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Mountain West rankings: Two titles are won and two coaches are fired

Hawaii
Hawaii running back Fred Holly runs past San Diego State defender Jonah Tavai during their game Saturday. (Marco Garcia, AP)

Each week, Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray will rank the Mountain West football teams. Here are this week’s rankings, with each team’s overall record, its ranking last week, its result last week and next opponent and a brief comment.

1. Boise State

Rank last week: 1

Record: 10-1, 7-0 MW

Last week: Beat Utah State, 56-21

This week: at Colorado State (on Friday)

Comment: Boise State clinched the Mountain Division after its rout of Utah State, which was the Broncos’ most impressive effort of the season. That sets up a MW title game with Hawaii, which Boise State beat, 59-37, earlier this season. That game, however, won’t help the Broncos much in its attempt to leapfrog Cincinnati and Memphis for the Group of 5’s spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.

2. Air Force

Rank last week: 2

Record: 9-2, 6-1

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 44-22

This week: vs. Wyoming

Comment: Air Force doubled up New Mexico to move to 9-2. It’s a shame the Falcons’ game against Boise State came so early in the season (it was played Sept. 20). As it turned out, that loss doomed Air Force’s chances of winning the Mountain. But a victory over Wyoming in the regular-season finale would give Air Force 10-plus regular-season wins for the fourth time in school history, and the first time since 1998.

3. Hawaii

Rank last week: 5

Record: 8-4, 5-3

Last week: Beat San Diego State, 14-11

This week: vs. Army

Comment: Hawaii upended SDSU for its first West Division title. A Nevada win over UNLV would make it a three-way tie atop the West between Hawaii, Nevada and SDSU, but the Rainbow Warriors would win the tiebreaker having wins over both teams. Hawaii had to play Boise State and Air Force this season (SDSU and Nevada avoided both teams), so the Rainbow Warriors deserves the nod given the harder schedule.

4. San Diego State

Rank last week: 3

Record: 8-3, 5-3

Last week: Lost to Hawaii, 14-11

This week: vs. BYU

Comment: After starting 7-1, SDSU crumbled down the stretch, losing two of its last three MW games. The loss at Hawaii is understandable. It was the loss to Nevada at home as a 17-point favorite that really doomed the Aztecs and put the team in a tough position last week. In its last four games, SDSU’s offense has scored 13, 13, 17 and 11 points. The Aztecs’ offense wasted a great season from the defense.

5. Utah State

Rank last week: 4

Record: 6-5, 5-2

Last week: Lost to Boise State, 56-21

This week: at New Mexico

Comment: Utah State’s lopsided loss to Boise State wasn’t a shock. The Aggies have underwhelmed this season but close wins over Wyoming, Fresno State and SDSU had kept the team afloat. The Aggies lost to Boise State and Air Force, our top two teams, by a combined 59 points, so it clearly did not measure up with the Mountain Division’s best. Up next: Will QB Jordan Love return for his senior season?

6. Wyoming

Rank last week: 6

Record: 7-4, 4-3

Last week: Beat Colorado State, 17-7

This week: at Air Force

Comment: Wyoming’s defense has been outstanding in the second half of the season, which has helped make up for the loss of quarterback Sean Chambers (knee), who is out for the season. The Cowboys have held their last five opponents to an average of 13.2 points per game. Wyoming has been bowl eligible for four straight seasons. It made four bowls in the previous 25 seasons before that.

7. Nevada

Rank last week: 7

Record: 7-4, 4-3

Last week: Beat Fresno State, 35-28

This week: vs. UNLV

Comment: Nevada picked up its second straight major upset, knocking off Fresno State as a 14-point underdog after doing the same to SDSU as a 17-point underdog. It is the Wolf Pack’s first back-to-back wins in two consecutive road games since October 2014 when Nevada won at Hawaii and at BYU. Now the Wolf Pack must finish things off with a win over UNLV. A loss would spoil the great things done in the last three games.

8. Colorado State

Rank last week: 8

Record: 4-7, 3-4

Last week: Lost to Wyoming, 17-7

This week: vs. Boise State (on Friday)

Comment: Colorado State’s loss to Wyoming eliminated the Rams from bowl contention, which leaves athletic director Joe Parker with an interesting decision on coach Mike Bobo, whose teams has underachieved its budget but Bobo has a sizable buyout. I’d guess he gets another year to right the ship because of the buyout, but Colorado State can’t be happy about the lack of attendance in its new stadium.

9. Fresno State

Rank last week: 9

Record: 4-7, 2-5

Last week: Lost to Nevada, 35-28

This week: at San Jose State

Comment: Fresno State’s bowl bubble burst with its loss to Nevada. The Bulldogs had a two-touchdown second-half lead before frittering that away with some sloppy play and questionable coaching late. After two excellent seasons, Jeff Tedford should have a lot of good will stored up, but it’s been a far plummet from a Top 25 season last year to a non-bowl and potential 4-8 season this year.

10. San Jose State

Rank last week: 10

Record: 4-7, 1-6

Last week: Lost to UNLV, 38-35

This week: vs. Fresno State

Comment: San Jose State gave away the game against UNLV, turning the ball over five times, including four interceptions from Josh Love, which probably cost him the MW offensive player of the year award. Love had just four interceptions in SJSU’s first 10 games (391 passing attempts) before matching that in 56 passes at UNLV. The Spartans have lost three MW games by a combined eight points. That's brutal.

11. UNLV

Rank last week: 11

Record: 3-8, 1-6

Last week: Beat San Jose State, 38-35

This week: at Nevada

Comment: UNLV beat SJSU, so you could argue for the Rebels to move up a spot, but the game was at home and required a plus-four turnover margin for a three-point win. If they played again, I’d bet on the Spartans. UNLV finally pulled the trigger on Tony Sanchez, who was fired Monday after five seasons and a 19-40 record. AD Desiree Reed-Francois said the Rebels will offer a competitive MW salary. My top-five list: Jay Hill (Weber State), Jim Mora Jr. (ex-UCLA), Andy Avalos (Oregon DC), Rich Rodriguez (ex-Arizona) and Chris Ault (Ha! Ha! Ha!).

12. New Mexico

Rank last week: 12

Record: 2-9, 0-7

Last week: Lost to Air Force, 44-22

This week: vs. Utah State

Comment: New Mexico also parted ways with coach Bob Davie on Monday. The Lobos have one of the bottom-three jobs in the MW along with San Jose State (you could argue for Wyoming, Nevada, Hawaii and UNLV for that third and final spot). There isn’t much history of winning in football at New Mexico and the budget is tiny, although the facilities are fine.

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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