Cutting-edge perspective: non-conference review of MWC 2021

Non-conference games serve several different purposes. In some cases, this allows teams to resolve issues and prepare for the regular season. In other cases, it is a money-taking, taking money to play games and programs can add to their budget. More importantly, it’s a chance for Mountain West to compete against other conferences and make a statement against the Power Five teams.

This article examines how the Mountain West have fared in their non-conference schedule this season. Overall they went an impressive 31-18. Specifically, their record was 5-11 against teams from the Power 5 conferences, plus two more P5 wins in bowl games.

Note: This article does not include bowl games and instead focuses on the off-schedule regular season in the conference.

Upset Power (minus) 5

  • Fresno State vs. UCLA W
  • Nevada vs. Cal W
  • San Diego State vs. Arizona W
  • San Diego State vs. Utah W
  • Utah State vs. Washington State W

Going 5-5 against the PAC-12 is a great statement for Mountain West. Any win is important, but beating conference champion Utah is a huge deal. SDSU has a long history of winning against PAC-12 teams and has continued to do so this season. Four different MWC teams beating five different PAC-12 teams demonstrates that this was a strong conference performance and not just one or two teams.

Good losses at Power 5

  • Boise State vs. Oklahoma State L
  • Colorado State vs. Vanderbilt L
  • Colorado State vs. Iowa L
  • Fresno State vs. Oregon L

All four games were tight losses, and at least two of them arguably could have ended in wins for Mountain West. Boise State had a touchdown disallowed by a bad referee and missed an easy field goal in the fourth quarter. Fresno State was bitten by the turnover bug while playing the Ducks on the wire. CSU suffered two narrow losses, with Iowa being a top-five team when they played and kept it close until the Hawkeyes retired late.

Bad losses for the Power 5

  • Hawaii vs. UCLA L
  • Hawaii vs. Oregon State L
  • Nevada vs. Kansas State L
  • New Mexico vs. Texas A&M L
  • San Jose State vs. USC L
  • UNLV vs. Arizona State L
  • UNLV vs. Iowa State L

All of these games ended in blowouts. Some weren’t surprising at all, like the losses in New Mexico and San Jose State. Other games, such as the defeat of the Wolf Pack, was a game that many thought Nevada would win. As for the other teams, they weren’t expected to win, but the hope was that they would have performed better.

NMSU: 13th unofficial member of Mountain West

  • Hawaii vs. New Mexico State W
  • Hawaii vs. New Mexico State W
  • Nevada vs. New Mexico State W
  • New Mexico vs. New Mexico State W
  • San Diego Stave vs. New Mexico State W
  • San Jose State vs. New Mexico State W
  • Utah State vs. New Mexico State W

Why do Mountain West teams continue to schedule games against New Mexico State? Especially Hawaii, which ended up playing them twice in the same season. And no game was in a bowl. New Mexico makes sense due to in-state rivalry, but it’s the only one. At least they’ve won every game against the Aggies, going 7-0 this year. Mountain West teams better try to schedule games against American teams, even if it’s with the bottom of the conference.

Academy games

  • Air Force vs. Navy W
  • Air Force vs. Army L

The Air Force went 1-1 in games against its rivals. While 2-0 is still the goal, the three academy teams looked pretty even this season.

BYU Games

  • Boise State vs. BYU W
  • Utah State vs. BYU L

BYU was a top 10 team when the Broncos pulled off the upset. It could easily have been two losses, and pulling out the extra win improves the overall conference record. Going 1-1 against such a strong team is quite a feat.

Group of 5 draws

  • Air Force vs. FAU W
  • Boise State vs. UCF L
  • Boise State vs. UTEP W
  • Fresno State vs. UConn W
  • New Mexico vs. UTEP L
  • UNLV vs. USTA L
  • Wyoming vs. UConn W

These are called draw games because they are essentially 50/50 games. Although they shouldn’t be, the overall record seems to hover around .500 when Mountain West plays the rest of the group of 5. MWC went 4-3 in this category, and really it was 8-3 in taking into account the matches against the MAC. For this season, they stepped up their game and showed how strong the conference really was this season.

Own the MAC

  • Colorado State vs. Toldeo W
  • San Jose State vs. Western Michigan W
  • Wyoming vs Northern Illinois W
  • Wyoming vs. Ball State W

The Mountain West is expected to dominate the G5 conferences not named the American. Against the MAC, they did. And CSU, SJSU and Wyoming weren’t the strongest teams in the conference this season and were still able to easily beat MAC teams.

FCS give me games (wins)

  • Air Force vs. Lafayette W
  • Fresno State vs. Cal Poly W
  • Hawaii vs. Portland State W
  • Nevada vs. Idaho State W
  • New Mexico vs. Houston Baptist W
  • San Diego State vs. Towson W
  • San Jose State vs. Southern Utah W
  • Utah State vs. North Dakota W
  • Wyoming vs. Montana State W

FCS games should be gimmes. Often Mountain West teams pay money for these teams to come in and lose. It is assumed that the MWC teams will win, and earning nine wins is a huge achievement. But they really shouldn’t lose any of those games.

FCS give me games (Defeats)

  • Colorado State vs. South Dakota State L
  • UNLV vs. Eastern Washington L

However, two Mountain West teams have lost to FCS teams this season. To be fair, South Dakota State and Washington East are both very good teams. However, either they shouldn’t schedule these teams or they should just play better than these teams. Unfortunately, those two games have been a disappointment for Mountain West this season.

Overall, the Mountain West has enjoyed success in its non-conference program. Apart from a few bad games, they have competed competitively at every level of competition they have faced in the 2021 season.

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