It’s the halfway point of the season in the Mountain West. All 10 teams have played at least six games, and some have played seven.
WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi rates all 10 teams and why. Look for his ratings on a weekly basis as the season continues
1. Boise State (5-1 overall, 2-0 MW): The offensive fire power isn’t there, but the defense has been stellar. The Broncos lead the MW in scoring defense (14.7 ppg), pass defense (173.3 ypg), total defense (334.7 ypg), turnover margin (+11), pass efficiency defense (103.4) and first downs allowed (109).
2. Nevada (6-1, 3-0): The most dynamic offense that leads the MW in scoring (41 ppg) and total offense (549.9 ypg). The Wolf Pack can run and throw with the best of them. A fourth-quarter letdown at home against South Florida is the only thing keeping this team from being undefeated and probably nationally ranked. The defense needs to improve and the better teams in the conference still await.
3. Fresno State (4-3, 2-1): Perhaps the most complete team in the MW, and is not far from being further up the rankings. The Bulldogs have best passing attack in the conference (308.4 ypg) and one of the best all-around players in senior RB Robbie Rouse. Defensively, a switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 scheme has led to a conference-best in sacks (21) and a +9 turnover margin.
4. San Diego State (4-3, 2-1): One of the more balanced offenses in the league (225.9 rushing yards per game, 193.7 passing). Coach Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense isn’t as stout as in past years, but has forced 17 turnovers — the second-most in the conference. The Aztecs won’t be an easy team to beat down the stretch.
5. Air Force (3-3, 2-1): This isn’t one of coach Troy Calhoun’s better teams in his six seasons, but the team seems to do enough to stay in and win games. The triple-option oriented offense will be tough for opposing defenses and the Falcons have the nation’s second-best rushing offense (363 ypg), and the passing game is sneaky good. I don’t think the Falcons have what it takes defensively to beat the teams above them.
6. New Mexico (4-3, 1-1): The Lobos haven’t beat any quality opponents (Southern, New Mexico State, Texas State and Hawaii) but the fact they’ve won four games is nothing but miraculous since they won three games the previous three seasons combined. New Mexico’s winning formula is running (280.3) yards per game, which is seventh nationally. But the pass game averages just 59 yards per game. The defense gives up a lot of yards and points, but has a +8 turnover margin. The Lobos can’t be so one-dimensional offensively if it hopes to win more games.
7. Wyoming (1-5, 0-2): Four losses by 13 points will haunt the Cowboys. If they can keep sophomore starting quarterback Brett Smith on the field they will have a chance to win some games in the second half. But the defense needs to be more consistent across the board and the coaches and players need to keep being resilient.
8. UNLV (1-6, 1-1): The Rebels have shown signs of improvement as four of their losses have been by eight points or less. UNLV can move the ball with quarterback Nick Sherry (248.7 ypg) and running back Tim Cornett (106.7 ypg), but the defense allows 36 points and nearly 480 yards per game.
9. Colorado State (1-6, 0-3): The Rams haven’t been able to keep a quarterback healthy, averages as conference-worst 15.7 points per game and is the only team in the league that doesn’t average at least 100 rushing yards per game. The defense has held up relatively well despite the offensive struggles. The battle for the basement in the MW occurs next week when Hawaii comes to Fort Collins.
10. Hawaii (1-5, 0-3): The team ranks last or second-to-last in 11 offensive and defensive categories in the MW. The most telling of those statistics is that it allows 42.3 points per game, it scores only 20.8 points per contest and has a minus-10 turnover margin. Hawaii’s only win was at home over FCS foe Lamar.