Stiffer Competition for Utah State and San Jose State? Not Really.

Thearon W. Henderson

There's a lot of hype out there about how Utah State and San Jose State are going to be facing stronger competition, but are they really? I take a look at some preseason strength of schedule rankings to find out.

San Jose State fans and Utah State fans have been hearing a lot of this from Mountain West fans: "Well, you were in the WAC, of course you're going to have inflated stats and all those wins. Now that you're in the Mountain West though, things are going to get a lot tougher." I've heard this despite the San Jose Spartans winning a bowl game against a top 10 defense and beating BYU (another top 10 defense), La. Tech and even San Diego State (co-champion of the Mountain West).

On the face of things, this seems like an unjust knock against San Jose State, and Utah State as well, given their schedule. But let's take a look at what the experts say.

Phil Steele put up his preseason Strength Of Schedules (or SOS) in 2012, starting off by analyzing the standard way of ranking strength of schedule. According to the standard way (the first chart), San Jose State sits at No. 86 and Utah State sits at around No. 100. That doesn't sound so tough right? In this PRESEASON ranking, Fresno sits at No. 61, much higher than the two WAC teams.

But, Boise state sits at #80, just 6 spots higher than San Jose. The other MW tri-champion San Diego state? No. 117.

Ouch.

Air Force No. 120 and Wyoming No. 106 rank lower than Utah State as well. While all those teams plus UNLV No. 92 and Nevada No. 98 rank beneath San Jose in SOS.

Phil Steele says this standard way is not that accurate, and puts together his own based on his... expertness. In the second chart of his own rankings, Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Wyoming and UNLV all rank higher than San Jose in this list. San Diego gets more respect as well, sitting at No.100. No. 101 is San Jose though (Utah at No. 104). Nevada is beneath at #102 and Air Force is lower than both San Jose State and Utah State at No.119.

But this is all preseason stuff, surely when we look back at the 2012 season we can see the clear superiority of the Mountain West teams' SOS right? Well... Actually... According to the calculations made by Sagarin of USA-Today... The Western Athletic Conference actually ranked eighth in average SOS. The Mountain West? Fourteenth.

San Jose State's SOS ranks at 86th, Utah State at 97th. Boise State SOS ranking is (drum roll), No. 115. Ouch. Fresno? No. 113. San Diego? No. 108. Nevada? No. 120. Air Force? No. 127. Colorado State was the only team in the Mountain West with a harder SOS at No. 85.

What do all these numbers mean though? All these numbers mean "take numbers with a grain of salt". The Mountain West Conference had some good teams last year, but so did the Western Athletic Conference. San Jose State and Utah State faced some bruiser teams last year and performed well against them. If anyone should be worried about stiffer competition, it should be those tri-conference champions Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State; because this conference just got a lot tougher.

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