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Mountain West rankings: Air Force's surge continues Boise State's blue turf blues

Hank Bachmeier
Quarterback Hank Bachmeier of the Boise State Broncos is driven out of bounds short of a touchdown by inside linebacker Alec Mock of the Air Force Falcons during second-half action at Albertsons Stadium. (Loren Orr/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: 6-0, 2-0 MW

Last week: Beat San Jose State, 19-13 (2OT)

This week: at Air Force

Comment: San Diego State scored its second multiple-overtime win this season with the victory over San Jose State (SDSU beat Utah in three overtimes earlier this year, a win that’s looking better and better). The Aztecs hit the halfway point of the season undefeated, but it will need much better quarterback play – please start Lucas Johnson! – over the back half of the season, which includes games with Air Force (this weekend), Nevada, Fresno State and Boise State. That’s going to be tough sledding.

2. Nevada

Rank last week: 2

Record: 5-1, 2-0 MW

Last week: Beat Hawaii, 34-17

This week: at Fresno State

Comment: The Wolf Pack leads the Mountain West in scoring at 36.3 points per game and has forced eight turnovers in two conference contests. That’ll work. We’ll get a better feel for how good this team is, specifically the defense, in Saturday’s contest at Fresno State, one of three tough games remaining for Nevada along with contests with San Diego State and Air Force. The Bulldogs will be the stiffest test Nevada’s pass defense faces this season, so that great pass rush must get heat on QB Jake Haener.

3. Air Force

Rank last week: 5

Record: 6-1, 3-1 MW

Last week: Beat Boise State, 24-17

This week: vs. No. 22 San Diego State

Comment: You could make the case for Air Force in the No. 2 spot, and the Falcons are getting more Top 25 votes than Nevada. But Air Force’s lone loss (against Utah State) isn’t as good as Nevada’s lone loss (against Kansas State), and both teams won at Boise State, with the Wolf Pack looking stronger in that victory. Nonetheless, Air Force has looked super impressive in averaging an insane 336.4 rushing yards per game while holding opponents (non-Utah State game) to 10.8 points per contest.

4. Fresno State

Rank last week: 3

Record: 5-2, 2-1 MW

Last week: Beat Wyoming 17-0

This week: vs. Nevada

Comment: Fresno State’s offense had its second straight sub-par game in the win at Wyoming last week, but the defense stepped up to the tune of five forced turnovers, including four interceptions. That Bulldog defense is holding opponents to 19.3 points per game, 25th in the FBS, after giving up 30 points per game last season. That’s an impressive improvement and makes Fresno State more dangerous than it was last year. But the offense must start humming again for the Bulldogs to reach the MW title game.

5. Boise State

Rank last week: 4

Record: 3-4, 1-2 MW

Last week: Lost to Air Force, 24-17

This week: Bye

Comment: Boise State’s blue turf blues continued last week with a loss to Air Force, its third straight at home for the first time since 1996. Boise State rallied to make it interesting late after recovering an onside kick with 49 seconds to play before Hank Bachmeier threw an interception on the next play. Boise State’s odds of winning a MW title all but evaporated with that defeat, and making a bowl game won’t be easy. It’s turning into a rebuilding season for the Broncos under first-year coach Andy Avalos.

6. Utah State

Rank last week: 6

Record: 4-2, 2-1 MW

Last week: Beat UNLV, 28-24

This week: vs. Colorado State (on Friday)

Comment: Utah State didn’t look impressive against UNLV but escaped from Las Vegas with a win after Elelyon Noa’s 11-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left clinched the win for the Aggies. It marked Utah State’s sixth straight win over the Rebels. Logan Bonner threw for 298 yards with Deven Thompkins catching 12 balls for 180 yards and two touchdowns en route to MW offensive player of the week honors. Next up is a game with Colorado State. Utah State is getting 3.5 points despite being at home.

7. Colorado State

Rank last week: 8

Record: 3-3, 2-0 MW

Last week: Beat New Mexico, 36-7

This week: at Utah State (on Friday)

Comment: Colorado State has back-to-back lopsided wins and three victories in its last four games. CSU’s wins over SJSU and New Mexico the last two weeks have come by a combined 47 points, and the Rams are a road favorite at Utah State. CSU doesn’t stand out in any statistical category, although the defense has been pretty stout. The Rams have held each of their last five opponents to 24 points or fewer after allowing 42 points to FCS powerhouse South Dakota State in the season opener.

8. Wyoming

Rank last week: 7

Record: 4-2, 0-2 MW

Last week: Lost to Fresno State, 17-0

This week: vs. New Mexico

Comment: After going 4-0 in non-league games, Wyoming has lost back-to-back MW contests to open conference play. It’s scored just 14 points in those two games in the process. QB Sean Chambers has struggled throwing the ball, completing just 51 percent of his passes with as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns. His backup, Levi Williams, didn’t do much better in last week’s loss to Fresno State, completing 1-of-7 passes with an interception. Wyoming should get back on track versus New Mexico.

9. San Jose State

Rank last week: 9

Record: 3-4, 1-2 MW

Last week: Lost to San Diego State, 19-13 (2OTs)

This week: at UNLV (on Thursday)

Comment: San Jose State put up a hell of a fight against San Diego State before falling in the second overtime, but this offense is plain bad right now. The Spartans mustered 345 yards against SDSU, a good figure considering the level of competition, but tallied just six points in regulation one week after being held to 14 points in a loss to Colorado State. In fact, SJSU is averaging just 10.8 ppg against FBS foes (and I’m not including New Mexico State as FBS competition). That’s down from 28.6 ppg last season.

10. Hawaii

Rank last week: 10

Record: 3-4, 1-2 MW

Last week: Lost to Nevada, 34-17

This week: vs. New Mexico State

Comment: Hawaii was undone against Nevada by four interceptions thrown from Brayden Schager, who was starting his second college game as a true freshman. It was an unfair situation for Schager, who faced a potent pass rush without much help from the run game after Dae Dae Hunter exited late in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury. Next up for Hawaii is a rematch with New Mexico State, which the Rainbow Warriors beat, 41-21, earlier this season. It’s a rare two-series one-season situation.

11. New Mexico

Rank last week: 11

Record: 2-5, 0-3 MW

Last week: Lost to Colorado State, 36-7

This week: at Wyoming

Comment: New Mexico literally has the nation’s worse offense. That according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, which ranks the Lobos’ offensive efficiency 130th out of 130 FBS schools. The Lobos are averaging 14 points per game, also last in the nation, and tally only 253.6 yards per game. New Mexico opened the season with 27-point and 34-point games but has scored 37 points in the five contests since then, with the high-water mark during that period being a 13-point effort against UTEP. That won’t work.

12. UNLV

Rank last week: 12

Record: 0-6, 0-2 MW

Last week: Lost to Utah State, 28-24

This week: vs. San Jose State (on Thursday)

Comment: I predict UNLV will beat San Jose State this week – and I’m not joking about that.

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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