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Murray's MW rankings: A new team at the top (and at the bottom)

Utah State
Utah State is good.

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: 3

Record: 7-1, 4-0

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 61-19

This week: at Hawaii

Comment: I had Utah State one spot ahead of Fresno State in my AP Top 25 ballot this week, so I have to put the Aggies above the Bulldogs in these rankings, too, but they’re awfully close. Utah State’s one loss (at Michigan State) is a lot better than Fresno State’s one loss (vs. Minnesota). Neither team has a great win and Fresno State’s overall schedule is a little tougher, but Utah State has been hammering teams, so it gets the razor-thin edge.

2. Fresno State

Rank last week: 2

Record: 7-1, 4-0

Last week: Beat Hawaii, 50-20

This week: at UNLV

Comment: Fresno State was great last season but did have one shocking loss, a 26-16 home defeat to UNLV, so you’d expect the Bulldogs to be up for this week’s game in Las Vegas even though it would be natural for them to look ahead to their next two games (against Boise State and San Diego State).

3. San Diego State

Rank last week: 1

Record: 6-2, 3-1

Last week: Lost to Nevada, 28-24

This week: at New Mexico

Comment: The Aztecs largely out-played Nevada, posting the advantage in total yards (456-297), first downs (24-14) and time of possession, but SDSU was undone by turnovers (minus-two), special teams (a muffed punt following a dropped interception) and ill-time penalties (eight for 68 yards). SDSU stays ahead of Boise State, which it beat on the road, which means it also stays ahead of Nevada.

4. Boise State

Rank last week: 4

Record: 6-2, 4-1

Last week: Beat Air Force, 48-38

This week: vs. BYU

Comment: Boise State always has its share of trouble against Air Force and that was no different last weekend as the Falcons rolled up 443 yards and 38 points. But QB Brett Rypien completed 20-of-34 passes for 399 yards and five touchdowns (while getting stitches in the process) to carry the Broncos to their first win in Colorado Springs.

5. Nevada

Rank last week: 5

Record: 5-4, 3-2

Last week: Beat SDSU, 28-24

This week: Bye

Comment: The Wolf Pack gritted out a victory over SDSU and moved to 3-1 this season in games decided by four points or fewer. Nevada was 0-3 in games decided by four points or fewer last season. The Wolf Pack is definitely a better team this year, but the biggest difference has come in those close games Nevada made a habit of losing in years past.

6. Hawaii

Rank last week: 6

Record: 6-4, 3-2

Last week: Lost to Fresno State, 50-20

This week: vs. Utah State

Comment: Hawaii has been exposed to a degree the last two weeks, with lopsided losses to Nevada and Fresno State. Things are equally difficult this week as the Rainbow Warriors host Utah State. Hawaii has to win one of its final three games – versus Utah State, UNLV and San Diego State – to become bowl eligible. That won't be easy.

7. Air Force

Rank last week: 7

Record: 3-5, 1-4

Last week: Lost to Boise State, 48-38

This week: at Army

Comment: Air Force suffered a tough loss to Boise State but has an even bigger game this week at Army. With a win over Navy earlier this season, Air Force would win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy if it knocks off Army on Saturday. The Falcons have earned the trophy four times since 2010, the most of the three service academies, and could steal it from Army, which won last year.

8. Wyoming

Rank last week: 10

Record: 3-6, 1-4

Last week: Beat Colorado State, 34-21

This week: vs. San Jose State

Comment: Wyoming secured its first conference win of the season, scoring a season-high 34 points – it had been held to 20 or less in seven straight games – in the Border War win over Colorado State. The Cowboys need to win out to reach a bowl game, but that’s not impossible given the remaining schedule (SJSU, Air Force, New Mexico).

9. Colorado State

Rank last week: 8

Record: 3-6, 2-3

Last week: Lost to Wyoming, 34-21

This week: Bye

Comment: Colorado State’s loss to Wyoming – its third in a row and seventh in 10 seasons to the rival Cowboys – pushed the Rams into a situation where it must win out to reach a bowl. With games against Nevada, Utah State and Air Force, that’s not likely to happen, which would be Colorado State’s first season without reaching a bowl since 2012.

10. New Mexico

Rank last week: 9

Record: 3-5, 1-3

Last week: Lost to Utah State, 61-19

This week: vs. SDSU

Comment: New Mexico had as many turnovers (five) as third-down conversions (five) in its loss to Utah State last week and still has San Diego State and Boise State ahead, which means it is highly likely the Lobos miss the postseason for the second straight year. The big question is whether coach Bob Davie (33-50 overall, 17-35 in the MW) gets an eighth season in Albuquerque.

11. San Jose State

Rank last week: 12

Record: 1-7, 1-4

Last week: Beat UNLV, 50-37

This week: at Wyoming

Comment: SJSU scored its first win of the season, posting half a hundred against UNLV, leaving UTEP as the nation's only winless FBS team. The Spartans scored 50-plus points for the first time against an FBS opponent since the 2013 season finale, a 62-52 win over then-unbeaten and No. 13-ranked Fresno State (10-0). That probably says as much about UNLV’s defense as SJSU’s offense.

12. UNLV

Rank last week: 11

Record: 2-6, 0-4

Last week: Lost to SJSU, 50-37

This week: vs. Fresno State

Comment: And for the first time all season, somebody other than SJSU sits in the bottom spot. The Rebels have lost five straight and are the only MW team without a conference win this season. UNLV has given up at least 50 points in three of its four MW games, its best effort being a 41-point effort against Air Force.

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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