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Murray's MW rankings: Battle of the big dogs when Boise State hosts Fresno State

Fresno-Boise
Fresno State plays at Boise State in a key game Friday.

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: 8-1, 5-0

Last week: Beat Hawaii, 56-17

This week: vs. San Jose State

Comment: Utah State hasn’t beaten a good team – it hasn’t even beaten a decent team unless you want to call BYU decent – but the way it is winning has been impressive. Of the Aggies’ eight victories, only one has been decided by single digits and their average margin of victory is 32.9 points. Utah State’s plus-256 scoring margin this season is third in the FBS behind Alabama (335) and Clemson (310). That's dominant.

2. Fresno State

Rank last week: 2

Record: 8-1, 5-0

Last week: Beat UNLV, 48-3

This week: at Boise State (on Friday)

Comment: Like Utah State, Fresno State has largely romped over bad opponents, but that won’t be the case this week as the Bulldogs take on Boise State in a rematch of last season’s MW championship game. These teams split their two meetings last year (the Broncos won the one that really counted). A Fresno State win would more or less guarantee Utah State the Mountain Division title. Let's just say it's a big game.

3. San Diego State

Rank last week: 3

Record: 7-2, 4-1

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 31-23

This week: vs. UNLV

Comment: San Diego State pulled out another hard-fought victory (and John Baron II was again named the MW special teams player of the week, earning the honor for the fifth time this season). Barron nailed the go-ahead 32-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 56 seconds remaining and SDSU looked better on offense after starting QB Christian Chapman and starting RB Juwan Washington returned from injury.

4. Boise State

Rank last week: 4

Record: 7-2, 4-1

Last week: Beat BYU, 21-16

This week: vs. Fresno State (on Friday)

Comment: Boise State still controls its destiny in the MW championship race, but it will have to earn a spot in the title game with contests against Fresno State and Utah State remaining. Boise State almost certainly has to win both of those to win the Mountain Division. The Broncos haven’t looked great this season but draw both the Bulldogs and Aggies at home, so it can still do some special things if it has a strong November.

5. Nevada

Rank last week: 5

Record: 5-4, 3-2

Last week: Bye

This week: vs. Colorado State

Comment: The Wolf Pack is set up to finish the regular season 8-4 with games left against CSU, SJSU and UNLV (those teams occupy three of the bottom four spots in our rankings). It will be interesting to see how Nevada handles being a heavy favorite. The Wolf Pack has been a double-digit favorite against an FBS teams just twice in the last four years. It will be in that spot three times in the next three weeks.

6. Hawaii

Rank last week: 6

Record: 6-5, 3-3

Last week: Lost to Utah State, 56-17

This week: Bye

Comment: Hawaii lost its fourth straight game – the closest defeat in that period being the 18-point loss to Nevada – and is now in danger of missing the postseason. The Rainbow Warriors are on a bye this week and must win one of its last two games (against UNLV and San Diego State) to become bowl eligible. Hawaii should beat UNLV, but if it doesn’t it could end the year on a six-game skid after starting 6-1.

7. Wyoming

Rank last week: 8

Record: 4-6, 2-4

Last week: Beat San Jose State, 24-9

This week: Bye

Comment: Wyoming took care of business against SJSU to post its first two-game winning streak of the season. The Cowboys have a bye this week but are headed in the opposite direction of Hawaii and could surge into the postseason. Wyoming finishes the regular season against Air Force (at home) and against New Mexico (on the road), two games that are tossups at worst. Wyoming has a solid shot of going bowling.

8. Air Force

Rank last week: 7

Record: 3-6, 1-4

Last week: Lost to Army, 17-14

This week: vs. New Mexico

Comment: Air Force lost a heart-breaker to Army, which cost the Falcons the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and likely a potential spot in a bowl game. Air Force must now win out, and it could happen with games left against New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado State, but the margin for error is gone. The Falcons out-gained, and in some ways out-played Army, but couldn’t complete a late drive to win.

9. Colorado State

Rank last week: 9

Record: 3-6, 2-3

Last week: Bye

This week: at Nevada

Comment: Colorado State’s struggles this season were somewhat predictable but also a little unexpected. The Rams have a very young team, and you never know what to expect when that’s the case, but there was enough talent on this squad to reach a bowl game. That’s not going to happen as Colorado State still has Utah State, Nevada and Air Force left on the schedule.

10. New Mexico

Rank last week: 10

Record: 3-6, 1-4

Last week: Lost to San Diego State, 31-23

This week: at Air Force

Comment: Like Wyoming, Air Force and Colorado State, New Mexico also is in a “win out” situation to reach a bowl. The odds are basically nil. New Mexico must still play Boise State (as well as Air Force and Wyoming), so it’s likely a bowl-less season for the Lobos, who didn’t take advantage of a favorable early-season schedule and is now riding a three-game skid.

11. San Jose State

Rank last week: 11

Record: 1-8, 1-5

Last week: Lost to Wyoming, 24-9

This week: at Utah State

Comment: SJSU was destroyed on the ground against Wyoming, which completed just four passes against the Spartans but rushed for 424 yards (6.6 ypc) and two touchdowns. SJSU was lucky the loss was only 24-9 as Wyoming had a gigantic edge in yards (465-244) and time of possession (36:21 to 23:39). There aren’t many winnable games left with contests remaining with Utah State, Nevada and Fresno State.

12. UNLV

Rank last week: 12

Record: 2-7, 0-5

Last week: Lost to Fresno State, 48-3

This week: at San Diego State

Comment: It’s pretty hard to go through a MW season without winning – I mean, SJSU has won at least one conference game each year it’s been in the league – but UNLV in on track for that infamy. Since the MW was formed in 2000, only seven teams have gone winless over a conference season. Wyoming did it in 2000 and 2001; Colorado State in 2009; Air Force and Hawaii in 2013; Hawaii in 2015; and Fresno State in 2016. Good luck, Rebels!

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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