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Mountain West rankings: Boise State bounces back but San Diego State the standard

Boise State
Hank Bachmeier of the Boise State Broncos calls a play at the line during their game against the BYU Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

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, its next opponent and a brief comment.

1. San Diego State

Rank last week: 1

Record: 5-0, 1-0 MW

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 31-7

This week: at San Jose State (on Friday)

Comment: SDSU rushed for 203 yards and four touchdowns in its rout of New Mexico to open MW action. The Aztecs are holding opponents to 16.6 ppg and have hit the 28-point mark in all five of its games. As I point out every week, SDSU’s quarterback play remains suspect (117th out of 130 FBS team in pass efficiency). The Aztecs aren’t beating Nevada and Fresno State without improvement there.

2. Nevada

Rank last week: 2

Record: 4-1, 1-0 MW

Last week: Beat New Mexico State, 55-28

This week: vs. Hawaii

Comment: Nevada easily dispatched NMSU, which fell to 0-5 against the MW this season (the Aggies would rate below UNLV on these rankings if they were in the conference). The Pack now faces a Hawaii team it has lost to in each of the last two year, including a 51-point embarrassment at home in 2019 and a narrow defeat on the road to snap a perfect season in 2020. So, Nevada will be fired up for the game.

3. Fresno State

Rank last week: 3

Record: 4-2, 1-1 MW

Last week: Bye

This week: at Wyoming

Comment: Fresno State had a week to process its loss at Hawaii, which was fueled by six turnovers. Giveaways have been an issue for the Bulldogs, who have 15 turnovers, the second most in the FBS. This is an explosive team, but Fresno State must limit those major mistakes, especially this week against a Wyoming team that is averaging two forced turnovers per game, which ranks top 20 nationally.

4. Boise State

Rank last week: 4

Record: 3-3, 1-1 MW

Last week: Beat No. 10 BYU, 26-17

This week: vs. Air Force

Comment: Boise State’s win at BYU was huge considering a loss would have dropped the Broncos to 2-4 and made reaching a bowl game difficult. The task doesn’t get much easier for the injury-depleted Broncos, who face Air Force’s potent rushing attack. Boise State has had issues stopping the triple-option over the years, and the Broncos are giving up 177.8 rushing yards per game, 11th in the MW.

5. Air Force

Rank last week: 7

Record: 5-1, 2-1 MW

Last week: Beat Wyoming, 24-14

This week: at Boise State

Comment: The Falcons’ run game was limited by Wyoming (211 yards on 64 carries, 3.3 ypc), but Air Force’s defense had another stout performance, holding the Cowboys to 257 yards and 13 first downs. The Falcons allowed 49 points to Utah State earlier this season but have given up just 48 points in its other five games combined. This week’s game against Boise State is a must win if Air Force is going to stay in Mountain Division title contention.

6. Utah State

Rank last week: 6

Record: 3-2, 1-1 MW

Last week: Bye

This week: at UNLV

Comment: Utah State has lost back-to-back games but is coming off a bye and gets a favorable matchup at UNLV, which hasn’t won a football game in almost two calendar years. “Favorable” describes the rest of Utah State’s schedule considering the Aggies avoid Nevada, San Diego State and Fresno State. That gives the Aggies a leg up in the Mountain Division title chase despite already losing to Boise State.

7. Wyoming

Rank last week: 5

Record: 4-1, 0-1 MW

Last week: Lost to Air Force, 24-14

This week: vs. Fresno State

Comment: Wyoming suffered its first loss of the season against Air Force, which wasn’t a huge surprise. The Cowboys had back-to-back scoring drives of 97 and 73 yards in the second quarter but mustered just 87 yards on its other nine possessions (44 plays, or 1.98 yards per snap). The offense must be much better this week against a Fresno State team that is posting a MW-best 39 points per game.

8. Colorado State

Rank last week: 11

Record: 2-3, 1-0 MW

Last week: Beat San Jose State, 32-14

This week: at New Mexico

Comment: CSU scored a lopsided win in its MW opener, an 18-point victory over stumbling SJSU. The Rams were plus-three in turnover margin and had great offensive balance with 232 passing yards and 217 more on the ground. It was the best performance by CSU in the two years under coach Steve Addazio. CSU now faces back-to-back winnable road games at New Mexico and at Utah State.

9. San Jose State

Rank last week: 8

Record: 3-3, 1-1 MW

Last week: Lost to Colorado State, 32-14

This week: vs. San Diego State (on Friday)

Comment: SJSU has oscillated between wins and losses over its first six games, the most recent contest being a blowout defeat to Colorado State. The Spartans rank 99th in pass efficiency offense after ranking 31st in that stat last year. Part of that is the recent injury to Nick Starkel (left arm), although he wasn’t playing well when healthy (50.4 percent passing, six TDs, five INTs, 118.3 passer rating, down from 152.6 last year). It’s been a sharp decline for the Spartans.

10. Hawaii

Rank last week: 9

Record: 3-3, 1-1 MW

Last week: Bye

This week: at Nevada

Comment: Hawaii has had an extra week to prepare for Nevada, and surely coach Todd Graham has schemed up something special to slow down the Wolf Pack’s potent passing games. The Rainbow Warriors held Nevada to a season-low 168 passing yards last season (the Wolf Pack averaged 338 in its eight other contests). It will need a similar effort to hand with Nevada this season, especially if QB Chevan Cordeiro (undisclosed injury, questionable) doesn’t play.

11. New Mexico

Rank last week: 10

Record: 2-4, 0-2 MW

Last week: Lost to San Diego State, 31-7

This week: vs. Colorado State

Comment: New Mexico has lost four straight games after a 2-0 start, and last week’s contest with San Diego State was non-competitive. The Lobos have opened MW play with a 28-point loss to Air Force and a 24-point loss to SDSU. This week’s task against Colorado State at home is more manageable, but the Lobos must get the ground game going after rushing for only 113 yards in its last two games (2.1 yards per carry).

12. UNLV

Rank last week: 12

Record: 0-5, 0-0 MW

Last week: Bye

This week: at Utah State

Comment: UNLV did not lose last week.

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

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