Welcome to another postseason review post. Way back in August, this post looked at what were some of the main factors that could qualify the 2018 football season a success for the Mountain West Conference. Now that the season has concluded, it’s time to revisit those factors to see whether or not the MWC had a successful season. Let’s dive in.
Strong Showing Against Power 5 Teams
Preseason: 4-5 wins would make this area a success.
The Mountain West ended up playing 19 power 5 teams during the regular season, counting the bowl games (it would have been 20 if not for a lightning storm in Dallas). There were some nice wins and some embarrassing losses.
Fresno State lead the way with two wins, beating UCLA and Arizona State (which SDSU also beat). Nevada overtook Oregon State in the final seconds, and Colorado State upset Arkansas. Yes, Arkansas was awful this year, but a win over the SEC is always a good thing. In the loss column, there were some big beatings by the hands of USC, Wisconsin, Florida, and Oklahoma State. There were also two heart-breaking losses; Utah State lost to Michigan State in their opener and Fresno State played flat against Minnesota.
Overall, the Mountain West Conference finished 5-14 against teams from Power 5 conferences, good for a 35.71% winning percentage. While that is a great record, it isn’t expected the MWC goes .500 against P5 schools. The standard set by us was 5 wins, and they accomplished that. While it still feels disappointing, this should overall be considered a SUCCESS.
Bowl Eligible Teams
Preseason: 7 bowl eligible teams would be considered a success.
This area showed just how solid the top half (or top two-thirds really) of the conference was this season. Seven of the twelve teams qualified for bowls and one more team, Air Force, was competing for a bowl game going into the final two games of the year as well.
Outside of the usual suspects (Boise State, San Diego State, Fresno State), Utah State had a great year, Hawaii came out of nowhere to make a bowl game, and Nevada made their steady improvement that resulted in a bowl game as well. Wyoming had a great second half of the year to reach 6 wins and gained bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, behind the scenes moves and a lack of spots were their downfall. Still, those seven teams showed the depth of the 2018 Mountain West.
This was a massive boost to the conference this season. SUCCESS
Preseason: 4 bowl wins would make this area a success
The Mountain West ended up competing in six bowl games this season. 4-2 was the realistic goal, or at the very least, winning the “right games” on paper. Utah State and Nevada won the games that looked like wins on paper. San Diego State, on the other hand, lost what appeared to be a winnable game for the second year in a row.
Looking at the tougher games, Fresno State pulled off a convincing win against a PAC-12 foe, which is always a great thing for the MWC. Boise State had another chance to beat a power 5 team until the game was taken from them.
After all of that, the conference ended up finishing 3-2-0-1 during their bowl season. It’s worth noting that anything over .500 is good. However, they did not reach the four-win benchmark we gave to them in August and lost a winnable game. Let’s call this area a PUSH.
Feel Good Storylines
This one is more difficult to quantify but worth looking into all the same. This category was included because positive storylines often catch national attention. National attention leads to relevance. As a group of 5 school, the Mountain West Conference needs every opportunity it can get. This season, quite a few positive storylines were happening for the MWC.
Right from the get-go in Week 0, it was Hawaii and their high-powered offense, and they became the talk of college football for the first week or two. Having an exciting team pulling out some quality wins brought attention to the conference. On a similar note, Nevada had a solid season and gave more credibility to the conference.
Matt Wells entered the season as a coach on the hot seat and turned in a great season with the Aggies. So great that he spring-boarded into the open Texas Tech job. While it isn’t great that Utah State loses him as a coach, it still lends credibility to the conference. Also, Fresno State turned in another tremendous season, arguably even better than the previous year.
Lastly, although Brett Rypien wasn’t in the Heisman consideration (an example we gave in the August article), he did end up breaking a few MWC passing records. This is just one example of the great quarterback play the Mountain West got this season between Rypien, McMaryion, Love, and Gangi.
There wasn’t a huge storyline, but there were several good ones. Count this one as a SUCCESS.
Top Teams Playing Like Top Teams
Preseason: Four 8+ win teams will make this area a success.
This area did not go the way myself (and others) expected it to. Instead, it went better. Fresno State led the way with 12 wins on the season, and Utah State was right on their heals with 11. Boise State also made their way into the double-digit club, finished with 10 wins. But the winning did not stop there. Two other teams worked their way into our milestone marker of 8 wins; Nevada and Hawaii, which both finished right at 8.
It wasn’t a surprise to see the Bulldogs and Broncos over 8 wins, and the Aggies weren’t a big surprise either, at least not as big of a surprise as the Wolf Pack, and especially the Rainbows Warriors were. It was also a surprise to see what team was not included in this list. That team is San Diego State, who finished the year with 7 wins. Much like their bowl loss being a game they should’ve won, the Aztecs had clear opportunities to win another game but came up short (thinking specifically about the UNLV game).
Even with a down year but San Diego State, the Mountain West was actually able to exceed our expectations. Five teams were able to reach 8 wins or higher, with three of those teams eclipsing 10 wins or more. While one could argue there may not have been a “dominant” team, the conference was strong. Call this one a massive SUCCESS.
It was a good season by the Mountain West Conference. In the areas discussed above, all but one was considered a success. One or two were big successes. More importantly, there were no areas in which the MWC wasn’t successful, as one area was just a push or not enough to make a strong argument either way. Due to all of this, it is safe to say the 2018 football season for the Mountain West was a successful one.
Your turn: What other factors or areas should have been considered? What parts do you agree or disagree with? Leave a comment below.