Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 10

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of the Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 10 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Colorado State (7-1 overall, 3-1 MW): Still atop the rankings after the Rams won their league-leading sixth straight game last week against Wyoming. However, the gap is narrowing. Still, Colorado State is playing some of the best football in the conference right now. Good luck trying to defend that passing game. This week: at San Jose State, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). This game pits the best pass defense in the MW in San Jose State (99.7 ypg) against the league’s best passing offense in Colorado State (353.5 ypg). Tricky game for the Rams, but they find a way. Colorado State 38, San Jose St. 31.

2. Boise State (6-2, 3-1): The Broncos beat Colorado State earlier this season so they control their own destiny to win the league’s Mountain Division. Boise State seems to be hitting its stride now, and it might not be long until it is atop the rankings. This week: Off.

3. San Diego State (4-3, 3-1): After a bye week, the Aztecs may get get a couple of key players back on offense and defense. Along with Boise State, San Diego State is the most physical team in the MW. The Aztecs lead the league and are 12th nationally in scoring defense (18.7 ppg). This week: at Nevada, 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday (CBSSN). A tough road game, but that defense and running back Donnel Pumphrey should be enough for a close win. San Diego State 24, Nevada 20.

4. Utah State (5-3, 2-1): Now on its fourth quarterback due to injuries, and some other key guys banged up. The Aggies will be hard-pressed to stay this high for long. But they’ve shown a toughness so far that most teams could never do after losing so many key players. Got to admire that. This week: at Hawaii, 9 p.m. MT Saturday (MW Network — online). It won’t be pretty, but the Aggies find a way to win. Utah State 17, Hawaii 12.

5. Air Force (5-2, 2-2): This is the biggest week for the Falcons as a win at Army Saturday will give them their first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 2011. Air Force is one of the better stories in the conference after winning just two games last season. This week: at Army, 9:30 a.m. MT Saturday (CBS). Both are among the nation’s top rushing teams, but Air Force has the edge on defense. Air Force 31, Army 26.

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UW sports live chat replay

Here’s the replay of WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s weekly live chat on University of Wyoming sports on Thursday, Oct. 30.

Some great conversation about UW and Mountain West football, along with men’s and women’s basketball.

Join Gagliardi for his live game chat from the UW-Fresno State football game starting at 8:30 p.m. MT Saturday. Check back to this blog and wyosports.net for the link, and for more UW sports coverage.

Live Blog University of Wyoming sports live chat

UW-Fresno State football Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Robert Kuwada, who covers Fresno State football for the Fresno Bee, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming. Kickoff is at 8:45 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, California.

Follow on Twitter: @rkuwada

Look for Q&As with beat writers that cover UW football opponents every week throughout the season.

As the defending MW champs and picked by many to win the West Division, are you surprised the Bulldogs are 3-5 overall and what has been the biggest issues or struggles with this team?

Robert Kuwada

Robert Kuwada

The 3-5 record is not much of a surprise. The three losses at the start of the season certainly are not. Fresno State isn’t at a point yet where it can compete physically with well-established Power Five teams like USC, Utah or Nebraska. Even last year, they needed extraordinary performances from an offense with Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse to get by the more physical teams on the schedule. The surprise in there is the loss at UNLV, but they threw the ball 44 times against a defense that was ranked second to last in the nation in rushing defense and didn’t make any plays at the end.

The issues on offense are to be expected to a point, with a lot of last year’s playmakers gone. They have had very inconsistent play from the quarterback position, and some inexperience at the outside and inside receiver positions. Brian Burrell, who lost the starting job, has completed only 56.4 percent of his passes. Fresno State is ninth in the MW in passing efficiency rating and 11th in yards per pass play. That obviously is not a good combination for a team that leads the league in passing attempts.

Defensively, it’s more of the same. Fresno State had issues with is cornerback play last season and is again, giving up 9.0 yards per pass play and 254.2 yards per game. They’ve given up 34 pass plays of 20 or more yards and 17 of 30 or more yards, both worst in the conference.

 

I’m sure you listed defense as one of the team’s struggles this season. What has been the biggest issues with this group and has that surprised you this season?

The struggles against the pass aren’t a huge surprise. Fresno State had depth and talent issues last season that it thought was fixed to a degree through recruiting But junior-college transfer Corey Ferguson was dismissed before the season for a violation of athletic department policy, and Arizona transfer Bryan Harper quit the team for personal reasons after playing poorly early in the season.

The Bulldogs have had five players start at least one game at the corner spots, including strong safety Charles Washington, who they moved out there for a couple of games. The lack of a pass rush hasn’t helped. The sacks are down by almost one per game from last season, but it’s also quarterback pressures and hurries. They pulled the redshirt off of freshman outside linebacker Justin Green in the seventh game of the season to try to get more pressure off the edge.

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No change on injury front for Cowboys

First-year Wyoming football coach Craig Bohl didn’t have a lot of updates regarding injuries prior to Tuesday’s practice, which was held outdoors in War Memorial Stadium.

Bohl said senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi (leg) and senior safety Jesse Sampson (knee) wouldn’t practice today. They will continue to be monitored throughout the week, but Bohl said even if they could play Saturday night at Fresno State, it would likely be in an emergency situation.

Redshirt freshman Tim Kamana and sophomore Will Tutein likely will start at both safety spots at Fresno State. Sophomore Xavier Lewis also will play. UW also will give true freshman cornerback Ryon’e Winters some snaps at safety this week..

Fresno State uses a lot of three and four wide receiver formations, which means UW could play a lot of nickel defense with more defensive backs in the game. That could help its depleted linebacking corps, who is without senior Mark Nzeocha (knee) and junior Malkaam Muhammad (elbow).

Senior linebacker Devyn Harris has played just about every linebacker position there is in his time at UW, and Bohl said Harris has been “a soldier” in terms being willing and able to learn multiple linebacker positions.

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Injuries, player turnover mounts for Cowboys

This month can’t end fast enough for the Wyoming football team.

For the third consecutive week, UW lost a critical player to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. When the Cowboys play at Fresno State Saturday night it will be without five starters on defense who held those roles at the start of the season. They also will be without their top two running backs.

I could list all the bad news, but I will let coach Craig Bohl tell you here in this video from his weekly news conference.

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UW-Colorado State postgame thoughts

Do you take any positives from Wyoming’s 45-31 loss at Colorado State Saturday?

The offense scored 28 second-half points, including 21 in the fourth quarter. Yes, those points came after the game was no longer in doubt. But, was it a positive and something the team can build on?

True freshman running back Brian Hill looked good after junior Shaun Wick left with a broken hand on the first series. Hill had 121 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. I think UW fans are going to like watching him run the ball in the future.

Defensively … OK, hard to draw many positives there as more injuries and missed tackles hurt the Cowboys (no pun intended) once again. Tim Harkins, UW’s sports information director who has been at the school more than 20 years, said he doesn’t remember this many injuries to a Cowboys’  team since former coach Joe Tiller’s first season in 1991 when around 20 players under went surgeries due to injuries.

Here is what first-year coach Craig Bohl said after the game:

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Border War live chat replay

Here’s the replay of WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s his live chat from the 106th Border War football game between the University of Wyoming and Colorado State.

UW lost 45-31 to extend its losing streak to four games. The Cowboys are now 3-5 overall, 1-3 in the Mountain West. Colorado State improved to 7-1, 3-1 and have won six straight.

For more coverage from the game, see Sunday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and check back to wyosports.net.

Live Blog Wyoming-Colorado State football live chat

Border War key to the game; along with notes, quotes and video

Here is WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi’s top key to the game for the Wyoming Cowboys in their Border War game against Colorado State, which kicks off at 5 p.m. today at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Communication: Talking about Wyoming’s defense. With two of its most important starters out with injuries — free safety Darrenn White and outside linebacker Mark Nzeocha — and possibly two other starters (senior defensive end Sonny Puletasi and senior cornerback DeAndre Jones). It is vital the Cowboys know what they are doing against a high-powered Colorado State offense that will use a lot of shifts and motions at the line of scrimmage to set up mismatches.

Gagliardi and WyoSports editor Scott Nulph preview today’s game on their weekly video blog:

This game over the years always has featured players and coaches with ties to both schools.

UW lists 20 players from Colorado on its roster, and 13 have starting experience. Many of them know CSU players going back to when they were in high school. Some were recruited by both schools, others were shunned by Colorado State.

UW senior defensive end Riley Lange, who is from Parker, Colorado, talks about that this week:

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Fans share their favorite Border War memories

Fans — both from Wyoming and Colorado State — respond to a question posted on this blog on their favorite Border War football memories.

The 106th Border War will be played at 5 p.m. Saturday at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins.

–Bramlet to Floyd on a 50-yard touchdown pass to seal the win in 2003. Pokes were struggling under first-year head coach Joe Glenn, but wins against CSU and BYU that year at home provided a huge lift for the fans. –Mark Krug

–The first one I thought of was a blowout in what was a down year for both teams, 44-0 Cowboys in 2010. The most satisfying end to a 3-9 season that I think you could have. Just felt great after that game. — Adam

–Favorite was “The Drive” Wallwork/Harris in 1996. Cold as hell! I just remember that once we punched in the final touchdown by RB Marques Brigham and how excited everyone was. The cold didn’t matter then. 25-24 POKES! — Todd

–I agree! it was at CSU and CSU wanted nothing more than to be a spoiler to the Pokes great season. What a way to come through in the clutch and in terrible weather. It was such an in-justice that a Pokes team that finished 10-2 and a top 20 ranking did not get invited to a bowl game. — A. Usher

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Mountain West football power rankings/picks – Week 9

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi with his weekly installment of the Mountain West football power rankings and picks for Week 9 of the college football season. Look for this every week during the football season, and as always, your feedback is welcome.

1. Colorado State (6-1 overall, 2-1 MW): The Rams remain at the top having won five in a row. They are second in the MW in scoring offense (31 ppg) and scoring defense (21.4 ppg). Once again, the most complete team in the league right now. This week: vs. Wyoming, 5 p.m. MT Saturday (ROOT). The Rams should keep rolling in the 106th Border War. Colorado State 38, Wyoming 20.

2. Boise State (5-2, 3-1): The Broncos are ahead of the Rams in the Mountain Division by a half-game, and based on their win over CSU back in early September. Boise State has the league’s best offense in terms of scoring (32 ppg) and yards (485 ypg). The team also is about as healthy physically since the start of the season, so look out. This week: vs. Brigham Young, 7 p.m. MT Friday (ESPN). Boise State is 42-12 in non-Saturday games and 21-5 on Fridays. Boise State 34, BYU 17.

3. San Diego State (4-3, 2-1): The Aztecs move up two spots because they seem to have found their identity — give the football to sophomore running back Donnel Pumphrey and play good defense. The Aztecs are the only team in the league that allows fewer than 20 points per game (18.7) and Pumphrey is seventh nationally in rushing (141.3 ypg). This week: Off.

4. Utah State (4-3, 1-1): A drop of two spots after a narrow 16-13 loss at Colorado State. The Aggies lost another quarterback in Darrel Garretson, and now are down to their No. 3 guy. But the defense continues to shine and there are enough good players on the team where the quarterback won’t have to do too much … at least not this week. This week: vs. UNLV, 2 p.m. MT Saturday (ESPNews). The Aggies will ride their defense and get a handful of plays from the offense to win. Utah State 27, UNLV 13.

5. Air Force (5-2, 2-2): A narrow home win over New Mexico last week was closer than many expected, but a win is a win. The defense continues to play well. Just a solid team that no one will want to play down the stretch. This week: Off.

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