3-11 as home favorites the last three years.
Offense - Trending down. The Falcons averaged 30 ppg or more (overall) for three straight years until last season's 27 ppg mark. They hit for a 34.5 ppg mark over their first eight games, but sputtered late going for just 16 in their final five. Expect another slight drop in 2013 with the loss of seven starters.
Defense - Trending down. With just two starters and five of the top 14 tacklers back, the defense allowed the same 5.7 yards per play it did in 2011. Six starters return this year but the Falcons lose seven of their top 12 tacklers.
Prediction - Air Force has not finished above .500 ATS since 2009. The lack of covers will continue for one more season. Over/under total - 6.5 (5-7, 3-5).
4) COLORADO STATE (35-1) - The Rams are 6-15 as road underdogs the last five years.
Offense - Trending up. As was the case with Air Force, it was a tale of two seasons in 2012. However, the Rams improved as the season went on. They averaged 16 ppg with 100 yards rushing and a total of 25 sacks allowed in their first seven games, but went for 29 ppg, 170 rushing yards and 5 sacks over the last five. If those numbers carry over, the offense will have its finest season in five years.
Defense - Trending up. Last year's defense moved from next-to-last to fifth in yards per play and from sixth to third in quarterback completion percentage. Despite those improvements, the Rams were still seventh in scoring. If a couple of junior-college transfers work their magic on the line, the defense will allow fewer than 30 ppg for the first time since 2008.
Prediction - Colorado State will have its finest season since 2008 when the Rams secured their last bowl berth. Over/under total - 5.5 (6-7, 4-4).
3) WYOMING (50-1) - The Cowboys are 15-4 as road underdogs the last three years.
Offense - Trending steady. Last year, Wyoming ranked ninth in yards per play and last in sacks allowed. In fact, the offense scored zero third-quarter points in more than half of its 12 games. Given that, the team still averaged a point more per game than it did in 2011. Expect slightly better numbers in 2013.
Defense - Trending up. The Cowboys ranked 122nd nationally in both rushing defense and third-down efficiency. With the loss of their top three tacklers, one would expect another miserable year. However, a turnaround is likely since the Cowboys have been able to turn their fortunes around the last three times they allowed 30 points or more in a season.
Prediction - Despite their horrific defense, the Cowboys still were 4-6 in Brett Smith's 10 starts at quarterback. They have reached the postseason each of the last two odd-numbered years and will do so again in 2013. Over/under total - 5.5 (7-5, 4-4).
2) UTAH STATE (6-1) - The Aggies are 20-7 as road underdogs the last six years.
Offense - Trending down. Utah State's offense exploded for 45 ppg in a weak WAC last season. Two years ago, the Aggies averaged 29 ppg and that was with Robert Turbin rushing for over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns (overall). With the loss of running back Kerwynn Williams as well as the top five reception leaders, look for the scoring average to fall back to the 2011 mark.
Defense - Trending down. Last year's defense cut 10 ppg off its 2011 average. It also tied for the national lead with Penn State and BYU in red zone efficiency. Utah State's defense is still solid but will allow more points, especially against better competition.
Prediction - The Aggies will tumble both SU and ATS. Over/under total - 7.5 (6-6, 5-3).
1) BOISE STATE (3-2) - The Broncos are 18-8 as road favorites the last five years.
Offense - Trending up. Boise State's 30-point season average was its lowest output since 1998. Improvement is expected, especially since the numbers picked up over the second half of the season (35 ppg clip). The Broncos are quite capable of topping that figure in 2013.
Defense - Trending steady. Boise State returned just one of its top 10 tacklers a season ago and still finished eighth nationally in scoring. This year, six of the top 10 come back so look for another typical Boise State defense.
Prediction - The Broncos have not dominated ATS of late as well as they had at the end of the previous decade. They are just 12-17 ATS in their last 29 games. However, look for them to turn the tide and top the .500 mark this season. Over/under total - 10.5 (10-2, 7-1).
6) UNLV (160-1) - The Rebels are 9-3 in their last 12 games as home underdogs.
Offense - Trending up. Last year, the Rebels averaged over 20 points per game (ppg) for the first time in the Bobby Hauck era. This year's offense is filled with upperclassmen so look for another increase in production.
Defense - Trending steady. UNLV gave up nine fewer ppg (compared to 2011 despite allowing just one fewer yard per game (ypg). The club won't have that type of luck in the scoring department this season with Fresno State and San Jose State replacing Wyoming and Colorado State.
Prediction - The Rebels finished above .500 ATS (8-4) for just the second time since 2001. Don't be shocked if they do it again. Over/under total - 4.5 (4-8, 2-6).
5) NEVADA (38-1) - The Wolf Pack are 8-16 as road favorites the last six years.
Offense - Trending down. Even though Cody Fajardo and his top two receivers are back, the offense lost Stefphon Jefferson (1,883 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns) and three starting linemen. Nevada will not come anywhere close to finishing third nationally in red zone touchdowns and third-down efficiency as it did a year ago.
Defense - Trending up. Nevada's defensive strength the last two years has been its secondary. This season, the front four will take over as the key unit to help chop off a few points from last year's 35 ppg average.
Prediction - The Wolf Pack will miss out on a bowl game for the first time since 2004. Over/under total - 6.5 (4-8, 3-5).
4) SAN JOSE STATE (11-1) - The Spartans are 11-2 ATS on the road the last two years.
Offense - Trending down. San Jose State improved its scoring average by over two touchdowns with David Fales leading the country in completion percentage. However, the Spartans won't get the luxury of squaring off against the terrible defenses they faced in the now defunct Western Athletic Conference.
Defense - Trending steady. San Jose State came into last year with just four of its top nine tacklers. This season. six of the top nine return. One could argue last year's defense benefited from playing in a weak conference, but the Spartans still shut out Navy, and held Stanford to only 20 points.
Prediction - San Jose State is 18-6 ATS the last two years, including a 10-2 mark in 2012. Look for a drop in wins this season, both SU and ATS. Over/under total - 7.5 (7-5, 4-4).
3) HAWAII (40-1) - The Rainbow Warriors are 4-11 ATS in conference play the last two years.
Offense - Trending up. The transition to Norm Chow's offensive attack did not go as planned a year ago as the team ranked 121st nationally in total offense. Nonetheless, with Taylor Graham expected to take over at quarterback, along with a more experienced line, the numbers should rise this season.
Defense - Trending up. There are some defenses that bend but don't break. Hawaii's defense broke without bending in 2012. The Rainbow Warriors finished tied for 107th nationally in scoring despite finishing 41st in total defense. With the return of eight of last year's top 11 tacklers (only four of them came back in 2012), Hawaii's defense will knock off at least 10 ppg.
Prediction - Hawaii opened 2012 1-7 ATS before covering its final three games. The team will carry that momentum into the new season. Over/under total - 3.5 (5-7, 4-4). Take over 3.5 victories at -130 as the main MWC play.
2) FRESNO STATE (2-1) - The Bulldogs are 18-6 ATS on the road the last four years.
Offense - Trending down. This will be Derek Carr's first season at Fresno State without a 1,000-yard rusher behind him. For the offense to maintain its 41- point average, Josh Quezada (or any other running back) must be able to keep the defenses honest.
Defense - Trending steady. Gone are three of the top four tacklers from a defense that ranked fifth nationally in turnovers gained with 35. Fresno State must continue to win the turnover battle to maintain last year's outstanding numbers.
Prediction - Speaking of turnovers, the Bulldogs went from -14 in 2011 to +15 in 2012. The last time they had such a turnaround, their ATS record dropped from 8-5 to 4-8-1. Expect another dip from last year's 10-2 ATS mark. Over/under total - 10.5 (9-3, 5-3).
1) SAN DIEGO STATE (7-1) - The Aztecs are 9-4 as road underdogs the last four years.
Offense - Trending down. The offense gained 29 fewer ypg last year (compared to 2011) but somehow managed seven more ppg. Expect a decrease in points this season, especially with the loss of the club's top two receivers.
Defense - Trending up. Never underestimate a Rocky Long defense, particularly one that returns 14 of its top 16 tacklers. This will be the No. 1 defense in the MWC.
Prediction - The Aztecs get Fresno State and Boise State at home. That, and their defense, will carry them to the MWC Championship Game. Take San Diego State to win the West at 3-1 odds and to win the MWC title at 7-1. Over/under total - 7.5 (8-4, 6-2).