Hopefully you have been following along with our bowl projections each week, which serves as a week-to-week collection of our team’s thoughts. This post will serve as a snap-shot companion post to the week in, week out projections. As the weekly projections more or less plug deserving teams into the existing bowl structure, this one will look at every team in its own right and see what their chances are to go to a bowl game this season (Spoiler: some teams have a much better shot than other teams).
I’ll categorize each team’s chances (as told by me, so you know, it’s flawed) of making a bowl game this year with a rating system that may be familiar to some of you or may be something you’ve never heard of. If you are an avid TV watcher (like me), you may be familiar with the site tvline.com and their annual renewal/cancel scorecard.
Anyway, all 12 MWC teams will be rated using the following: Officially Clinched, A sure thing, A safe bet, Could go either way, A long-shot, Essentially eliminated, and Officially eliminated. A short explanation will follow each.
The Falcons became the second MWC team to reach bowl eligibility, needing an extra game (although they qualified in the same week as SDSU), but they did it nonetheless. Their steady play on both side of the ball has put them in a great position not only to make a bowl game, but also to compete for the Mountain West championship.
The Bulldogs became the third team in the conference to clinch a bowl berth. They have proven to be the most balanced team in the conference, and are a team no one looks forward to playing. They can win in a variety of different ways and as long as they aren’t beating themselves.
San Diego State
The Aztecs become the first bowl-eligible team in the Mountain West for the 2021 season. It helps when they won their first six games of the season. Although their play and style are far from perfect, SDSU is efficient and effective, putting up points behind their ground game and superior special teams play.
A Sure Thing
The Wolf Pack haven’t clinched yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Their offense is difficult to stop and will still produce many wins in the second half of the season. The big remaining question is what kind of bowl will Nevada secure? Will it be a higher tier or will they be in a leftover bowl? That answer remains to be seen.
A Safe Bet
The Aggies have already won five games, so they are close to a bowl. However, they are in this category due to the fact so many of their games (and wins) have been so close. While wins are what matters at the end of the day, Utah State could be in for some regression, although their schedule is very favorable.
Could Go Either Way
The Broncos find themselves in unfamiliar territory, as qualifying for a bowl game is not a guarantee this year. While they can still reach 6 wins, it will probably take all season and they can’t afford any slip-ups in the winnable (in theory) games remaining on their schedule. This one should come down to the end of November.
When this post was starting to be written two weeks ago, the Cowboys were in the “A Safe Bet” category. Things change in a hurry. Especially when the offense can’t score and the team only puts up three points over two games. Even after their out-of-conference schedule spotted them four wins, they are not a guarantee to make a bowl game due to their putrid offense.
A Long Shot
The Rams have turned themselves into a fairly competitive team, but they dug themselves into an early-season hole that ultimately was too much to overcome in terms of making a bowl game. They found a formula to stay in games but making a bowl is a pipe dream at this point.
The Rainbow Warriors keep hanging around. How they will play week to week is anyone’s guess, but no one should take them lightly, as has been proven so far. Hawaii is capable of beating any team in the Mountain West on any given night. However, they are just as capable of losing to any team in the Mountain West on any given night.
San Jose State
How the Spartans have fallen. At the start of the season, San Jose State looked to be a bowl team, even if they weren’t likely to repeat their 2020 championship season. However, once they lost quarterback Nick Starkel, the team went in a nosedive. They still have the talent to turn things around, but things are looking pretty bleak for San Jose State.
After a 2-0 start, no one was confusing the Lobos with a contender, but some thought they could contend for a bowl berth, at least into November. Instead, New Mexico has appeared to be going backward more often than not, no longer looking competitive during individual games, which was a hallmark of Coach Gonzales’ team in 2020.
It’s hard to make a bowl when you haven’t won a game.