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Who Will Save the Mountain West?

With conference play looming, the Mountain West is in danger of falling further behind

NCAA Football: Fresno State at UCLA Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Last week was a mixed bag for the Mountain West. Fresno State and Nevada beat what will probably end up being the two worst teams in the PAC 12, and SDSU overcame some injuries to secure a nice victory over Arizona State. Boise State looked over matched against Oklahoma State, and now the Mountain West is going to need some help if there is any hope of securing a game in the New Year’s Six. With so many teams on a bye this week, I’m going to look at what it will take for the Mountain West to earn some respect on the national scene.

Get more than six teams in bowl games?

Bowl tie-ins have been an absolute joke for the Mountain West, and it reaches a whole new level this year with only five guaranteed games. Craig Thompson needs to step it up, as it looks like they are on the verge of losing the Las Vegas Bowl. The Mountain West should be able to have seven bowl eligible teams each year. The question remains, where will they go? The conference can’t continue to rely on games like the Cactus Bowl or Armed Forces Bowl.

Have a marquee conference championship game?

The one thing the conference has lacked is a marquee championship game with two ranked teams. Last year they came close, and this year they have a legitimate shot. Boise State, Fresno State, Utah State, Hawaii, and San Diego State all have a chance to be ranked in November if they can manage to have a strong performance in conference play. Who wouldn’t tune in to watch a game that could determine who plays in the NY6?

Win games you should win and compete in games you shouldn’t:

Most of the non-conference schedule is behind us, but there are still some opportunities for the conference to secure some impressive wins. Every single out-of-conference game is winnable this weekend. The Nevada schools have a real opportunity to prove they are contenders this weekend with tough G5 matchups against Arkansas State and Toledo. The conference also has multiple match-ups against BYU that can help them gain some credibility. Also, a strong performance against the service academies by Air Force would be helpful.

Should we root for other G5 teams?

The correct answer to this question is no (unless you played them and beat them). The strongest teams in the AAC need to lose and need to lose regularly if the Mountain West has any hope for an NY6 game. I am tired of the whole argument that G5 teams should support each other; that is overplayed. Support your team and your conference. Teams like Fresno State, Boise State, and SDSU should be contending for NY6 games on a regular basis. The Mountain West needs to get into one of these games at least once every couple years.

Someone not named Boise State needs to step it up:

At some point, someone not named Boise State needs to play in an NY6 game, or the conference will have zero credibility on the national level. Also, if we are being real, Boise State needs to make these games more frequently. You cannot consider yourself the top G5 team or conference if you are not making these games. The NY6 has been dominated by the AAC in recent years.

Who can realistically contend?

In my mind, there are only three teams that can realistically contend on the national level. Fresno State and San Diego State are in the middle of a recruiting hot bed and should be able to pull out some great recruits that are overlooked by power teams. Boise has the tradition and consistency to continue building a strong program. I think UNLV can put itself in this conversation with a new stadium and an improving program.

It’s time to be great, not good:

It has been a long time since the conference had a great team. Who will step up and challenge the heavyweights? Teams like Colorado State and Wyoming need to get over the 7-5 or 8-4 hump.

What do you think the Mountain West needs to do to assert itself as the Group of Five powerhouse? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.