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Here's what needs to happen for Nevada football to play for a Mountain West title

Kelton Moore
Kelton Moore and the Wolf Pack can still advance to the Mountain West title game. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

The last time Nevada football played meaningful November games with Mountain West title implications was 2014.

In that season, Nevada had a chance to take advantage of a down MW West Division in its penultimate game of the regular season, a contest with Fresno State that basically would decide who won the division.

Nevada lost that home game, 40-20, and hasn't been in the divisional hunt since then – until this season. While the Wolf Pack's shot of representing the West Division in the MW title game this season is slim, it's not impossible.

“You earn that right by how you play in September and October," Norvell said of being in the MW title race. "There’s the old saying that, 'You always remember the games in November,' and that’s why because you’re playing for something. I think about the last couple of decades and all of the games in the last month of the season when you’re really playing for something and meaningful. That’s why your kids play all year, that’s why the run sprints and lift weights, so these last few games mean something and we’re still in the hunt. We’re not mathematically eliminated from being the representative of our division. We want to keep playing hard and see what happens. We went through a real tough stretch in our schedule and now other people are going through tough stretches and we’ll see how they handle it and we need to handle what we can control, which is to play well this week.”

Nevada (6-4, 4-2 MW) faces San Jose State (1-9, 1-5) on Saturday, followed by the regular-season finale at UNLV (3-9, 1-5). It must win both games to have a shot at capturing the West Division. It also needs a lot of help, the first step being San Diego State beating Fresno State this weekend. That result plus a Nevada win over SJSU would create a three-way tie atop the West Division between Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State.

Here are the MW's tiebreaker rules.

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Tie Between Two Teams

In the event of a percentage tie for a divisional championship between two teams, if one team was the winner of the conference game between the two teams, it shall be the divisional champion. If no game was played between the two tied teams, or that game ended in a tie, the following comparison procedure shall be used to break the tie:

a) Winning percentage in games played within the division.

b) Winning percentage against the next highest?placed team in the division (based upon the team’s record in all games played in the Conference), proceeding through the division.

c) Winning percentage against common Conference opponents.

d) Highest CFP ranking (or the composite of selected computer rankings if neither team is ranked in the CFP rankings) following the final week of Conference regular?season games.

e) Overall winning percentage against FBS opponents.

f) Coin toss.

Tie Between Three or More Teams

In the event of a percentage tie for a divisional championship between three or more teams, the following comparison procedure shall be used until one or more teams gain an advantage:

a) Winning percentage in games played among the tied teams.

b) Winning percentage in games played against division opponents.

c) Winning percentage against the next highest?placed team in the division (based upon the team’s record in all games played in the Conference), proceeding through the division. (When comparing tied teams against positions lower in the standings that are also tied, those lower-tied positions shall be considered a single position for the purposes of comparison.)

d) Winning percentage against common Conference opponents.

e) Highest CFP ranking (or the composite of selected computer rankings if neither team is ranked in the CFP rankings) following the final week of Conference regular?season games.

If at any time during this analysis, any team(s) should gain an advantage over the other team(s) tied at that position, the team(s) holding the advantage shall move forward in the tiebreaking process while the other team(s) are eliminated. If it is reduced to a two-team tie at any point, the process shall then revert to the beginning of the tie-breaking procedures (tie between two teams) and shall be applied (in order) until the two-team tie is broken.

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Nevada would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker against Fresno State given the Bulldogs' win over the Wolf Pack last month. But what about a three-way tie between Nevada, SDSU and Fresno State at 6-2?

Under subhead (a), the teams would remain tied because they went 1-1 against each other (again, this is assuming a SDSU win over Fresno State this weekend).

Under subhead (b), SDSU would be eliminated because it would be 3-2 against West Division opponents (loses to Nevada and UNLV), whereas Nevada and Fresno State would be 4-1 in the West.

We then revert to this line: "If at any time during this analysis, any team(s) should gain an advantage over the other team(s) tied at that position, the team(s) holding the advantage shall move forward in the tiebreaking process while the other team(s) are eliminated. If it is reduced to a two-team tie at any point, the process shall then revert to the beginning of the tie-breaking procedures (tie between two teams) and shall be applied (in order) until the two-team tie is broken."

As I read this, once SDSU is eliminated, we revert to the two-team tiebreaker, at which point Fresno State trumps Nevada because of the head-to-head victory.

So for Nevada to advance to the MW title game, it must beat SJSU and UNLV (likely) and have Fresno State lose to San Diego State and San Jose State (not likely). There is a path to the MW championship game for Nevada. It's narrow.

“To be alive for a Mountain West title, to hear we’re still alive, the only thing we have to do now is win," Nevada defensive lineman Dominic Peterson said. "It’s not, ‘If this happens, we’re in it.’ Regardless of whatever is happening outside of us, we’re just planning on winning these last two games.”

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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