Mountain West Football: Early 2022 SP+ Rankings Revealed

ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his early preseason projection of who could be among Mountain West football’s most efficient teams next fall.

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Mountain West Football: Early 2022 SP+ Rankings Revealed

ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his early preseason projection of who could be among Mountain West football’s most efficient teams next fall.

Contact/Follow @MattK_FS & @MWCwire

How does the conference measure up?

After unveiling how FBS teams stand in terms of returning production for the 2022 college football season, ESPN’s Bill Connelly dropped his early SP+ projections this morning.

SP+, which measures efficiency on both sides of the ball (success rate, explosiveness, and more) and is adjusted for tempo and quality of opponents, reflects returning production, overall recruiting and recent history into its ratings. So how the Mountain West look in this early part of the off-season?

  • 39. Fresno State — #28 offense, #56 defense
  • 43. Boise State — #72 offense, #16 defense
  • 65. Air Force — #65 offense, #62 defense
  • 67. San Diego State — #118 offense, #12 defense
  • 85. Wyoming — #102 offense, #65 defense
  • 86. Colorado State — #108 offense, #57 defense
  • 91. Utah State — #73 offense, #102 defense
  • 96. San Jose State — #110 offense, #74 defense
  • 109. UNLV — #114 offense, #92 defense
  • 120. Nevada — #128 offense, #109 defense
  • 122. Hawaii — #117 offense, #119 defense
  • 126. New Mexico — #131 offense, #78 defense

After four Mountain West teams reached the top 60 by the end of 2021, many in the conference are projected for something of a soft reset, though that isn’t unusual. Connelly notes that, on average, no conference lost more 2021 production across the board, enough to account for a -4.5 adjusted points drop that is more than double of any other.

Fresno State and Boise State lead the way, though the splits on offense and defense reveal where there’s work to be done for the Bulldogs and Broncos. In particular, Boise State’s offensive SP+ projection is, for now, the team’s worst outlook on that side of the ball ever.

As for defending champion Utah State, the Aggies’ prognostication is much improved from this time a year ago but personnel losses on defense will provide the biggest challenge in this year’s climb. Interestingly, their unit splits are almost a mirror image of the conference champions who preceded them, San Jose State, though both have taken to the transfer portal to reinforce where SP+ has taken its most conservative views.

The bottom of the rankings should come as no surprise, though, since both Nevada and Hawaii suffered heavy production losses through the portal and New Mexico is saddled with what projects at present as the nation’s worst offense. If Lobos fans are looking for upside, however, Rocky Long’s defense carries a better 2022 projection than some of last year’s most successful teams, like UTSA, UCLA and Wake Forest.

The only teams starting ahead of where they finished last season are Colorado State (up one spot) and UNLV (up six spots).

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Wyoming Football: Six Breakout Players for 2020

These are the top players to breakout this year for Wyoming.

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Six Names all Cowboys fans need to know

Which Cowboys will break out in the 2020 season and make their mark on the Mountain West?

Contact/Follow: @MWCwire

Secret to Success

An underrated aspect to a team’s possible success is breakout stars. They make for the best stories, the ones we either did not see coming or that we were able to brag about knowing beforehand. Around the Mountain West, everyone knows the names Chambers, Valladay, and Byrd, but are there some names you should learn? I will be predicting six possible breakout players for the Wyoming Cowboys in 2020, three on offense and three on defense.

The Cowboys’ defense is their focal point and may feel the holes left by some considerable losses. The question is, how will they fill them?

On the other hand, Wyoming’s offense has one glaring issue, one which the staff has taken a strong initiative to fix. They are going in a clear direction, opting for huge targets that can complement all facets of the offense.

Here are the six players I could see breaking out for the Cowboys in 2020.


1. Chad Muma (Linebacker)

This pick may seem like a no brainer to die-hard Cowboys fans. Many of you may think he is already a household name.

The junior linebacker really had a productive year in 2019 finishing sixth on the team with 51 tackles. Trust me, I know. The reason Muma is on this list is that I could see him taking the leap from productive defender to NFL prospect. His shoes will be a size larger than most, as he will be filling the massive loss of 3rd round draft pick Logan Wilson, who finished his tenure at Wyoming as the program’s 4th all-time leading tackler.

Thing is, I could see the Lone Tree Colorado native stepping up and bandaging the loss. Muma will be added to an already extremely impressive front seven, making Wyoming one of the dangers in the Mountain West. His progression has already proven to be incredible, and he oozes star potential. Muma could go from a productive player to a future NFL prospect.

2. Oluwaseyi Omotosho (Defensive End)

Wyoming got a special one here. You may not be able to pronounce the three-star recruit’s name, but trust me, you should practice it. Cowboys fans will be saying a lot over the next four years.

Omotosho played at George Bush high school in Houston, Texas. At 6’2 and 210 pounds, he possesses the impressive size and shows flashes of explosive speed off the edge. He finished his senior year with 65 tackles and 6 sacks earning his three-star rating. According to ESPN recruiting, Omotosho is the Cowboys top recruit of 2020 with a grade of 75.

Though he may have to battle for some time next year given the depth of position, he is still someone to keep your eye on; If not redshirted I am sure he will find his way on the field sometime next year and start making waves.

3. Rome Weber (Safety)

Another poke who had a solid freshman season in 2019, Weber appeared in every game of 2019, finishing with 38 tackles and an interception.

Wyoming has a strong history of having elite safeties and recently has put a significant amount of talent in the pros. I see sophomore Rome Weber taking a big jump this season and becoming the focal point of their secondary.

Rome has the potential to help protect and grow the culture of star safeties produced by the pokes.

Schedule Breakdown: Utah State Football

USU’s 2020 football schedule is out. Aggies have a tough road ahead of them.

Contact/Follow @SamMcConkie & @MWCwire

The Schedule is out for USU football: Let’s break it down.

The Mountain West recently put out its full football schedule for the 2020 season. Outside of the non-conference games, USU finally knows which order it’s going to play its opponents in.

Here’s a quick look at strength of schedule using ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI):

#54 Washington State

FCS Southern Utah

#29 at Washington

#62 at BYU

#88 San Diego State

#51 at Boise State

#124 New Mexico

#98 at Nevada

#77 at Wyoming

#93 Fresno State

#96 at Colorado State

#76 Air Force

Tough road to start

Aggies are going to start out the season with a solid non-conference slate. Newly staffed Washington State will roll into town with head coach Nick Rolovich leading the charge. Though Wazzou is likely to take a step back with the loss of their star passer Anthony Gordon, Rolovich has a strong reputation for pass heavy offenses. He’ll throw everything including the kitchen sink at a youthful Aggie defense.

After playing the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in the teams’ first meeting since 2015, Aggies will take on the Washington Huskies in Seattle. Even with Chris Petersen stepping down, the Huskies are in great hands with defensive guru Jimmy Lake. Aggies haven’t won a road game against a P5 opponent since the Nixon administration, so it will no doubt be tough sledding against an elite Husky defense.

Aggies will get a bye week before facing the BYU down in Provo. Though I generally am not a fan of early-season bye weeks, this one comes at a great time. Sandwiching strong Pac-12 teams around SUU should set the Aggies up to be both battle-tested and rested before they look for revenge against the Cougars in October.

Bonus fact: Aggies are 2-0 against BYU when coming off a bye.

Lighter load down the stretch against new coaches

With the exception of the defending Mountain West champs Boise State, the rest of the opponents are quite manageable for the Aggies. San Diego State and Fresno State both come to Logan, and both teams have new head coaches in charge. The Aggies will close out the regular season at home with a likely rebuilding Falcon squad as well.

Road tilts at Wyoming and Nevada are difficult, but winnable. The Wolf Pack’s QB situation is completely up in the air, and Wyoming appears to be toying with the idea of a two-QB system. As strong as the defensive culture has become in Laramie, their offensive prowess still leaves much to be desired.

On the very light end of the schedule, Aggies will face New Mexico in Logan and Colorado State in Fort Collins. The Lobos were an absolute disaster last season and the storyline will only improve as much as Rocky Long is able to coach up their defense. Last season, the Lobos ranked dead last in the FBS in pass yards allowed. They can only improve, but there will be plenty of growing pains along the way.

And let’s be real: nobody knows why Steve Addazio ended up with the Rams. He has virtually no ties to the west and he had plenty of baggage at Boston College. Time will tell if he’s a good fit for the pass-heavy Rams.

Final Thoughts

There are only a handful of what could be considered “easy games” on this schedule. It starts out as genuinely challenging but lightens considerably after the mid-October date with the Broncos.

One nice variable the Aggies have going in their favor is they’ll be facing six teams who all have new head coaches. Whether at home or on the road, taking advantage of another team’s growing pains and variable chemistry can open some prime opportunities for wins.

The Aggies themselves are transitioning back to a 3-4 “attacking” defense they had in 2018. With Stacy Collins and Frank Maile taking command of the defense, the transition will likely have fewer issues than it would have otherwise. If the unit can get near where it was in 2018, USU will have a puncher’s chance in most of their games.

Projected record: 7-5

“Body bag” games (Sure loss): at Washington, at Boise State

Difficult games (can win, but likely loss): Wazzou, at Wyoming

Toss-up games: at BYU, San Diego State, Air Force

Should win: New Mexico, at Nevada, at Colorado State, Fresno State

Raja’s Tomato-can variety: Southern Utah

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2020 College Football Top 25 Rankings: Where Are Mountain West Teams?

Where do the Mountain West schools rank in the early 2020 college football rankings?

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2020 College Football Top 25 Rankings: Where Are Mountain West Teams?

Boise State is the only Mountain West team ranked ahead of 2020.

Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire

A look at the way too early rankings.

The 2019 college football season is just barely in the review mirror and that means there are going to be a lot of super early preseason rankings that are likely to be very wrong.

However, taking an early look is really fun and we did the same in our first 2020 Mountain West football power rankings. We will go through the lists that have and do not have Mountain West teams ranked, and to the shock of very, very few people it is a whole lot of Boise State getting consideration. Based on history the Broncos will not be the only team ranked throughout the year.

Below are what teams are ranked, or not ranked, and some blurbs.

The Athletic: A team to be considered

USA TODAY: No. 20 Boise State

Getting back there is possible given the youth of this year’s offense, including freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier, though the Broncos do need to develop a new top target at receiver. The defense will be heavy on seniors but will miss the production of star pass rusher Curtis Weaver.

College Football News: None

ESPN: No. 18 Boise State

The Broncos will have to rebuild both lines of scrimmage heading into 2020, with four starting offensive linemen and four defensive linemen departing. Hatada, Lui, Moa and Weaver combined for 180 tackles and 25 sacks this past season. The Broncos return a strong group of linebackers and defensive backs, but they’ll have to find replacements up front. Quarterback Hank Bachmeier won seven of his eight starts as a freshman but was plagued by injuries.

CBS Sports: No. 20 Boise State

You know how I know the Broncos will be good? Twenty-one straight senior classes have left with at least one conference title. Little known fact: At the end of the season, Boise very quietly became the current active winningest program (.7305).

Athlon SportsNo. 18 Boise State

The Broncos have a few major question marks to address this offseason, but this team will once again push to be the top Group of 5 squad in 2020. The quarterback position is in good hands with Hank Bachmeier back after a promising freshman season, and there’s a strong collection of skill players in place with George Holani and Robert Mahone heading up the ground game, and Khalil Shakir, CT Thomas, and Octavius Evans back at receiver.

Final College Football Rankings: Air Force, Boise State Ranked In Final AP Poll

Air Force ends the year as the highest ranked Mountain West team in the AP top 25 poll.

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Final College Football Rankings: Air Force, Boise State Ranked In Final AP Poll

Falcons end the season higher ranked than the Broncos.

Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire

Two Mountain West teams ranked.

The final Associated Press top 25 polls is out after LSU won the national title over Clemson, and those two teams obviously took over the top two spots.

As for the rest of the poll, there are a pair of Mountain West teams that earned a ranking in Air Force and Boise State. The Falcons who won their bowl game over Washington State moved up from 24 to 22 and the Broncos who fell 38-7 to Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl, fell from 23 to 18.

This means that the Falcons finished as the highest-ranked Mountain West team for the year and it is the first time in league history that Air Force ends the year as the highest-ranked team.

Not that voters pay extremely close attention, especially for end of season polls, but Boise State did beat Air Force head-to-head way back in September. So, perhaps voters didn’t look that far back — trust me that did not do that much research — and if very few did they probably felt the teams have evolved and changed since then.

Both finished with a 12-2 record, both have wins over one Power 5 team, and the main difference is sort of a big one with the head-to-head win. Pollsters likely just saw that Air Force won the bowl game whereas Boise State did not, and that is the likely only real thought about where to rank these two Mountain West teams.

San Diego State is also represented in the poll by receiving votes in the final AP poll.


25. Texas Longhorns 8-5 69 (NR)

24. UCF Knights 10-3 78 (NR)

23. Boise State Broncos 12-2 188 (18)

22. Air Force Falcons 12-2 209 (24)

21. Cincinnati Bearcats 11-3 343 (23)

20. Navy Midshipmen 11-2 415 (21)

19. Appalachian State Mountaineers 13-1 466 (20)

18. Michigan Wolverines 9-4 468 (17)

17. Memphis Tigers 12-2 528 (15)

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16. Utah Utes 11-3 543 (12)

15. Iowa Hawkeyes 10-3 699 (19)

14. Auburn Tigers 9-4 726 (10)

13. Baylor Bears 11-3 827 (8)

12. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 11-2 879 (14)

11. Wisconsin Badgers 10-4 883 (11)

10. Minnesota Golden Gophers 11-2 952 (16)

9. Penn State Nittany Lions 11-2 1038 (13)

8. Alabama Crimson Tide 11-2 1159 (9)

7. Oklahoma Sooners 12-2  1179 (4)

6. Florida Gators 11-2 1211 (6)

5. Oregon Ducks 12-2 1242 (7)

4. Georgia Bulldogs 12-2 1336 (5)

3. Ohio State Buckeyes 13-1 1426 (2)

2. Clemson Tigers 14-0 1487 (2)

1. LSU Tigers 15-0 1550 (1)

Also Receiving Votes: Texas A&M 54, Florida Atlantic 46, Washington 39, Virginia 28, USC 16, San Diego State 13, Arizona State 12, SMU 10, Tennessee 8, California 6, Kentucky 2, Louisiana 2, Kansas State 2, Louisiana Tech 2, North Dakota State 2

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Final College Football Playoff Rankings Are A Complete Joke

Check out the final College Football Playoff rankings.

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Final College Football Playoff Rankings Are A Complete Joke

Boise State is ranked 19 in the latest playoff rankings.

Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire

Broncos are a top 20 team, cool.

The final College Football Playoff is out and it is a complete joke as the committee doesn’t care one bit about the Group of Five. This season was one of a kind for the Group of Five with multiple 10-win teams but the respect in the polls are non-sense.

Memphis is going to the Cotton Bowl by being the highest-ranked Group of Five team and despite beating a No. 20 Cincinnati team did not move up at all.

Boise State also winning the Mountain West over Hawaii in a convincing matter by three touchdowns did not move up at all. Appalachian State defeated Louisiana and moved up one spot and only because fellw G5 Cincinnati lost.

The committee had no reason to move up Memphis because they already were ahead of all of the Group of Five because there was no way that Boise State would jump the Tigers if both won.

There are a trio of teams with three losses each behind every one-loss Group of Five champions. The Mountain West, and other leagues had multiple victories over Power 5 teams, more double-digit win teams, and nothing.

Air Force at 10-2 is not ranked yet a four-loss Virginia team is No. 24 who are going to the Orange Bowl and then there is Oklahoma State sitting there at No. 25 also with four losses.

It seems after these final rankings there seems no point to even include the Group of Five in the playoff rankings or how it is currently constructed.

Why not just have a separate ranking for the token New Year’s Six game that is a nice gesture of goodwill toward the teams not in a power conference.

Top 25 Playoff Rankings

25. Oklahoma State Cowboys 8-4 (24)

24. Virginia Cavaliers 9-4 (23)

23. Navy Midshipmen 9-2 (24)

22. USC Trojans 8-4 (22)

21. Cincinnati Bearcats 10-3 (20)

20. Appalachian State Mountaineers 12-1 (21)

19. Boise State Broncos 12-1 (19)

18. Minnesota Golden Gophers 10-2 (18)

17. Memphis Tigers 12-1 (17)

16. Iowa Hawkeyes 9-3 (16)

15. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 10-2 (15)

14. Michigan Wolverines 9-3 (14)

13. Alabama Crimson Tide 10-2 (12)

12. Auburn Tigers 9-3 (11)

11. Utah Utes 12-2 (6)

10. Penn State Nittany Lions 10-2 (10)

9. Florida Gators 10-2 (9)

8. Wisconsin Badgers 10-3 (8)

7. Baylor Bears 11-2 (7)

6. Oregon Ducks 10-2 (13)

5. Georgia Bulldogs 11-2 (5)

4. Oklahoma Sooners 12-1 (6)

3. Clemson Tigers 13-0 (3)

2. Ohio State Buckeyes 13-0 (1)

1. LSU Tigers 13-0 (2)

4. Oklahoma Sooners 12-1 (6)

3. Clemson Tigers 13-0 (3)

2. Ohio State Buckeyes 13-0 (1)

1. LSU Tigers 13-0 (2)

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Boise State Ranked No. 19

College Football Playoff Rankings: Boise State Ranked No. 19 Broncos move up one spot but are in trouble. Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire Cotton Bowl dreams up in smoke? The latest College Football Playoff rankings are out and they are not …

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Boise State Ranked No. 19

Broncos move up one spot but are in trouble.

Contact/Follow @JeremyMauss & @MWCwire

Cotton Bowl dreams up in smoke?

The latest College Football Playoff rankings are out and they are not looking good for Boise State despite moving up one spot to No. 19. Moving up is good but the real issue that Cincinnati dropped only one spot is at No. 20 after its loss to Memphis, who are at No. 17.

Memphis and Cincinnati are playing again for the AAC title game, so it will be another ranked matchup for both teams. Clearly, if the Tigers win they are in the Cotton Bowl and logic would seem to put the Bearcats in the same position and jump Boise State who faces a 9-4 Hawaii who is not on the same level as either AAC team.

However, there is a some reason to be an optimist for Boise State to make into the Cotton Bowl based on Memphis only moving up one spot after topping the Bearcats.

Playoff Rankings

  1. Ohio State (12-0)
  2. LSU (12-0)
  3. Clemson (12-0)
  4. Georgia (11-1)
  5. Utah (11-1)
  6. Oklahoma (11-1)
  7. Baylor (11-1)
  8. Wisconsin (10-2)
  9. Florida (10-2)
  10. Penn State (10-2)
  11. Auburn (9-3)
  12. Alabama (10-2)
  13. Oregon (10-2)
  14. Michigan (9-3)
  15. Notre Dame (10-2)
  16. Iowa (9-3)
  17. Memphis (11-1)
  18. Minnesota (10-2)
  19. Boise State (11-1)
  20. Cincinnati (10-2)
  21. Appalachian State (11-1)
  22. USC (8-4)
  23. Virginia (9-3)
  24. Navy (9-2)
  25. Oklahoma State (8-4)

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Projecting Boise State, Air Force In The Week 15 Top 25

The Broncos seem likely to move up in the new College Football Playoff rankings, but will the Falcons join them? We predict how it’ll look.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Projecting Boise State, Air Force in the Week 15 Top 25

The Broncos seem likely to move up in the new College Football Playoff rankings, but will the Falcons join them? We predict how it’ll look.

Contact/Follow @MattK_FS & @MWCwire

Will the CFP make it two for the Mountain West?

Championship week is upon us all across the college football landscape, and the Boise State Broncos’ path to the Cotton Bowl is clear: Handle business against Hawaii and hope that Memphis stumbles against Cincinnati in the AAC title game. Simple as that.

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While App State still technically has a chance if both the Tigers and Broncos fall on Saturday, the rest is mostly just window dressing at this point. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a point of pride, however, especially for a team like the Air Force Falcons who, after notching their tenth win of the year, have built a solid case to be a part of the final conversation even if there’s nothing at stake for them.

As always, keep this in mind first: A lot can change in a week and in the CFP era and things have definitely tended to change quite a bit over the course of a month or so.

Here’s a quick recap of the weekend that was and what it might mean.

Who lost?

From the top:

  • #5 Alabama lost on the road to #15 Auburn, 48-45
  • #8 Minnesota lost at home to #12 Wisconsin, 38-17
  • #13 Michigan lost at home to #1 Ohio State, 56-27
  • #19 Cincinnati lost on the road to #18 Memphis, 34-24
  • #21 Oklahoma State lost at home to #7 Oklahoma, 34-16
  • #24 Virginia Tech lost on the road to Virginia, 39-30

If only we’d had more shakeups like this down the stretch. The Cavaliers seem like a good bet to vault into the top 25 after finally winning the Commonwealth Cup for once, even if they’re going to summarily dispatched by Clemson in the ACC title game (still counts!).

By Way of Comparison: How did the rest of the Group of 5 fare?

  • #25 Appalachian State defeated Troy on the road, 48-13
  • SMU defeated Tulane at home, 37-20
  • Navy defeated Houston on the road, 56-41
  • Air Force defeated Wyoming at home, 20-6
  • Louisiana defeated Louisiana-Monroe at home, 31-30

A quick bit of props for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who notched their tenth win of the year but are otherwise a step behind conference mate Appalachian State, since their strength of schedule is exactly the same — 113 for UL, 114 for App State — but, alas, Louisiana has already lost twice. That Sun Belt title game is going to be a fun one, anyway.

SMU, Navy, and Air Force all handled business as expected, but your guess is as good as ours about how the committee will treat the three. The Midshipmen, fairly or unfairly, are probably still a step behind with one fewer win on the resume and Army probably won’t change that much. Meanwhile, the difference in SOS between the Mustangs and Falcons is basically nothing (76 for SMU, 84 for Air Force).

Tale of the Tape: Air Force vs. Navy vs. SMU

It may help to look at the Massey composite rankings in order to make a determination here. How do each team’s wins stack up in terms of how and who they’ve played?

Air Force – Colorado: 69 | San Jose State: 104 | Fresno State: 97 | Hawaii: 48 | Utah State: 55 | Army: 100 | Colorado State: 111 | New Mexico: 123 | Wyoming: 62 | Average: 76.9

Navy – East Carolina: 117 | Air Force: 24 | Tulsa: 81 | USF: 95 | Tulane: 57 | UConn: 125 | SMU: 25 | Houston: 85 | Average: 67.7

SMU – Arkansas State: 73 | North Texas: 116 | Texas State: 120 | TCU: 51 | USF: 95 | Tulsa: 81 | Temple: 46 | Houston: 85 | East Carolina: 117 | Tulane: 57 | Average: 84.1

The Midshipmen definitely have an advantage with this kind of examination, but “10 > 9”, too, so how will the committee split the difference? Navy is also even with SMU by strength of SOS, per Sagarin, and both are a tick ahead of Air Force but (probably) not by enough to really make much of a difference. You could probably throw darts at a board and do just as well as me prognosticating here.

So what do I think the top 25 will look like? Read on.

Air Force Football: Players Cases for All Conference Recognition

10 Wins Meant Great Players There are a lot of Falcons worthy of All Conference Team, but who will make it? Contact/Follow @Sean or @MWCWire With the regular season in the books, I want to take a little time to reflect on the success that the Falcon …

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10 Wins Meant Great Players

There are a lot of Falcons worthy of All Conference Team, but who will make it?

Contact/Follow @Sean or @MWCWire

With the regular season in the books, I want to take a little time to reflect on the success that the Falcon team experienced this season, before we gear up for Bowl season. And for as great of a TEAM as they were this year, I want to focus specifically on what were some special performances by some outstanding football players.

Before Bowl matchups will be announced for 60+ teams in about a week nationally, the Mountain West Conference will recognize the leagues top performers by announcing the ‘All Mountain West Conference Team’. With that, I submit to you, some Air Force Football players worthy of All-Conference Consideration.

All Conference Considers on Offense


Its easy to become a prisoner of the moment. Donald Hammond has been nothing short of spectacular in the recent weeks, particularly in a performance for the ages against New Mexico. But to point to this small portion of the season would be an injustice to this young man.

Hammond didn’t have anything handed to him, as he had to beat out competition in spring and fall camp to earn the starting spot on the depth chart. Isaiah Sanders has proven to be a capable quarterback, the fact that (injuries aside) Hammond’s performance has kept him off the field is a real testament to just how good he has been.

But take a step back and look at things from 10,000 feet and you can’t help to acknowledge just how special this talent is. Were watching what may be the most dangerous passing quarterback that Air Force has had in some time. And I don’t mean this in a “he’s great for an Academy quarterback” kind of way.

He. Can Ball. Period.

But once you get lost in the gaudy numbers that Hammond has put up throwing the ball, you quickly can forget that he ran for 11 touchdowns on just under 500 yards. He should be acknowledged more nationally as the true dual threat passer that he is.

Geraud Sanders (First or Second Team All-MWC)

Usually when a player leads the country in any significant statistic, they garner more national attention. While that may not be the case for Geraud Sanders, its as unfortunate as the fate defensive backs have met when facing him.

Sanders doesn’t just lead the conference in yards per reception, he leads the country. He is also top five in the conference in touchdown receptions to go with nearly 750 yards receiving.

Like many, I would love to see what this guy could do on a more conventional passing team, just on pure volume of opportunities. Then again, thanks to changes made recently allowing Military Academy Athletes to turn pro, that may come to fruition in a professional capacity.

The Offensive Line (First, Second and Honorable Mention All MWC Team)

The Air Force offense has been very good this year. At just under 35 points per game in an offense that (supposedly) grinds clock limiting team possessions, the Falcons were 3rd in points per game in the Mountain West.

The reason that the Air Force offense was so successful was in large part because it was multiple- and that is a testament to the offensive line. This unit helped pave the way for an offense that finished second in yards per play, only behind Hawai’i, and once again led the conference in rush yards.

One of the easiest ways to point to this groups recognition as one of the best in the country would be its nomination to the Joe Moore Award, which honors the best offensive line unit in the nation.

Parker Ferguson, Nolan Laufenberg, Christopher Mitchell, Connor Vikupitz, Colin Marquez and Scott Hattok were all part of a unit that gave up the least sacks in the country again (4) and each could be found worthy to appear on either of the All-Mountain West Conference Teams. Yes, any of the six.

Timothy (Duval) Jackson/Kadin Remsberg/Ben Waters (All- MWC Honorable Mention)

Something Jackson, Remsberg and Waters all share in common; with more opportunities, all three could be First Team All Conference Players. They have been that caliber.

It’s interesting though, the thing that in one regard prevents these players from getting the recognition they may garner otherwise is the one thing that distinguishes Cadet athletes, a true team first mentality.

Remsberg and Jackson share the backfield and carries regularly with Donald Hammond and Taven Birdow, among others. I mention this particularly because the four of them are all in the top 18 in rushing in the conference, and all have gone for over 500 yards, with the exception of Hammond who falls short of that mark by nine yards.

Another interesting fact of note, this time last year, Ben Waters was a reserve on the secondary of the defense. And had he had enough catches to qualify, he would surplant his fellow pass catcher, Geraud Sanders as tops in the country for yards per reception.

All Conference Considers on Offense

Mosese Fifita (First or Second Team All- MWC)

Thanks to some recent changes around Cadet restrictions on weight, the Military Academies have been able to pursue and leverage some in season heft, they could not do in the past.

For Air Force, this advantage was very apparent this year in their own personal game-wrecker on the inside of the line, Mosese Fifita. The D-Line standout on the Falcon defensive line has collected five sacks on his way to being named to the Polynesian Player of the Year Watch List.

Air force was stout against the run, and their ability to collapse the pocket in the middle was a major reason the defense rebounded so spectacularly this season. This defensive unit now proudly boasts one of the top 25 total defenses in the country.

Jordan Jackson (Second Team or Honorable Mention All- MWC)

Coming into the 2019 season, there were lofty expectations for Jordan Jackson. He earned Second Team All-Conference honors last season as just a sophomore, and was prime for another strong campaign.

If you were to merely look at statistics you may say that he under performed relative to last season, as both sacks and tackles for loss were down this year. These are compelling stats, but I’d be remiss if his two forced fumbles and two batted passes were ignored this year.

I think very notably what you would find in the case for Jackson is that while those statistics may be down, the affect he had on the opposition and his team cannot be ignored. Teams had to gameplan for Jordan Jackson this year, and they did. In doing so, he drew attention that allowed players to Fifita to shine and the both of them ate up multiple blockers so linebacker’s Demonte Meeks and Kyle Johnson could stay clean and make players. This is a case where he made the whole defense that much better.

Demonte Meeks (First or Second Team All- MWC)

The back two levels of a defense will always benefit from strong defensive line play. The Air Force defense was no different this year. One of those players who made the most of their opportunity was Demonte Meeks at the inside linebacker spot. All over the field was Meeks who registered 97 tackles to go with his nine tackles for loss and four quarterback sacks.

A lot went into making this a ressurgent defense, and Meeks is certainly a cornerstone to that improved play. It is very revealing that he garners this attention considering to start the season, he was really in the shadow of highly productive and by many accounts an All- Conference level linebacker in his peer, Kyle Johnson.

Zane Lewis (Second Team All- MWC)

Another regular season in the books and another season that saw Zane Lewis intercept a pass and return it 99 yards for a touchdown. A single data point constitutes not a pattern. We have a trend here, and that is Zane Lewis is a rock solid cover corner.

While he only had one interception, he did take it to the house. In addition, the Falcon corner notched 40 tackles and 14 pass break-ups, good for third most in the MWC. Not since Roland Ladipo has Air Force placed a cornerback on the All Conference Team, but I suspect that trend ends in 2019. A few of those break-ups turned INT’s, and he’s a lock on the first team.

Lewis and his counterpart Tre Buggs III are major reasons why the Falcon pass defense rebounded so nicely. After a dreadful 2018 campaign, the Air Force pass defense finished this year second best in pass yards surrendered, and third in touchdowns. Monumental strides from last year.

Jake Koehnke (Second Team All- MWC)

When a team is complete in all three phases of the game, the results are just what Air Force experienced this year, a successful season. A 10 win campaign does not come easy, and getting guaranteed points every time you enter the red-zone goes a long way. The Falcons got just that from Jake Koehnke.

He may of only kicked 12 field goals this year, hitting on all of them, but you can’t ignore that one of those kicks was 57 yards long. Even dating back to last season, he Koehnke has proven to be a reliable leg, and will be tough to replace next season. If not for a couple of missed extra points, he locks down a first team spot. Lets not forget, this is a Lou Groza Award Finalist as well.

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Boise State Football: A One-Loss Broncos Team Is Better Than Two-Loss Cincinnati, Come On

If Cincinnati beats Memphis to win the AAC title this Saturday, will the Bearcats deserve a Cotton Bowl berth? Uh, no.

[jwplayer tJPh0k22-sNi3MVSU]

Boise State Football: A One-Loss Broncos Team Is Better Than Two-Loss Cincinnati, Come On

If Cincinnati beats Memphis to win the AAC title this Saturday, will the Bearcats deserve a Cotton Bowl berth? Uh, no.

Contact/Follow @MattK_FS & @MWCwire

Cold hard facts = truth

The American Athletic Conference has done a lot of talking lately.

First, AAC commissioner Mike Aresco doubled down on his argument that a two-loss champion from his conference deserved the Group of 5’s New Year’s Six berth, lamenting that it would be “unfair” for the Boise State Broncos, the Mountain West’s last hope for that same bid, to leapfrog any AAC champ with two losses.

Now that the regular season has concluded, we know exactly who that team would be. The Cincinnati Bearcats lost at home to the Memphis Tigers on Saturday in a game that was never all that competitive, but others have taken up Aresco’s mantle, anyway, most recently Dan Morrison at SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, who contends that UC has a better overall resume than both the Broncos and Appalachian State.

Here’s the thing, though: Nah, bro. We’re going to break down each salient point, Drew Magary-style, and give the appropriate context to this whole debate.

[Cincinnati has] two losses. Both were on the road. One to Ohio State, the best team in the country. Then, to Memphis, but with a win in the AAC Championship Game they would have avenged that loss. In a sense, it would be like the loss never happened.

Beating the Tigers in a rematch doesn’t erase the first result, it means you… well, split the two games. Nothing more, nothing less. Additionally, no G5 team has ever split two games with its conference title opponent and managed to claim the NY6 bid: Boise State beat Fresno State twice in 2014 and UCF beat Memphis four times between 2017 and 2018.

Cincinnati has had some close calls, but they also have better wins than Boise State. Cincinnati beat UCF. That beats Boise State’s best win over a Florida State team who fired their coach midseason.

Morrison mentions the Air Force Falcons just once, but he fails to note that they not only cracked the polls for the first time in nearly a decade this weekend, they are, by SP+, are in roughly the same neighborhood as the Knights if they aren’t ahead of them in the eyes of the committee.

Beating Florida State on the road, by the way, is a notch better than beating UCLA at home. Just saying. Interestingly, he also never mentions Miami of Ohio at all, because it would be a solid feather in the cap to claim UC could have a win over the MAC champions by next week.

Furthermore, top to bottom, Cincinnati has played a more difficult schedule by the simple virtue of playing in the AAC. Say what you will about the AAC’s Power 6 campaign, they are a full leap ahead of any other G5 conference.

Alright. Okay.

Let’s start by examining the tweet that Morrison embedded from ESPN’s Bill Connelly, which is ostensibly to point out that, top to bottom, the AAC has generally played better based on the Five Factors (explosiveness, efficiency, field position, finishing drives, and turnovers; remember that SP+ is an opponent-adjusted measure of how you have played rather than who you have played, that it is NOT a resume tool).

If you look at the photo within Connelly’s tweet, however, you’ll note the AAC East and the MWC Mountain are neck-and-neck, ranking 10th and 11th respectively among all FBS divisions. Funny that.

To go back to the earlier contention regarding UCF, the real problem lies further down Cincinnati’s resume. It’s easy to contend that having beaten Air Force, Wyoming and Utah State — a trio of solid to great bowl eligible teams — is better than having beaten UCF, Temple and… South Florida, I guess, since the 4-8 Bulls finished 4th in the AAC East.

What about interdivision games, though? Glad you asked, because Morrison also doesn’t mention that Cincinnati notched wins against the two teams who finished at the bottom of the AAC West, Houston and Tulsa. Hawaii may not be beloved by the advanced metrics, but they still won nine games and emerged as a division champion while San Jose State and UNLV weren’t total disasters who could be analogous to the aforementioned Cougars and Golden Hurricane.

The difference in strength of schedule between Cincinnati (70th, per Sagarin) and Boise State (88th) is not so great that finishing with one fewer win and one more loss will be enough to make up the ground UC will inevitably lose when the newest CFP rankings are unveiled on Tuesday. You can look at past, roughly similar results at this juncture to get a sense of how hard teams are hit:

  • 2018 – #23 Boise State beats #21 Utah State, 33-24; USU drops out of next rankings, Boise State up to #22
  • 2017 – #17 Washington beats #13 Washington State, 41-14; Wazzu drops to #17, UW up to #13
  • 2016 – #14 Florida State beats #15 Florida, 31-13; UF stays at #15, FSU up to #12
  • 2015 – #18 Ole Miss beats #21 Mississippi State, 38-27; MSU drops out of next rankings, Ole Miss up to #13
  • 2015 – #13 Florida State beats #12 Florida, 27-2; UF drops to #18, FSU up to #9
  • 2014 – #14 Wisconsin beats #18 Minnesota, 34-24; Minnesota drops out of next rankings, Wisconsin up to #13

The kicker? According to Sports Reference, all but Utah State finished the year having played a tougher overall schedule than Cincinnati and were no worse than 56th in SOS by season’s end. The moral, as always: If you’re in the Group of 5, just don’t lose twice.

The fact is that other than a comparable head to head with Boise State, Cincinnati doesn’t do great against the eye test. In a way, they’re like Georgia. They play uninspiring, but effective offense. However, their defense is elite, and play at an elite level in a conference where offense is king. Look no further than the Bearcats’ defense being the only defense since 2016 to hold UCF to under 30 points in a game for proof of that.

On a per-play basis, Cincinnati has allowed 5.2 YPP and Boise State has allowed 5.26, so while they’re both top-40 that doesn’t quite scream “elite”. It also doesn’t account for the fact that the Bearcats are fourth in the AAC by that same measure if you look solely at conference play, behind UCF, Temple, and Memphis.

Cincinnati has also allowed 1.52 points per drive and Boise State has allowed 1.72 PPD, both of which are in the top 25 nationally (the Broncos also happen to be in the top 25 on offense, too, while the Bearcats are 57th). The difference between the two here is effectively negligible and it’s not Boise State’s fault that no one else in the AAC plays any defense.

Oh, and that common game with Boise State? Boise State beat Marshall at home, 14-7. Cincinnati beat Marshall on the road 52-14.

The committee doesn’t account for margin of victory when considering a team’s resume.

The reality is that even with two losses, Cincinnati has a better resume than either Appalachian State or Boise State. They are more deserving of the Cotton Bowl bid. Whether or not the committee is choosing the best teams, or the most deserving teams, the AAC Champion fits the bill for the Group of 5 champion this season on both merits.

The Massey Rankings Composite accounts for 79 different sets of rankings, some of which you’ve heard of and many of which you have not. On average, Boise State is 18th and Cincinnati is 21st, a fairly significant gap at this juncture. More to the point, five of the six computers used by the old BCS formula favor Boise State now. SP+ favors the Broncos now, too, and so do FEI and ESPN’s FPI.

And those conquered foes? Here’s how they stack up according to Massey:

Boise State – Florida State: 52 | Marshall: 58 | Air Force: 24 | UNLV: 114 | Hawaii: 48 | San Jose State: 104 | Wyoming: 62 | New Mexico: 123 | Utah State: 55 | Colorado State: 111 | Average: 75.1

Cincinnati – UCLA: 74 | Miami (OH): 80 | Marshall: 58 | UCF: 26 | Houston: 85 | Tulsa: 81 | East Carolina: 117 | UConn: 125 | USF: 95 | Temple: 46 | Average: 78.7

It’s nothing personal, Bearcats fans, it’s just facts. The Mountain West will be rooting for you on Saturday, after all, so don’t let us down.

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