The 2011 Mountain West football schedule has been released, and now it is time to break down by who has the toughest and easiest schedules; as well as the best and worst weekends. These schedules are based on the opponent only and not from the team that holds the schedule, so for example if Colorado State has the easiest schedule to win the conference that does not mean they are the favorite but they have the easiest route to a title.
Now onto the schedule breakdown.
Easiest non-conference schedule:
Wyoming Cowboys -- Wyoming actually deserve a break after their tough non-conference schedule that featured games at Texas and Boise State and overall played a challenging schedule. Their toughest non-conference game is at home against Nebraska, but the rest are quite weak since they host two FCS teams and travel to Utah State. The Cowboys will need the first two weeks to gel together with their new quarterback, whoever that may be.
Sept. 3 Weber State at Wyoming
Sept. 10 Texas State at Wyoming
Sept. 17 Wyoming at Bowling Green
Sept. 24 Nebraska at Wyoming
Oct. 8 Wyoming at Utah State
Toughest non-conference schedule:
Boise St. Broncos -- The Broncos receive this nod due to that they do not face an FCS team as does every other team in the league. However, their non-conference schedule is fairly challenging -- as of now. The Chic-Fil-A game on opening weekend is huge since it is the first time Boise will be traveling to SEC country to take on Georgia who happened to be who they played last time and were destroyed.
The Georgia game would provide some credit for Boise State similar to what they received from beating Virginia Tech this past year. The only game that should be fairly easy is the road game at Toledo. If Tulsa's offense is historically what it is then that game could be a shoot out. Nevada is an interesting game since they lose Colin Kaepernick who was amazing in the pistol offense, and include the fact Boise will want revenge will give this game some interesting story lines. Fresno State is a big rivalry game for Boise State which makes it a big deal and it is nice to see the series continue for the one year the two schools are not in the same league.
Sept. 3 Boise State vs. Georgia at Atlanta
Sept. 17 Boise State at Toledo
Sept. 24 Tulsa at Boise State
Oct. 1 Nevada at Boise State
Oct. 8 Boise State at Fresno State
Easiest road to the Conference title, schedule-wise:
San Diego St. Aztecs -- They get four home games which was the first priority in choosing who had the easiest path to the 2011 Mountain West title. Plus, the Aztecs host the two toughest teams in Boise State and TCU. The only questionable stretch is that the Aztecs host TCU and then travel to Air Force in consecutive weeks. In addition to the road game against Air Force the only other conference away games are at Colorado State and at UNLV.
Toughest road to the Conference title, schedule-wise:
New Mexico Lobos -- The Mountain West schedule makers are cruel. New Mexico is already the worst team in the league and they have to go on the road four out of the seven times in conference play, and three of their road games they travel to San Diego State, TCU and Boise State. No on expected New Mexico to win the Mountain West, or even make a bowl game, but with this conference schedule they will almost for certain finish at the bottom of the Mountain West once again.
Best weekend of the year, Oct. 8:
This was tough to choose as it came down to the opening weekend as well as Oct. 1, but it ultimately came down to Oct. 8 with these games.
Air Force at Notre Dame
Boise State at Fresno State
TCU at San Diego State
UNLV at Nevada
Wyoming at Utah State
All of these games should be competitive, with possibly the exception of the UNLV vs. Nevada game as it depends how Nevada does without Colin Kaepernick, and if UNLV has made a turn for the better in year two under Bobby Hauck. Air Force and Notre Dame have a recent history and even though Notre Dame is not who they think they are they should be better this year, and this Air Force team should at least be as good as last years team.
Boise State and Fresno State have had a great in their time in the WAC and usually the game is competitive with few blowouts. TCU and San Diego State will be the second game between two teams that will be fighting for the conference title, the first will be TCU against Air Force in September. San Diego State gave TCU their toughest game outside of playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Aztecs return quarterback Ryan Lindley who can rival Boise State's Kellen Moore for the best quarterback in the Mountain West, plus they have running back Ronnie Hillman who was on par with South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore as the nation's best freshman running back.
As for Wyoming and Utah State, well this is the snoozer of the weekend but it should at least be a competitive game since neither team is expected to be all that good.
Worst Weekend of the year, Sept. 3:
Sept. 3 South Dakota at Air Force
Sept. 3 Boise State vs. Georgia at Atlanta
Sept. 3 Colorado State at New Mexico
Sept. 3 Cal Poly at San Diego State
Sept. 3 TCU at Baylor
Sept. 3 UNLV at Wisconsin
Sept. 3 Weber State at Wyoming
Saying the first weekend is the worst of the year is not what football fans want to hear, but with three games including FCS opponents it is hard to find another weekend that is worse. At least Boise State plays Georgia to give the weekend one good game.
Best conference weekend of the year, Nov. 12:
TCU at Boise State
San Diego State at Colorado State
UNLV at New Mexico
Not that this weekend is full of great games, but the TCU and Boise State matchup make this weekend the best. The story lines are huge with this being the only meeting between the two schools before TCU heads off to the Big East and the game being moved from TCU to Boise during the off-season. Plus, there is a high likely hood that this matchup will determine the conference champion and even possibly a BCS berth.
The San Diego State and Colorado State game could be interesting, but all the intrigue is based on Colorado State being a better team. The Rams have a solid quarterback in Pete Thomas who should be better and if he does improve this game may hold some interest. UNLV and New Mexico should be a competitive game between the two schools since the two are still trying to climb out of their struggles over the past five years.
Worst conference weekend of the year, Dec. 3:
New Mexico at Boise State
Wyoming at Colorado State
UNLV at TCU
One would think that to compete with the title games across the country that the Mountain West would schedule a few marquee games on that weekend such as Boise State vs. TCU and Air Force against San Diego State, but per usual commissioner Craig Thompson and the scheduling folks missed big time on this weekend. Boise State will roll New Mexico by 30 plus points as will TCU against UNLV. Wyoming vs. Colorado State is a nice rivalry game, but Wyoming is expected to be not good in 2011 and while Colorado State should be better with quarterback Pete Thomas in year two they will struggle to make a bowl game.
Good thing championship weekend is that week so unless you are a fan of the schools playing turn your attention to the Pac-12, Big 10, ACC or SEC title game in lieu of these games, sorry but it's true.
There you have it, hopefully this is a good look at the best and worst of the 2011 Mountain West schedule.