To many college football fans, Mountain West Conference football is seen as a joke. Specifically, when compared to the Power Five conferences. MW football has been a punching bag for ridicule online, and in person. It’s time to end the stigma.
Prior to this past weekend, the last 11 games played between MW schools versus Power Five opponents, the MW has eight victories. This includes the last two times Nevada has played Power Five opponents.
Last season the Pack played Oregon St. in Reno, the game came down to a missed field goal by Oregon St. giving Nevada the victory. A semi-similar series of events happened in week one of this season with Nevada edging out Purdue on a 56-yard field goal.
The other program on that list of eight that has two victories, is Fresno St. The Bulldogs pulled out victories last season against UCLA and Arizona St. Between these two games, Fresno St. outscored its opponents by a combined 35 points, while outpacing them by just under 300 yards.
Admittedly, Fresno St. did stumble in week one of this season against the University of Southern California, a Pac-12 team and Power Five team. The game was at least close, coming down to a one-score game at the end.
The other teams on the eight-win list include Boise St. and Wyoming, followed by Hawai’i and San Diego St.
Boise St. opened their season this year on the road against Florida St. Even though they only won the game by five points, the game was no way as close as the final score made it seem. The Broncos offense put up 621 yards on the Seminoles, but that’s not the craziest stat. Florida St. had a time of possession of 19:57, Boise St. more than doubled that 40:03. These factors are what propelled Boise St. to hold the Seminoles out of the endzone in the second half, leading them to victory.
As for Wyoming, Hawai’i and SDSU, all of their games ended in a similar fashion, with each team winning by a touchdown or less. However, there is one stat between the Hawai’i and SDSU games that sticks out, the turnover margin.
Between these two games, Hawai’i and SDSU combined for a plus-five turnover margin. A positive turnover margin can often sway the tide for any team in the positive range. For example, look no further than Nevada’s match against Purdue —the Wolf Pack forced five turnovers in the win.
The outlier to everything that has been addressed thus far, is the Wyoming victory in week one of this season. In the Cowboys’ matchup versus Mizzou, Wyoming threw an interception and fumbled twice. They forced zero turnovers of their own. Wyoming was outpaced in yardage, lost the time of possession battle and converted 12 less first downs than Mizzou. It actually doesn’t really make sense how they won their game, but they found a way.
As the MW seeks to establish itself as a marquee conference in the NCAA, its football teams will continue to schedule up for tougher opponents. This is to build a respectable resume for the eyes of the college football fans, and more importantly, the AP.
Unfortunately for MW schools, they didn’t do themselves any favors this past weekend. Three programs had matches against Power Five opponents—Nevada, Fresno St. and Hawai’i.
The Wolf Pack had the roughest time of it by a wide margin, losing 77-6 in Eugene, Oregon. Fresno St. was barely edged out by Minnesota in an overtime loss. The lone winner of the group was Hawai’i, who shut out Oregon St. in the second half.
If the MW is to grow, they will need more wins like the Hawai’i fashion.
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.