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Mountain West Teams and their Power 5 Counterparts

Warning: Article is purely for fun.

Air Force v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I came up with the idea for this post a few Saturdays ago watching Wisconsin and New Mexico. For years, Wisconsin has always had a dominant run game, great size on both lines, and a defense that more often than not keeps them in games. But they usually don’t have great play from their quarterbacks. Sound like any MWC team you know?

I messaged Stubbs and Jeremy to bounce some ideas off of them and gain some input. From there, things really took off. After about an hour, we had way too many comparisons, lots of laughs, and a few comps and thoughts that will never make it to print. However, we compiled a list we feel pretty good about, and had some fun while doing it.

Disclaimer: Again this is for fun. Comparisons break down and some fits will be better or more natural than others. Some are linked together for good reasons, some for not as good reasons, and most entail plenty of both. There will be some digs at your team. There will be some digs at that team you hate.

So read on if you wish, enjoy it, and if you can think of some better comparisons, please share below in the comments section.

Air Force = Georgia Tech

“But you just picked them because they are both triple option teams!” Yes, we primarily did.

However, both teams manage to stay relevant in conference that are a bit over their heads talent-wise. They manage to have winning seasons more often than not and thought their offenses couldn’t be more predictable. one never knows what the results of it will be. They are just as likely to pull off an upset as they are lose to an inferior team. Also, both their coaches have been their forever (or forever in college football years). Calhoun has been at the helm since 2007, while Paul Johnson has coached the Yellow Jackets since 2008.

Boise State = USC

Tradition. Winners . Sometimes lose weird games. Always have a target on their backs. They are everyone’s Super Bowl. Their fan bases won’t hear a bad word against them... Boise State is the University of Southern California.

Both were the talk of college football in the mid 2000s. Both are picked to compete for a conference championship every year, but for whatever reason don’t win as many as you think. Still. they win year in and year out. Never count them out. They are the gold standard of recruiting in their conference. Both programs think they are better than the rest of the conference and neither of them pretend to hide it.

Also interesting, both of their beloved QBs are left-handed and both schools lost their beloved coaches to teams in Washington.

Colorado State = Tennessee

These teams own the preseason. They both in good areas and just seem to be classic SEC/MWC teams respectively. The glue so to speak.

The Vols seem to be ranked in the top 25 each and every year whether they are good or not. It wasn’t too long ago they were a preseason top 10 and started 0-2 I believe. Or 2016 when they needed overtime to beat App State?

Similarly, Colorado State seems to be picked in the top tier of the MWC each and every year. How many years have we heard this is the year the Rams get over the hump and get to the conference championship? Seems like at least 100.

They also recruit way better than what translates to the football field. Tennessee is usually gets a top 25 class. Colorado State is almost always at the top of the Mountain West.

Fresno State = UCLA/Cal

Take your pick here, because all three are pretty much the same. The obvious, is all of them are located in California.

They should be better than they are every year, but for some reason they aren’t. They are good, don’t misunderstand. However, they just seem to be missing something every year. Their respective conferences are definitely more fun when the teams are good, it just doesn’t happen as often as everyone thinks it should. Also, they seem to have more than their fair share of great quarterbacks over the years.

Fresno State and Cal were/are both coached by Jeff Tedford.

Hawaii = Washington State

High flying passing offense? Check. A head coach that is eccentric full of headline-ready quotes? Check.

Hawaii is Wazzu. They both possess dynamic pass-heavy systems that will always keep them winning and entertaining, but will also always prevent them from winning the big game. Like the option teams, there are as likely to pull an upset as they are being upset. They are in every game, but that can be a good and bad thing.

However, win or lose, you know their coaches are gonna have some great and blunt lines to describe the game. And for beat reporters, the stories sometimes write themselves. Also, how else would the two football programs get any national attention?

Nevada = Purdue

Decent at football right now, great at basketball. Overall, they are largely ignored and forgotten when it comes to the gridiron. They are also two schools in my mind that should be better at football than they actually are. They sound like football schools, until you check their records.

Don’t like the Purdue comp. Substitute for another middle of the road football program. Ones that blend in and unless you are a fan, probably the last school you think of when trying to name all the schools in a given conference. Utah, Pitt, Virginia, South Carolina or Iowa State would all work too. These teams are all interchangeable and every conference has one.

New Mexico = Indiana

They are both basketball schools. Their fans know it and so do they. They try to believe in football but well...what are you gonna do?

Each school is in a good spot conference wise and so they try not to rock the boat too much. Every few years they knock off a team and the fans/team goes wild (deservingly so). Get a fun upset to earn some respect. Then lose, but not as bad as the worst team. They are the epitome of “You don’t have to be faster than the bear. You just have to be faster than the slowest person running from the bear.”

Then it’s back into college football obscurity.

San Diego State = Wisconsin

The one that started the whole idea. Both teams are known for their fantastic running back production, great offensive lines, and solid defenses. Both teams have senior QBs that often struggle to even be game-managers. Likewise, both teams are just short of being the class of their conferences due to their QBs not producing much. Still, it’s hard not to find two programs who are more consistent year after year.

San Jose State = Kansas

Do we really have to explain this one?

Both teams struggle to win games, plain and simple. They are stuck in a cycle. For whatever reason, they are always bad at football because they are always bad at football. No matter who they hire or who’s on their team, they can’t seem to break it. Still, they are in a way the lovable losers. Opponents don’t seem to enjoy beating them and neutral fans tend to pull for them to do better.

These teams should really play each other every year so at least one of them gets an extra win.

UNLV = Kentucky

Both are located in a big city in their state. Both have a good brand that often is bigger than the football production. Both are certainly both overshadowed by their superior basketball programs.

It seems like they are are at .500 or within a game or two of it every single year. Getting to a bowl is a great goal for them and there’s nothing wrong with that. They pretty much win the games they should win and lose the games they should lose. (yes, Kentucky did beat Florida last week). Every conference needs an ol’ reliable and these teams qualify as much as anyone.

If you aren’t a fan of these teams, can you even name a single player? Can you even name a player who ever went there?

Utah State = Oregon State

Utah State is Oregon State. Small town team that occasionally finds success, but it’s tough due to their location. Never the worst team in the conference (usually) and every few years they rise above their middle of the road-ness.

Both teams are overshadowed by the bigger, better, and more popular in-state schools. Both teams tend to be starting points for new coaches trying to make their mark. They were also both coached by Gary Anderson.

Wyoming = Duke

Wyoming plays pro-style football, typically doesn’t seem like they should be but is currently very well-coached and doing well compared to their all-time average. They’re Duke.

Both Craig Bohl and David Cutcliffe have slowly but surely built their respective programs from obscurity into relevance. At both schools, this was quite the surprise and considered very difficult to do.

Other teams will know what’s coming and will still get beat or escape with a close game. They aren’t fancy, don’t overpower or outrun you. They don’t even out-recruit you. They are just efficient and disciplined. Vanilla but the best vanilla ice-cream in town.


BYU = Notre Dame

We had to, we really did. BYU isn’t in the conference any longer, but if you can’t spot the similarities, then we need to talk.

The religious affiliation. The big, national fanbase. The constant arrogance. Neither have really been relevant in quite some time, as both had their golden-age decades ago, but that doesn’t stop either from starting each season thinking it’s bound for glory. Every few years they grumble, fire and hire some new staff and then talk about how they will get them back to “what our football program is all about”. They have a good year and then retreat back into their usual ways.