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Mountain West rankings: Fresno State's slipup opens door for San Diego State, Nevada

Boise State wide receiver Octavius Evans catches a long pass over Fresno State defensive back Cale Sanders Jr. during the Broncos' 40-14 win last Saturday. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
Boise State wide receiver Octavius Evans catches a long pass over Fresno State defensive back Cale Sanders Jr. during the Broncos' 40-14 win last Saturday. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
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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: 8-1, 4-1 MW

Last week: Beat Hawaii, 17-10

This week: vs. Nevada

Comment: Controversially, I had SDSU ranked ahead of Fresno State last week, citing the Aztecs’ slightly superior résumé. I had several Fresno State supporters call me a moron via email. Literally, multiple people used that term. (Sidenote: If you get that upset about my rankings, you care too much about MW football.) And then Fresno State was blown out by Boise State. That’s why I trust résumé over “eye test.” SDSU didn’t look great in its win at Hawaii, but it rarely looks great. The Aztecs’ run game has petered off over the last month, which is concerning. That run game must be great against Nevada.

2. Nevada

Rank last week: 3

Record: 7-2, 4-1 MW

Last week: Beat San Jose State, 27-24

This week: at San Diego State

Comment: Nevada also didn’t look great in its win over SJSU, but you rarely lose games when you defense scores twice, and the Wolf Pack has done that in back-to-back games, the first win a laugher over UNLV and the second the field-goal victory over SJSU where every point mattered. Nevada’s iffy run defense will be tested by SDSU, but I’m more interested to see how the Wolf Pack offense fares against the Aztecs’ elite unit. Nevada has had SDSU’s number of late – three straight wins in the series.

3. Fresno State

Rank last week: 2

Record: 7-3, 4-2 MW

Last week: Lost to Boise State, 40-14

This week: vs. New Mexico

Comment: Fresno State ceded control of its Mountain West title berth destiny with its lopsided loss to Boise State. I guess it’s not a big surprise the Bulldogs fell to the Broncos, but losing by 26 points? I didn’t see that. Fresno State will rue that loss, but it’s really the defeat at Hawaii fueled by six turnovers that doomed the Bulldogs. That loss was unacceptable. Jake Haener threw three interceptions against Boise State and now has eight interceptions in Fresno State’s three losses and just one in its seven wins.

4. Utah State

Rank last week: 4

Record: 7-2, 4-1 MW

Last week: Beat New Mexico State, 35-13

This week: at San Jose State

Comment: Utah State’s path to the MW title remains greased with games remaining against SJSU, Wyoming and New Mexico. Win those three and the Aggies would become one of the most unlikely teams to ever reach the conference title game. Those aren’t gimmies, especially this week’s game at SJSU, but the Aggies have played better ball in the last two weeks – back-to-back victories of at least 20 points – with QB Logan Bonner the conference’s newcomer of the year (2,486 yards, 21 touchdowns).

5. Boise State

Rank last week: 6

Record: 5-4, 3-2 MW

Last week: Beat Fresno State, 40-14

This week: vs. Wyoming (on Friday)

Comment: Boise State has been Jekyll and Hyde this season with two wins over Top 25 schools (BYU and Fresno State) and four losses in total, although all four of those are to teams that are already bowl eligible. Boise State has averaged 154.8 rushing yards per game in its five wins and 55.3 rushing yards per game in its four losses. In fact, the Broncos haven’t rushed for more than 78 yards in any of its losses or fewer than 121 yards in any of its wins. Pretty simple: If Boise State can run the ball, it’s good.

6. Air Force

Rank last week: 5

Record: 6-3, 3-2 MW

Last week: Lost to Army, 21-14 (OT)

This week: at Colorado State

Comment: Air Force lost in overtime to Army with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy on the line. A Falcons win would have clinched the title for Air Force. Instead, Army has it secured even though it’s yet to play Navy. The Falcons rallied late to push the game to overtime but lost when Army scored on its first OT possession via an offensive fumble recovery before getting a stop against the Falcons. It was a painful way for Air Force to lose its biggest prize of the year, but it’s not eliminated from MW title contention.

7. San Jose State

Rank last week: 7

Record: 5-5, 3-3 MW

Last week: Lost to Nevada, 27-24

This week: vs. Utah State

Comment: San Jose State put up a valiant effort against Nevada but was undone by two three turnovers, including two returned for touchdowns. Without those plays, the Spartans win the game and remain in MW title contention, and both came on drives engineered by Nick Nash even though Nick Starkel was healthy enough to play. Obviously, the full blame doesn’t fall on Nash – SJSU missed two field goals and couldn’t get a late stop, yielding 10 points on Nevada’s final two drives – but it was questionable move not to play Starkel the whole game.

8. Wyoming

Rank last week: 11

Record: 5-4, 1-4 MW

Last week: Beat Colorado State, 31-17

This week: at Boise State (on Friday)

Comment: Wyoming snapped a four-game skid by beating rival Colorado State, posting an offensive outburst with 31 points after being held to just 38 points in its first four conference outings. The Cowboys ran for 385 yards, including a 52-yarder and an 87-yarder. Suddenly, Wyoming is one win from bowl eligibility despite being 1-4 in MW play. The Cowboys face the cream of the Mountain Division the next two weeks (Boise State and Utah State) before hosting Hawaii, which could be crucial to get to that six-win mark.

9. Hawaii

Rank last week: 9

Record: 4-6, 1-4 MW

Last week: Lost to San Diego State, 17-10

This week: at UNLV

Comment: Hawaii hasn’t exhibited much consistency this season, sometimes having great defensive games and poor offensive ones and sometimes having great offensive games and poor defensive ones. The Rainbow Warrior defense was up to snuff in the loss to San Diego State, but the offense mustered only 260 yards (4 yards per play) while turning it over four times. That undermined a Hawaii defenses that held SDSU to 227 yards (3.8 yards per play). Hawaii must win out – games with UNLV, Colorado State, Wyoming – to become bowl eligible.

10. Colorado State

Rank last week: 8

Record: 3-6, 2-3 MW

Last week: Lost to Wyoming, 31-17

This week: vs. Air Force

Comment: Colorado State lost its third game in a row and also must win out to reach a bowl, which is unlikely given the remaining schedule (Air Force, Hawaii, Nevada). The Rams turned it over twice on offense and allowed 385 rushing yards on defense, which is not a winning formula. After losing The Border War to Wyoming, Colorado State has to refocus with the Ram-Falcon Trophy on the line against Air Force, which has won four straight games in this series and 12 of the last 14.

11. New Mexico

Rank last week: 10

Record: 3-6, 1-4 MW

Last week: Lost to UNLV, 31-17

This week: at Fresno State

Comment: New Mexico lost by two touchdowns to UNLV and should probably be last in these rankings as a result, but UNLV is still in the conference, so we can’t do that. The Lobos trailed 21-17 at halftime but was held scoreless in the second half, accounting for only 38 yards on 29 plays after intermission. New Mexico was held to 36 passing yards on 16 attempts and lost three fumbles, too. After a 2-0 start, the Lobos are 1-6 and haven’t scored more than 17 points in any of its last seven games.

12. UNLV

Rank last week: 12

Record: 1-8, 1-4 MW

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 31-7

This week: vs. Hawaii

Comment: UNLV earned its first win in 706 days when it beat New Mexico by two touchdowns and has a chance a real winning streak when it hosts Hawaii this weekend. Marcus Arroyo got off the snide with the victory, his first in 15 games as the Rebels’ head coach. He also got a Gatorade bath, which was a long time coming. Finally, Charles Williams became UNLV’s all-time leading rusher with 3,758 yards. It was the best day to be a UNLV football fan in a long time.

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

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