The joy in learning that the Utah State's schedule was being released was quickly replaced by sadness and confusion upon the actual release. Super early bye week?
Colorado State and Boise also early? None of it makes any sense. Before I go any further I'll let you take a look for yourself:
So as you can see it's not all bad. SUU is on a Thursday so there is more time to prep for Utah and it's a week to get the kinks out. We get Nevada at home the week before BYU so at least we won't be coming off a long road trip, but the majority of this schedule is very confusing to me.
Utah State's bye week puts them in a position to play games in 10 consecutive weeks if you include the MW Championship game. Immediately following the bye is an incredibly tough four week stretch (not to mention the two Pac-12 foes pre-bye week).
Leading off is a home game (on conference Saturday meaning empty stadium) against CSU. A tough road trip to Fresno State and then immediately turn around to get Boise State at home. Capped of by a long trip to San Diego against what, in my opinion, will be the best team in the West Division.
It's not the difficulty of the stretch alone that is the big issue. In fact the four game stretch will be a considered make it or break it stretch for this team.
The issue comes when you look at the top three Mountain Division contenders from last year and realize they all play each other between October 3rd and October 17th. If any one team sweeps the others that team will be clearly in the drivers seat with six weeks left to play.
If all teams split then we are trying to sort out possible tie breakers with six weeks left to play. In terms of excitement for the division races and the back end of the schedule it's horrible. Just in case it's still close CSU and Utah State face SDSU in October. The combined record of the Aggies first four conference opponents is 35-19 (64.8%) while the back four dip to 25-27 (48.1% thanks largely to Air forces 10-3 record). Over all it just feels like the Mountain West put out the entire schedule essentially backwards.
With all of the "that doesn't make a lot of sense" stuff out of the way there is more good news for Utah State. First, yes the bye week is crazy early but it does happen right before the hard stretch. Second, the Aggies get both Colorado State and Boise State at home! That's a pretty big deal to get the top two MW teams at home. Lastly, if Utah State sweeps CSU and Boise State while avoiding a road loss at SDSU they would be in total control of the Mountain Division with only one hard conference game left (@ Air Force). Utah State has the hardest schedule in the Mountain West but with a hot start they can ride to the top of the Mountain West and the automatic bid to the G5 New Years Day bowl.
Hardest Stretch: From at Utah six games trough to at SDSU
Easiest Stretch: Wyoming, @ New Mexico
Guaranteed Wins: Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, SUU
Guaranteed Losses: may be kind of homer-ish but I'm saying none
50/50 Games: @ Utah, @ Washington, vs CSU, @ Fresno State, vs Boise State, @SDSU, @ Air Force, BYU
Projected Record: It's super early but I'll be bold and say 10-2 (Pre-MWC Championship game & bowl game)