WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi gives his final power rankings for Mountain West football in 2012:
1. Fresno State (9-3 overall, 7-1 MW): As stated numerous times this season, this is the most complete team in the conference. That was evident in the all-conference selections as junior quarterback David Carr was the Offensive Player of the Year, senior safety Phillip Tomas was the Defensive Player of the Year and receiver Davante Adams was the Freshman of the Year. In all, the team had a league-high first team all-conference players. The Bulldogs were the highest scoring team in the MW (40.2 ppg), was second in scoring defense (22.2 ppg) and intercepted the most passes (20). Despite a 10-point loss at Boise State, the nod goes to the Bulldogs as the top team in the league this year.
2. Boise State (10-2, 7-1): Head-to-head play doesn’t mean much in these rankings (you can weigh in on that if you want) because San Diego State won at Boise State this season. The Broncos have been nationally ranked all season. Their strength was on defense as they finished in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (14.9 ppg), total defense (304.7 ypg) and in turnover margin (+18). The offense was OK, and improved as the season went on.
3. San Diego State (9-3, 7-1): Not a lot of separation with these first three teams. The Aztecs won their final seven games of the season, and did it mostly with a powerful run game. What’s even more impressive is San Diego State did a lot of its work with sophomore backup quarterback Adam Dingwell after senior starter Ryan Katz suffered a season-ending leg injury in the eighth game. Coach Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense improved as the season went on, thanks in large part to the play up front. That enabled Long to be named the MW Coach of the Year.
4. Nevada (7-5, 4-4): Again, head-to-head play not a factor here as Nevada was pounded at Air Force 48-31. Although there is not much separation between Nevada and Air Force, I gave the edge to the Wolf Pack based on its offense. Junior running back Stephon Jefferson was second in the nation in rushing (1,703 yards, 22 TDs) and sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo threw for 2,530 yards and 17 touchdowns, and ran for 981 yards and 11 TDs. Nevada also was 5-1 on the road. If Nevada can find even a decent defense, this is a scary team next season.
5. Air Force (6-6, 5-3): The Falcons lost three of their last four to finish the season, with the only win against last-place Hawaii. As always, Air Force had one of the nation’s best rushing offenses (328.8 ypg, second in the nation). But everything else was pretty mediocre. Still, it was good enough for a sixth straight bowl appearance with Troy Calhoun as coach.
6. Wyoming (4-8, 3-5): The Cowboys beat all the teams (UW didn’t play Hawaii) below them in the final standings — and in these power rankings. A good offense with a bad defense, and a team that lost to Nevada and Air Force by a combined eight points. A lot returns on offense, but a lot of improvement needs to be done on a defense that was last in total defense (470.2 ypg) and second-to last in scoring defense (33.4 ppg) in the MW.
7. Colorado State (4-8, 3-5): Like Wyoming, the Rams beat the three teams ranked below them in the standings and these rankings. If the team can find a quarterback, and keep him healthy, better times are ahead of it.
8. UNLV (2-11, 2-6): Another frustrating season was capped by an embarrassing 48-10 loss at Hawaii. Still, coach Bobby Hauck is trying to rebuild the program the right way with young players. The win-loss record doesn’t indicate it, but progress was made. Five losses were by eight points or less. There are pieces to build around such as redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Sherry and junior running back Tim Cornett.
9. New Mexico (4-9, 1-7): At mid-season the Lobos has four wins and first-year coach Bob Davie was a coach of the year candidate. New Mexico lost their final six games, but the job Davie and his staff did was impressive. More talent and depth are needed, but four wins is a great start in this rebuilding process.
10. Hawaii (3-9, 1-7): Still the clear-cut bottom team in the league, but the Rainbows closed the gap a little near the end of the season. The defense ended up 40th in the nation in terms of yards allowed, but both the offense and defense were last in the conference in points scored (21.2) and points allowed (35.7). Two of the team’s wins were against non-FBS teams.
Do you agree or disagree with these rankings? Let me know what you think.