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Peak Perspective: MWC 2020 Football Final Grades

Grades are in. What did your team get?

With the National Championship game in the books, that means that the college football season is officially over. Like every year, it all went by too quickly. This year with the later start, the season flew at an extra rapid pace. Now, bowl games are over, and every team has finished their season until next August. With things finalized, let’s review the year with final season grades.

The grades are based on a system we started last year. Treat them as a big-picture snapshot rather than an all-inclusive rating. For each team, we at least two grades. The first is an objective grade, meaning a grade based on how each team is in relation to the rest of the teams in the country (a more traditional grade). The second is an adjusted grade, which is based on how the team is performing in relation to itself and its own expectations. This hopefully will provide a more well-rounded depiction of each team, as some teams can be doing well compared to expectations but not well overall. Similarly, a team can have a good record but not be meeting their own expectations. Finally, for each bowl team, a bowl specific grade was also included, which is basically a pass/fail type of scenario.

As far as grades go, the A range is exceptional, Bs are very good, a C grade means average, the D range is disappointing/not doing well, and Fs are awful.

Disclaimer: All teams faced challenges this year. Some teams played more or fewer games than others. Some teams played out of conference games in addition to their conference schedule. Teams had games cancelled, teams had injuries and rarely was a team at full strength due to Covid. At one point, three different teams were playing home games in Las Vegas. However, at the end of the day, grades could only be given based on the games which were played.

Air Force:

  • Objective Grade: B-
  • Adjusted Grade: B

Air Force had their sights set on the conference title game going into the season, but a few different circumstances changed that rather quickly. This team came and went with their offense, which came and went with their health. When the offense was at full strength, they were a formidable team. In the biggest surprise, the Falcon defense, which many believed would struggle, turned out to be one of the nation’s best units.

Boise State:

  • Objective Grade: B+
  • Adjusted Grade: B-

Boise State’s standard is always high; win the MWC championship or finish the season at or near undefeated. Neither of those things happened this year. Although almost any other conference team would love to have a championship appearance after an undefeated conference season be a disappointment, the Broncos still underachieved in 2020.

Colorado State:

  • Objective Grade: C-
  • Adjusted Grade: C

The Rams experienced some preseason setbacks and then more setbacks once the season began. Their offense had enough weapons to be effective; their defense was another story entirely. Colorado State ended up being the best of the bad teams, with the Border War trophy being their accomplishment for the year. This is a team in transition, and the next year or two will likely only become more challenging.

Fresno State:

  • Objective Grade: C-
  • Adjusted Grade: C+

It was a tale of two halves for the Bulldogs. In the softer part of their schedule, they looked like a competent, locked-in team on both sides of the ball. Then, whether their momentum stalled or they just faced tougher competition, the wheels fell off. Overall, things were working for this team, and they are set up pretty well moving forward.

Hawaii:

  • Objective Grade: B-
  • Adjusted Grade: B

Hawaii was always going to fall back from their 2019 season, but it was a graceful fall. They were as inconsistent and unpredictable as ever, making for a season that was fun and frustrating. If this is the Rainbow Warrior’s transition period, they are in pretty good shape, even if they may not have as high a ceiling as other teams.

  • Bowl specific grade: A-

The defense forced several turnovers and had Houston out of sync all game long. On offense, Calvin Turner provided all the production Hawaii needed for a convincing win. Turner did it all for the Rainbow Warriors; rushing, receiving and returning.

Nevada:

  • Objective Grade: A-
  • Adjusted Grade: A

The Wolf Pack were a popular preseason pick, and they did not disappoint, winning their first five games before tripping up against Hawaii and eventually losing to San Jose State, the top team in the conference. Their offense was high-powered and had a number of dynamic players. However, when teams shut it down, they weren’t able to execute a backup plan.

Bowl specific grade: A

Nevada jumped out to a big lead behind their dominant passing attack. Tulane got their points as well, but the Wolf Pack defense showed up big with three interceptions and eight sacks, neutralizing the Green Wave and claiming the victory.

New Mexico:

  • Objective Grade: F
  • Adjusted Grade: D

The Lobos were expected to struggle this season, but there were some bright moments. They only won two games all year, but one was an unlikely victory against Wyoming. More importantly, New Mexico continued to compete each week, and despite all the losing, they didn’t appear to give up. Expectations will rise next year, but for this season, they were right on track.

San Diego State:

  • Objective Grade: B-
  • Adjusted Grade: B

It was a new year for the Aztecs with a new coach, but it ended with the same results on both sides of the ball. Their defense was stout, especially in the back eight. The special team’s unit was a difference-maker in quite a few games, and the rushing attack was as consistent and productive as it’s ever been. Unfortunately, so was the passing game, and that consistency was not a positive, which kept SDSU from taking their game to the next level.

San Jose State:

  • Objective Grade: A+
  • Adjusted Grade: A+

The Spartans surprised just about everyone this season, building on last year’s moderate success and emerging as the best team in the Mountain West when they were left standing holding the trophy. SJSU was excellent on both sides of the ball, using a balanced offensive that could score points in various ways while being a physical and aggressive team on defense.

  • Bowl specific grade: F

It wasn’t a pretty showing for the Spartans in the Arizona Bowl. Right before the game, it was announced key players on both the offense and defense, plus both of the respective coordinators, were out for the game due to Covid. Those who did play had an awful showing, and very little went right. SJSU finally had a stroke of bad luck, and the wheels fell off their magical season.

UNLV:

  • Objective Grade: F
  • Adjusted Grade: F

Outside expectations weren’t all that high for the Rebels this season, but going winless is still a disappointment, even in year one of a new coaching regime. This year might not be a complete loss if UNLV was able to develop players and prepare them for future seasons. Next year they will need to display some improvement, and eventually, their recruiting success will heave to transfer to their on the field production.

Utah State:

  • Objective Grade: F
  • Adjusted Grade: F

Many around Utah State said the Aggies would be a bowl team this year, but those at MWCConnection expected them to struggle, which they did. Even so, it was a disappointing year for USU. Not only did they produce one win against five losses, but they fired their coach and had a game forfeited due to players protesting over alleged comments made by the school president about the interim head coach. It was a trying season in every facet, and one the Aggies are thankful has ended.

Wyoming:

  • Objective Grade: C+
  • Adjusted Grade: D+

Wyoming seemed poised to make a lot of noise this season but could never seem to find their groove. It was a similar story to other recent seasons. Their defense was strong, and their rushing attack was one of the better ones in the conference. However, the offense was one dimensional, and once again couldn’t find any consistency in the passing game. This was another team that was preparing to be in the championship game and wound up pretty far from it.

Alright, let’s hear it. Which grades did you agree with? Which ones would you change, and to what? Talk about it in the comments section.