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. Utah State
Rank last week: 1
Record: 10-1, 7-0
Last week: Beat Colorado State, 29-24
This week: at Boise State
Comment: I can’t explain Utah State’s near loss to Colorado State, which was whacked by Nevada, 49-10, one week prior. The Rams scored on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game, but the receiver stepped out of bounds during his route, nullifying the score, saving the Aggies from embarrassment. We haven’t had a great gauge on how good Utah State is because of its light schedule, but we’ll get a strong read on the Aggies on Saturday when they play at Boise State for the Mountain Division title.
2. Fresno State
Rank last week: 2
Record: 9-2, 6-1
Last week: Beat San Diego State, 23-14
This week: vs. San Jose State
Comment: Fresno State topped San Diego State to secure its second straight West Division title and fourth divisional crown in the six years since the MW split into two divisions. The Bulldogs gave up touchdown passes of 75 and 70 yards to the Aztecs but allowed just 137 yards on SDSU’s other 46 plays (just 2.98 yards per play). Fresno State has an easy one against SJSU before the MW championship game.
3. Boise State
Rank last week: 3
Record: 9-2, 6-1
Last week: Beat New Mexico, 45-14
This week: vs. Utah State
Comment: Boise State crushed New Mexico to set up a winner-take-all game against Utah State this weekend for the Mountain Division title. This game also could determine who wins the MW offensive player of the year award as Utah State QB Jordan Love (66.4%, 2,845 yards, 25 TDs, four INTs, six rushing TDs) and Boise State QB Brett Rypien (68.5%, 3,270 yards, 28 TDs, seven INTs) are the top two candidates.
Rank last week: 5
Record: 7-4, 5-2
Last week: Beat San Jose State, 21-12
This week: at UNLV
Comment: The Wolf Pack played well enough to beat SJSU and was thankful the game was played. Nevada needed that seventh victory to finalize a bowl spot (the MW could have seven bowl-eligible teams for only five bowl tie-ins). Next up is UNLV, and the Wolf Pack can’t call a season successful without beating the rival Rebels, so it must win this game to close out a tremendous regular season.
5. San Diego State
Rank last week: 4
Record: 7-4, 4-3
Last week: Lost to Fresno State, 23-14
This week: vs. Hawaii
Comment: Fernley native Tyler Roemer, a preseason All-MW honoree who had started the first 23 games of his SDSU career at left tackle, was suspended indefinitely before the Fresno State game for a violation of team rules. “I have no idea when he’s coming back,” head coach Rocky Long told the San Diego Union-Tribune. That doesn’t sound great. SDSU also has lost three of its last four games, not a good development.
Rank last week: 6
Record: 7-5, 4-3
Last week: Beat UNLV, 35-28
This week: at San Diego State
Comment: The Rainbow Warriors clinched a bowl berth with its win over UNLV, which required a dramatic late rally after trailing 21-3 late in the first half and 28-13 early in the fourth quarter. Hawaii closed the game with 22 unanswered points behind backup quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who completed 4-of-5 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns (starter Cole McDonald was 14-of-30 for 175 yards with three picks).
Rank last week: 7
Record: 5-6, 3-4
Last week: Beat Air Force, 35-27
This week: at New Mexico
Comment: Wyoming dug out of a 27-14 hole with less than eight minutes to play to beat Air Force, which kept alive the Cowboys’ postseason aspirations (Wyoming scored 21 points in the game’s final 4:32). The win marked the third straight victory for the Cowboys, who must beat New Mexico this weekend to hit the six wins required for bowl eligibility. There’s a chance Wyoming gets to six wins and isn’t picked for a bowl, but the Cowboys are still in the mix.
8. Air Force
Rank last week: 8
Record: 4-7, 2-5
Last week: Lost to Wyoming, 35-27
This week: vs. Colorado State (on Thursday)
Comment: Air Force’s lost to Wyoming eliminated the Falcons from bowl contention, and it came in the most appropriate way given how Air Force’s season has gone (namely lots of close loses). The Falcons lost by three to Army, three to Nevada, four to San Diego State, six to Florida Atlantic and seven to Wyoming despite a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. This could have been a nine-win season for Air Force. Instead, it will be five wins at best.
9. Colorado State
Rank last week: 9
Record: 3-8, 2-5
Last week: Lost to Utah State, 29-24
This week: at Air Force (on Thursday)
Comment: Devastating loss for CSU, which had what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown against No. 14 Utah State as time expired only to see the score flagged off by a penalty. “There's a lot of hurt in that locker room because they played their tails off,” coach Mike Bobo said. “We looked like a football team today really for the first time this year." CSU out-played Utah State except for throwing two back-breaking pick-sixs.
Rank last week: 11
Record: 3-8, 1-6
Last week: Lost to Hawaii, 35-28
This week: vs. Nevada
Comment: After controlling the game early, UNLV blew it late against Hawaii. The Rebels’ defense has looked better the last two weeks (judging against their standard) heading into the contest with Nevada. UNLV has lost six straight games against the Wolf Pack in Las Vegas, the last win coming in October 2004, a 48-13 victory. The Wolf Pack turned the ball over five times in that game. It should avoid doing that this Saturday.
11. New Mexico
Rank last week: 10
Record: 3-8, 1-6
Last week: Lost to Boise State, 45-14
This week: vs. Wyoming
Comment: The Bod Davie tenure at New Mexico started with back-to-back 1-7 conference records. From 2014-16, the Lobos went 13-11 in MW play. And if New Mexico loses to Wyoming on Saturday, the Lobos will have posted back-to-back 1-7 conference records again. New Mexico crested a couple of years ago, and it’s time to move on with a new head coach, although the Lobos aren’t floating in buyout money.
12. San Jose State
Rank last week: 12
Record: 1-10, 1-6
Last week: Lost to Nevada, 21-12
This week: at Fresno State
Comment: San Jose State can’t run the ball, and that’s a problem. The Spartans average 61.6 rushing yards per game (last in the nation), 2.03 yards per carry (last in the nation) and have scored eight rushing touchdowns (third to last in the nation). SJSU has a lot of issues to fix, but this one tops the list. The offensive line needs to be a lot better.
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.