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Murray's MW rankings: And down the stretch they come ...

Gabe Sewell
Gabe Sewell and the Wolf Pack are finishing the season strong. (Nick Aberle/Nevada athletics)

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: 9-1, 6-0

Last week: Beat San Jose State, 62-24

This week: at Colorado State

Comment: Utah State did what it was expected to do against SJSU, pummeling the Spartans. QB Jordan Love threw for 491 yards and five TDs, RB Darwin Thompson finished with 255 total yards and three TDs, 10 pass-catchers had a reception and Utah State posted a school-record 804 total yards. Utah State’s 66 touchdowns also are a program record (and the most in the FBS this year), and the Aggies could play four more games.

2. Fresno State

Rank last week: 2

Record: 8-2, 5-1

Last week: Lost to Boise State, 24-17

This week: vs. San Diego State

Comment: Fresno State led Boise State, 17-3, in the third quarter but couldn’t hold on, allowing three touchdowns in the final 21 minutes of the game (the Bulldogs had allowed just three touchdowns in its previous five games combined). Fresno State hasn’t won at Boise State since 1984, a span of 10 games. Still, Fresno State can clinch the West Division championship this week with a win over San Diego State.

3. Boise State

Rank last week: 4

Record: 8-2, 5-1

Last week: Beat Fresno State, 24-17

This week: at New Mexico (on Friday)

Comment: Boise State needed to beat Fresno State to keep alive its MW title aspirations and it did just that with its second-half comeback. It was the Broncos’ first win over a ranked team in November in school history and also was the first time the Broncos were a home underdog for a regular-season game since 1999. Boise State faces Utah State in the regular-season finale, but first it gets New Mexico.

4. San Diego State

Rank last week: 3

Record: 7-3, 4-2

Last week: Lost to UNLV, 27-24

This week: at San Diego State

Comment: I kept SDSU over Nevada despite the Wolf Pack’s head-to-head victory because: (a) SDSU has a better record and (b) SDSU has two wins – over Boise State and Arizona State – that are more impressive than Nevada’s best win (SDSU), but the Aztecs’ loss to UNLV basically ended SDSU’s title aspirations. The Aztecs need to win out, have Fresno State lose out and have Nevada lose to SJSU or UNLV. Not happening.

5. Nevada

Rank last week: 5

Record: 6-4, 4-2

Last week: Beat Colorado State, 49-10

This week: at San Jose State

Comment: The Wolf Pack has won three in a row and draws two easy games to cap the season (at SJSU and at UNLV). Win out and Nevada would end the season with a five-game winning streak, its longest streak since 2012 when it also won five straight. The Wolf Pack hasn’t won five straight to cap a regular season since 2010 when it won six in a row, including that victory over No. 3-ranked Boise State.

6. Hawaii

Rank last week: 6

Record: 6-5, 3-3

Last week: Bye

This week: vs. UNLV

Comment: Hawaii has two shots to get to a bowl, the first being the most likely path to the postseason when the Rainbow Warriors face UNLV. Hawaii then ends the season at San Diego State. If you told Hawaii before the season began it’d be 6-5 at this stage, it would have taken that instantaneous. But after starting the year 6-1 and losing its last four games, Hawaii needs to win one of its final two to salvage what appeared to be a great season.

7. Wyoming

Rank last week: 7

Record: 4-6, 2-4

Last week: Bye

This week: vs. Air Force

Comment: Wyoming and Air Force play a “loser out” game as far as bowl contention goes. The Cowboys have won four of the last five in this series and enters this week’s game as a field-goal favorite with the total only at 42. It should be a low-scoring game – Wyoming struggles offensively – and it will take the Cowboys’ best effort of the year to win (Wyoming’s only two MW victories have come over SJSU and Colorado State, two really bad teams).

8. Air Force

Rank last week: 8

Record: 4-6, 2-4

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 42-24

This week: at Wyoming

Comment: Air Force beat New Mexico last weekend, rushing for 479 yards and four touchdowns in the process, to keep alive its bowl hopes. After the game against Wyoming, the Falcons face Colorado State, so reaching the postseason is doable. All six of Air Force’s losses have come by 10 points or less. Four have been by six points or less. Three have been by four points or less. So Air Force deserves some breaks to go its way after all those close defeats.

9. Colorado State

Rank last week: 9

Record: 3-7, 2-4

Last week: Lost to Nevada, 49-10

This week: vs. Utah State

Comment: Colorado State has been the MW’s biggest disappointment this season, and it’s not even close. The Rams lost to Nevada by 39, Florida by 38, Colorado by 32, Boise State by 28, Illinois State by 16 and Wyoming by 13. These were non-competitive games from a coach making $1.8 million a year and in a program that opened a $220 million stadium last season. That’s not acceptable.

10. New Mexico

Rank last week: 10

Record: 3-7, 1-5

Last week: Lost to Air Force, 42-24

This week: vs. Boise State (on Friday)

Comment: New Mexico’s aspirations of reaching a bowl game vanished with the loss to Air Force, and now the Lobos close the season with Boise State and Wyoming, which could mean a three-win campaign for New Mexico. Coach Bob Davie, whose contract runs through 2021, has done many good things for the Lobos, namely winning a share of the Mountain title in 2016 and reaching back-to-back bowls in 2015-16, but it might be time for new blood.

11. UNLV

Rank last week: 12

Record: 3-7, 1-5

Last week: Beat San Diego State, 27-24

This week: at Hawaii

Comment: Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Mark Anderson tweeted this after UNLV’s win over SDSU: Tony Sanchez is the first Rebels coach to record at least three wins four successive seasons since John Robinson (1999-2004). That’s hilarious and a little pathetic. It was a big win, though, the best non-Nevada win in Sanchez’s four-year tenure, and the Rebels have a pair of winnable games to close.

12. San Jose State

Rank last week: 11

Record: 1-9, 1-6

Last week: Lost to Utah State, 62-24

This week: vs. Nevada

Comment: SJSU spent a couple of weeks out of the bottom spot but is back at its rightful home. With games left against Nevada and Fresno State, it’s unlikely SJSU adds to its win total this year, which would mean the Spartans would have a combined three wins over the last two seasons. And while SJSU has made progress this year, only two of its eight losses to FBS teams were by single digits.

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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