It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, our conference-by-conference look at the postseason is back! This year, we have 82 bowl-eligible teams playing in 41 bowl games and one CFP National Championship. 15 bowls feature first-ever matchups! And, amazingly enough, only one bowl in the entire schedule pits two conference champions against one another. Without further ado, let’s look at the 2022 MWC Bowls!
2022 MWC Bowls Preview
LA Bowl (December 17th, 3:30 P.M., ABC
Fresno State vs Washington State
Head-to-head: Fresno State 1-3 Washington State
Bowl Record: 12-12
The MW Championship deserves more hype.
Taylen Green took over as the starting QB at #BoiseState in Week 5. Since then he’s posted the 10th best PFF off. rating for a QB (min. 100 dropbacks).
Know who’s second on that list?#FresnoState QB Jake Haener.
Get your popcorn ready. pic.twitter.com/Vx0RDdRh4j
— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) November 29, 2022
The first game of the 2022 MWC bowls schedule features a matchup between the MWC champion and Pac-12 program, Washington State. After dispatching Cal Poly (FCS) to kick off the year, the Bulldogs dropped four in a row and were reeling. Two of those losses were by three and five points to surprising Oregon State and UCONN teams, respectively. This is the first time these two have played one another since the Cougars took down the Bulldogs in 1994, 24-7.
Jake Haener came back to finish what he started last year but was not quite as productive. He threw for 2,616 yards and 18 touchdowns. Eight wins in a row, which included a revenge win over Boise State in the MWC Championship Game, could not have been possible without Haener’s favorite target (again), Jalen Cropper. Cropper scored fewer touchdowns (five this year, 11 last) but set a single-season career-best in yards with 1,044. Running the ball and picking up the slack is senior running back, Jordan Mims. Mims’ 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns powered this team to a championship.
As is the case with plenty of MWC teams, Fresno State has a defense worth noting. All-MWC first-teamer David Perales is a force on the defensive line. He terrorized offenses to the tune of 15 TFLs and 10.5 sacks and added an interception, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. In the secondary, an apparently unsung hero is Cameron Lockridge. He hauled in five interceptions, scored on one, and broke up an additional nine.
Washington State has a legit quarterback in Cameron Ward. They’ve had a fun offense for a long time. As a team, however, went just 1-4 against bowl-bound teams. Fresno State is hungry to prove itself (and further add to the whispers that the Pac-12 could poach them) and will upend the Cougars in this one.
Frisco Bowl (December 17th, 9:15 P.M., ESPN)
Boise State vs North Texas
Head-to-head: Boise State 3-3 North Texas
Bowl Record: 12-7
The Boise State Broncos have been a G5 staple for two decades now and they’re in the second of the 2022 MWC Bowls against the Mean Green of North Texas. This year, Boise State managed just one win out-of-conference and it was against Tennesee-Martin (FCS). Then, they were one of the few teams to run the table in conference but were stopped stone cold by Fresno State, a team they beat by 20 earlier in the year.
All-around athlete and the only offensive-skilled player to earn all-MWC honors, George Holani led the way for the Broncos this fall. The selection was well-deserved as he accounted for 1,286 yards and 13 touchdowns from scrimmage. That total was 498 yards better than the next guy. MWC Freshman of the Year Taylen Green quarterbacked this team as long-time starter Hank Bachmeier elected to transfer out after four games played.
With four interceptions and five more pass breakups, senior safety JL Skinner earned himself first-team All-MWC honors this year. He stepped up in a big way in the loss to Wyoming, hauling in two interceptions. Up front, senior linebacker D.J. Schramm took another leap forward in 2022. He finished the year with 11 TFLs, half of a sack, and a forced fumble.
North Texas is a decent team but they just recently fired their head coach. In this battle of G5 Conference Championship Game losers, the Broncos will be able to come out on top. The ripple effect of firing a relatively successful head coach is going to hurt the Mean Green.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (December 20th, 3:30 P.M., ESPN)
San Jose State vs Eastern Michigan
Head-to-head: San Jose State 0-1 Eastern Michigan
Bowl Record: 5-4
After missing the bowl fun last year, the San Jose State Spartans are back for more! They finished with a 7-4 mark, 5-3 in MWC play. Now, when they played bowl-bound teams, they struggled. Just 1-3 in such games, SJSU has questions about whether or not they can beat a decent team here in Eastern Michigan. Brent Brennan’s squad has to play its best game to escape with a win.
As with Fresno State, the defense is king. The Spartans only allowed 20.3 points per game, good for 22nd in FBS. Led by MWC Defensive Player of the Year, Viliami Fehoko, and his 18.5 TFLs and nine sacks, the Spartans were able to stifle anything and everything offenses wanted to do. Beside him is senior Cade Hall. Hall was able to contribute 12 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, and an interception. This duo on the defensive line is about as good as it gets.
Hawai’i transfer Chevan Cordiero led this offense and set personal bests in passing yards (2,885) and touchdowns (20). And his favorite target (by a long shot) is sixth-year senior receiver, Elijah Cooks. Cooks’ 63 receptions were 27% of all completions and his 10 touchdowns accounted for literally half of the team’s scoring. Naturally, his 983 yards are 417 more than the next receiver.
The Spartans roll up on the blue turf against a better-than-you-think Eastern Michigan. The Eagles come in from the MAC where they themselves play on a gray field. Will that give them an edge? Likely not, but the Eagles will give San Jose State everything they’ve got. I have Eastern Michigan winning this one close.
Armed Forces (December 22nd, 7:30 P.M., ESPN)
Air Force vs Baylor
Head-to-head: Air Force 0-3 Baylor
Bowl Record: 14-13-1
— Air Force Falcons (@AF_Falcons) November 29, 2022
For the first time since 2016, and for the 21st time in history, Air Force holds the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after beating both Army and Navy this year. Air Force is just like the other two service academies: a triple option attack that will eventually tire out the defense. Winners of nine games, this Air Force team is legit and home to the best running back you’ve probably never heard of.
With the third-most rushing yards at the FBS level, MWC Offensive Player of the Year Brad Roberts’ 1,612 yards and 15 touchdowns demoralized each and every defense. He was unstoppable last year and managed to improve every number. With just nine more carries, Roberts ran for 265 more yards with a game to play. With quarterback Haazig Daniels’ 614 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, AFA has John Lee Eldridge III and his 701 yards and four touchdowns. With nearly 3,000 yards and nearly 30 touchdowns, this rushing attack is insane.
As good as the offense has been, its strength has been on defense. Allowing just 13.2 points per game, Air Force’s defense is about as good as it gets. This defense, on paper, is as selfless as it gets. No single player recorded more than 67 tackles. Every play is in on every play. There are two All-MWC selections in linebacker Vince Sanford (50 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks) and Trey Taylor (66 tackles, two interceptions).
Air Force is a, well, force. A 9-3 team facing off against a 6-6 team is certainly a choice. As if Air Force needs any kind of motivation, that will certainly serve as fodder. Baylor is coming off getting beat on the ground in seven of their last eight games. I’ll take Air Force and the under,
Hawai’i Bowl (December 24, 8:00 P.M., ESPN)
San Diego State vs Middle Tennessee State
Bowl Record: 7-8
After winning 12 games including the Frisco Bowl in 2021, Brady Hoke’s squad struggled in 2022. After falling to Arizona and Utah but beating Toledo and Idaho State (FCS), SDSU kicked off its MWC schedule with a lopsided loss to Boise State. Overall, the Aztecs went 5-3 in conference and were the second-best MWC West team, but it wasn’t nearly enough. They’ll have a shot to end the year on a good note against Middle Tennessee State here.
The strength of this team is its defense and it’s not particularly close. As a team, they allowed 20.2 points per game, good for 20th in FBS. They had four All-MWC selections, led by three on the first team. Senior defensive back Patrick McMorris, senior defensive lineman Jonah Tavai, and senior linebacker Caden McDonald were the difference makers this year and will make life difficult for MTSU.
On offense, it’s been difficult. Only one receiver logged more than 410 yards (Tyrell Shavers, 581 yards, three touchdowns). The leading rusher, Jordan Byrd, finished with just 389 yards and three touchdowns. This offense failed to score more than 20 points in seven games. The Aztecs, predictably, went 3-5 in those games and went 3-1 when they scored more.
Neither SDSU nor Middle Tennessee State moves the needle for 95% of bowl watchers. Not this guy! It’ll be playing on the TV as we celebrate Christmas Eve and the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders should be able to enjoy their Hawai’i vacation with a win.
First Responder Bowl (December 27th, 3:15 P.M., ESPN)
Utah State vs Memphis
Head-to-head: Utah State 3-4 Memphis
Bowl Record: 6-8
What do you get when you mix an offense that’s 100th in FBS, a defense that’s 104th, lost the turnover battle by seven, and lost to Weber State (FCS) 35-7? Utah State! The Aggies rode a 5-3 MWC record to this bowl game but their experience there may be less than ideal.
Perhaps the reason this Aggies offense was so anemic was that they went through every quarterback on their roster and then some. Logan Bonner, Levi Williams Bishop Devenport, and Cooper Legas all took snaps with the latter leading the way. Legas, a junior, had to save a sinking ship after Bonner, the quarterback who led this team to an MWC Championship last year, was lost early due to a season-ending injury. For as bad as this offense was, two players earned second-team All-MWC: receiver Brian Cobbs and running back Calvin Tyler, Jr.
The only other non-specialist to receive honors was Ike Larsen. Larsen, a sophomore safety, finished the year with four interceptions. Against Hawai’i, Larsen pulled down two of those four and even returned one for a touchdown. Another Aggie defender worth mentioning is junior defensive end, Daniel Grzesiak. Grzesiak dominated this year and managed 10.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks on the year.
The Aggies have a few playmakers that will give this team plenty of momentum and belief that they will win this game. Memphis continues having a high-flying offense with multiple receivers who could take the top off the defense. This one will add a loss to the 2022 MWC bowls record, unfortunately for Utah State.
Arizona Bowl (December 30th, 4:30 P.M., Barstool)
Wyoming vs Ohio
Head-to-head: Wyoming 2-0 Ohio
Bowl Record: 9-8
For the second straight year, the Wyoming Cowboys finish the regular season 7-5 and are ready for another bowl game. While Wyoming split its non-conference slate, the Cowboys finished 5-3 within the MWC, losing to three of the four best teams in the conference not named Wyoming. During the year, the Cowboys played seven bowl-eligible teams and dropped four of them.
Objectively, Wyoming does not have a good offense at all. They finished 112th in points per game with just 20.8. With 207 carries on the year, the leader WAS Titus Swen. However, he elected to test out the Transfer Portal, so Wyoming will have to turn to sophomore Dawaiian McNeely. Among running backs, he is the leader among those who are left with 356 yards and a touchdown. Among all players, quarterback Andrew Peasley added 330 yards and two touchdowns to go with his 1,388 yards and nine touchdowns through the air.
First-team all-MWC linebacker Easton Gibbs is who this defense plays through. His 111 tackles were second-most in the conference and added eight TFLs and two sacks on the year. He ended the season as strong as any posting 36 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, and a sack in his final three games. It was the strength of this team, however. In seven games, they allowed just two or fewer touchdowns.
Wyoming’s offense is pretty bad but so is Ohio’s defense. This game is going to come down to who can break through and step up but the Bobcats have a couple of dudes on offense and should be able to get the win in a bowl that three people will watch because Barstool?? Really??
Defensive Titans Out West
The MWC, once again, is a sneaky good conference with a handful of teams who could make the jump to Power 5 if the inkling ever struck. Expect some of the 2022 MWC bowls to be defensive struggles with at least a couple of defensive scores as they go forward. Each of these games has the potential to be one of the best of the season!