Week 1 is in the books. The Mountain West has gone 9-6 in their opening round of games (plus three teams also playing in Week 0), but the way they went about it was interesting. The upset wins and losses occurred both in MWC games as well as everywhere around college football. Though it’s still only one week, impressions can start to form from the games we saw this weekend. Clearly, sample sizes are in fact small, and there is still a lot of season left. But for now, we are going off of the results of these first games. Therefore, let’s look at the initial impressions and small sample size from the Mountain West.
The Mountain West is pretty much on par with the PAC12.
The Mountain West Conference and Pac12 Conference have played each other fives times already, with four games coming over the past week. The PAC has the upper edge so far, going 3-2. However, the nature of these games continues to demonstrate the talent level is not a steep drop off from the “power” conference to the “group” conference.
The UCLA/Hawaii game in Week 0 was a blowout, but the Bruins look strong this year, and the other four games were all competitive. The Spartans gave the Trojans everything they could handle before fading in the fourth quarter. Fresno State took Oregon down to the wire and nearly pulled off a huge upset. Many thought Nevada would beat Cal, and they did just that, making the needed adjustments to show they were the better team. And while the Cougars should not be mistaken for a good team, they looked especially lifeless against a motivated and determined Aggie team who outlasted them and made the plays they needed to make for an upset.
Going 2-3 against a supposed “superior” conference, and it really could have been 3-2, shows the gap has closed between the MWC and most of the PAC12.
The Mountain West is pretty much inferior to the FCS division.
Conversely, the MWC has a long way to go before they can distance themselves from the mighty FCS. So far, they have played seven games in two weeks against FCS teams, and only two games have been won by a margin of larger than 14 points. In fact, some games haven’t been wins at all.
San Jose State opened things up with a dominating 45-14 win over Southern Utah, but things took a sharp turn after that. New Mexico beat Houston Baptist by only 10 points, and then UNLV lost to Eastern Washington. Likewise, South Dakota State wiped the field with Colorado State. Air Force beat Lafayette by 21 but took their foot off the gas in the second half, and Hawaii did the same thing against Portland State, jumping out to a big lead before winning by two touchdowns. Wyoming barely squeaked one out against Montana State, needing to come from behind multiple times in the fourth.
Losing to FCS (albeit some of the top ones) is embarrassing for any FBS team. While not winning convincingly can be understandable in the first week of the season, it is a bad look for a conference trying to establish and maintain national relevancy.
A lot still looks the same.
Every team was pretty much on-brand in their 2021 debut:
Air Force combined a disciplined rushing attacked for a fundamental defense for a close but convincing win.
Boise State’s talent is evident on the field, but they struggle to run the ball, miss too many tackles and make some head-scratching mistakes.
Colorado State continues to head in the wrong direction.
Hawaii remains an inconsistent mystery.
San Jose State looks like they are missing weapons on offense with a formidable defense and are able to execute as well as anyone.
Nevada is a high-powered offense with a lagging defense (although the defense did step up when needed). Conversely, San Diego State and Wyoming have impressive defensive units while still struggling to find any offense.
New Mexico is still building, and UNLV is still trying to line up their building blocks.
The only two teams who look any different this season are Fresno State and potentially Utah State. The Bulldogs look strong on both sides of the ball with their skill players shinning while the trenches have taken a step forward. Utah State may be a wild card this year if last week is any indication.
Is offense optional this year?
As indicated above, many teams struggled to score for some or all of their games. San Diego State was shut out at halftime, as was San Jose State. Wyoming managed only a field goal, and Utah State’s offense did the same but added a safety. The Spartans were held to one touchdown their entire game.
Likewise, Boise State had negative yards in the third quarter and did the same for a portion of the fourth. The Falcon’s offense jumped out a huge lead in the first halftime but only scored one other touchdown the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the Lobos were held to two field goals in the second half of their game, and the Aggie’s quarter breakdowns were 3, 2, and 6 before exploding for 15 in the fourth quarter.
Hopefully, this is not an indication of how the rest of the season will go.
There may be no truly dominant team this year, but lots of parity.
The Wolf Pack currently looks like the conference’s best chance to emerge as a top 25 team this season, but they still have a number of tests they need to pass. Otherwise, the Mountain West appears to have many good teams but likely lacks a truly great team.
Along with Nevada, San Jose State, Fresno State, and Boise State should all be strong. Air Force, San Diego State, and Wyoming all have a shot at being bowl eligible. Currently, Hawaii and Utah State appear like they could go either way but could be pleasant surprises.
When many teams are good but not great, those teams usually end up canceling each other out in the win/loss columns, making the conference appear weaker when it is actually more balanced. Parity may reign supreme rather than one team this season.
Stats extrapolated over a full season (12 games)
#SmallSampleSizeAlert (These are mostly just fun ways to look at numbers after one week. Obviously, none of this is likely to happen)
Tyric Lebeauf: 24 INTs
JL Skinner: 156 tackles
Jonah Laulu/Isaiah Bagnah: 24 sacks
Chad Muma: 132 tackles, 24 TFLs, 12 sacks, 12 blocked FGs
Khalil Shakir: 1,092 receiving yards, 24 TDs.
Carson Strong: 3744 passing yards, 24 TDs.
Charles Williams: 2,064 rushing yards, 24 TDs.
Jordon Brookshire: 1,380 passing yards, 0 TDs, 12 INTs
Trey McBride: 156 receptions, 1,393 receiving yards (0 TDs)
Wyoming: 12-0, 228 points scored all season
UNLV: 0-12, 396 points scored all season
Boise State: 0-12, 240 season rushing yards (3,156 season passing yards)
Air Force: 12-0, 4,440 season rushing yards (600 season passing yards)
Your turn: What were your impressions of the first week of games, and what are your thoughts about our impressions?