8/19, 3:50pm ET: 2018 Mountain West win totals
I wanted to get this one posted while I had a little downtime on a Sunday because it doesn't require much explaining. This is one of the conferences in which I will have the least futures bets and the least win-totals. Why is that? Because the ratings are appropriate, for the most part. Yes, Boise State is better than everyone. Yes, probably by a lot. Yes, San Diego State and Fresno State are the 2 next best teams (although I'd strongly prefer San Diego State between the 2). Yes, Wyoming and even UNLV are exciting teams that will have miracle runs and win a small percent of the time too. That's all reflected in the odds, folks! How fun! Anyway, there are still a couple win totals I like here, and I wanted to explain them as we get closer to the awful-but-who-cares-becase-it's-football Week 0 of games.
Boise State over 10 wins +105
I gasped at this price when I saw it a little while back. Gasped. I was pretty much expecting 10 -150 or higher, but here we are. Boise isn't just out-recruiting the "average" Mountain West team for the last several years, they might as well be salting the Earth so no other recruits can grow for anyone else. Only San Diego State is really even close. The Broncos are doing so well on a talent-level that their feared non-conference matchup at Oklahoma State isn't even THAT much of a mismatch in terms of recruiting...which is kind of scary (lookaheads also have that spread under a touchdown in Stillwater..also crazy). This is a team that had a bad year, had complete instability in all phases of the game personnel-wise for the first 6 weeks, and went 9-3, one game worse than the posted total. This year they bring back an incredible amount of returning production, and host Fresno State and San Diego State, after playing each on the road last year. Their Week 1 matchup at Troy is the sort-of game that CFB dorks love, because it matches up 2 teams that the public doesn't really care about but who played extremely well last year and many feel deserve more respect. The only problem is Troy lost so much production in such key spots that the game may very well be a blowout. Anyway, back to Boise. They have highly-regarded coordinators, and although I wouldn't qualify Bryan Harsin as an outstanding coach, I think only "average" is required to steer this ship correctly. I also think if this team emerges as the best Group of Five, and it's by a significant margin, there is value on QB Brett Rypien to be invited to the Heisman ceremony. He is basically precluded from winning, but we saw this type of situation with Kellen Moore and other GO5 schools in the past (Ed Oliver is another candidate that fits this type of angle for me). He is currently 20/1 to be invited.
Air Force over 4.5 wins -140
There were better prices available recently, but that doesn't really do you the reader any good, so I'll just tell you I still like this, and since there are no alternates available for a team like Air Force, this is what you're stuck with. On some level, there is an element of trust in Troy Calhoun that has to accompany this pick. Service academies aren't schools that can be reliably scouted using recruiting because they are service academies. The entire process of figuring out what this team is going to be is a little different. Returning starters are also frequently less, especially in the trenches, and that frequently is also irrelevant in projection. Metrics like S&P or whatever Phil Steele uses to be wrong a lot aren't going to value this team appropriately, because that's not possible in August. You know who's dead last in the AAC in recruiting averages every year? Navy (and sometimes UCONN, because they're that bad). You know who hasn't come close to performing at that poor level the last decade because of coaching, player development and scheme? Navy (but not UCONN, they've actually been awful). I would have written the last 2 sentences using Air Force instead, because it applies, but then I couldn't have made UCONN jokes.
What I will say here is that Calhoun's typical level of production for this program is enough to exceed this number, which is being dragged down because of a very poor performance last year. They had 1 returning starter on defense last year. 1. That's insane, even for Air Force. The advantage of playing so many young guys last year is that returning experience is actually really good this year for a service academy. They also have a returning QB, Arion Worthman, who can be a star in the conference, and they host Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado State and Stony Brook, all games I would potentially favor them in if power rankings were of any value to a school like Air Force. Again, more faith required than usual, but if this team even plays like the most average of Air Force teams they win 5-6 games.