This is a bittersweet edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” It feels like the college football season has just started, but the regular season has already concluded. We are now on to championship week. We have known since last weekend that Hawaii would be traveling to Boise for the championship game, but there are still a number of teams in the Mountain West that had something to prove going into the final week.
The Broncos became only the second team in the championship era to go undefeated in conference play (2015 San Diego State). They are the first team from the Mountain Division to do so. It is a feat that has plagued Bryan Harsin during his tenure at Boise State, but he can now check it off his list. Boise State did not have their best performance on Friday, but they came away with the victory. Harsin should be the coach of the year after winning 11 games while starting three different quarterbacks and dealing with a plethora of injuries. But, the Broncos aren’t done yet. They can still get in to the Cotton Bowl with a win over Hawaii and a Memphis loss to Cincinnati.
Raise your hand if you had Air Force winning ten games this season. I certainly did not. This was another great performance by Air Force, as they came away with the 20-6 win over a solid Wyoming squad. Some Air Force players were annoyed that they will not be playing in the championship game. Should the conference consider getting rid of divisions? I think it is worth taking a look.
San Diego State
It was a typical San Diego State game. They found a way to force some timely turnovers and keep the opposing team out of the end zone. The Aztecs lost the yardage battle, but came away with the victory over BYU. It was another nice, out-of-conference win for the Mountain West. San Diego State will have a chance at a double digit win season if they can come away with a win in their bowl game.
Hawaii struggled to defend the edges against Army, but they were able to force some turnovers and walk away with a comfortable victory. Nick Rolovich threw some interesting looks at the Black Knights; maybe they were trying to give Boise State more to prepare for. I think Cole McDonald gives Hawaii the best chance to start, but it would not shock me to see Cordeiro at some point in the game.
Maybe the Rebels should have made Tony Sanchez a lame duck coach a few months ago. Tony Sanchez finishes his tenure at UNLV with a winning record over in-state rival Nevada. The ending was not ideal with the brawl, but the cannon stays in Las Vegas another year. It is starting to look like the Rebels have their quarterback of the future, and it is a job that could be very attractive with a new stadium and the Raiders coming to town.
San Jose State
Lots of improvement by the Spartans this year. Finishing the season with a win over Fresno State is something nobody would have fathomed last year. How will the Spartans follow up this season after losing a lot of their talent on the offensive side of the ball?
I thought long and hard about putting the Aggies in the “Bad” category. They were inconsistent throughout the game, and their defense struggled once again. There is no denying that Utah State took some significant steps back this year. I questioned the hiring of Matt Wells from the beginning, and Mike Sanford was not the right hire for the offense that they wanted to run. If Love goes pro, will the Aggies even be a bowl team next year?
It was a great performance by Mike Bobo and his Colorado State Rams. They came in with an excellent game plan to stop the red hot George Holani and force Jaylon Henderson to beat them with his arm. But, Colorado State did not have quite enough firepower to come away with a victory. It was Mike Bobo’s last game as coach at Colorado State, but he went down fighting.
Wyoming hung tough for the majority of the contest, but it was pretty clear that Air Force was the better football team. Wyoming digressed significantly on the offensive side of the ball after Sean Chambers went down with an injury. A team can win championships with a run heavy approach, but Wyoming is going to have to be more effective in the passing game if they want to take the next step.
The Lobos were ready to put up a fight against a Utah State squad that was clearly superior. Bob Davie took the New Mexico program to heights I didn’t think were possible, but it is hard to see any scenario where this football program can be successful in the near future. Hopefully, New Mexico can find a young coach that is willing to build a program, because it is going to take a lot of time.
Nevada is the hardest team to evaluate in the Mountain West. One week they look like a title contender, and the next week they look like they have no idea what they are doing. The Wolf Pack almost pulled off an amazing comeback, but they lost to rival UNLV in overtime. This is an embarrassing loss for Norvell; it was already announced that Tony Sanchez would be fired at the end of the season, and this game should have been a cake walk for Nevada. But, that wasn’t the case and emotions flared when a brawl broke out that involved both teams and fans. Not a good look for Nevada and their fan base.
What has happened to the Bulldogs? I thought they had the talent to reload and compete for a conference championship. I certainly did not see a 4-8 season coming with losses to teams like San Jose State, Colorado State, and Nevada. Was this a young team in transition? Or is this a sign of things to come in Fresno? I think Tedford will find a way to right the ship.
That’s it for this edition of “ The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” Next week we will focus on the conference championship game and bowl placements for Mountain West teams. What were some moments from week 14 that stood out to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.