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Peak Perspective: MWC 2021 Football Final Grades

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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. 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 have had for a few years. Treat them as a big-picture snapshot rather than an all-inclusive rating. For each team, we have at least two grades:

  1. 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).
  2. An adjusted grade 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 without meeting their own expectations.
  3. A bowl-specific grade was also included for each bowl team, 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.

Air Force:

  • Objective Grade: A
  • Adjusted Grade: A

Air Force had their sights set on the conference title game going into the season but fell just short with an overtime loss to the Aggies earlier in the year. The Falcons didn’t miss a beat on offense, reloading after losing many of their best players from the previous year. On defense, they managed to take a great unit and gain even more depth as players returned from turnbacks. Coach Calhoun continued to have his team technically sound, disciplined and playing to the height of their potential.

  • Bowl specific grade: B+

Some may argue they should get an A, but they are dropped down a peg due to giving up so many points on defense. Still, they managed to capture a bowl win and did so against a Power 5 team, which is a remarkable feat for the Falcons and the conference.

Boise State:

  • Objective Grade: B
  • Adjusted Grade: C-

Boise State’s standard is always high; win the MWC championship and finish the season at or near undefeated. Neither of those things happened this year. The offense was inconsistent all year, and though the defense improved throughout the season, it had its share of faults as well. Year one of the new coaching staff did not go as planned, and the Broncos lost a lot of close scores in their biggest games of the year. There is reason for optimism going forward, but a few things also need to be corrected.

  • Bowl specific grade: N/A, Covid

Colorado State:

  • Objective Grade: D+
  • Adjusted Grade: F

The Rams looked dismal to open the season, then got on a competitive streak that led to a few wins before things quickly unraveled for them. Colorado State’s running game was good but never great, the defense was passable, and the special teams unit was a strength. However, it wasn’t enough to sustain success over the course of the season. Losses piled up, and tensions boiled over. Unsurprisingly, this led to Coach Addazio being ejected in the final game of the season, which ended up being the final one of his tenure at CSU. This is a team in transition, but things are looking up going forward.

Fresno State:

  • Objective Grade: A-
  • Adjusted Grade: A-

Fresno State was a very good team this year, largely in part to being strong on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they were balanced and usually able to score with ease. On defense, the Bulldogs were tough and stingy more often than not. However, the team’s Achilles heel was a bad habit of turning the ball over in bunches, which led to losses against Oregon, Hawaii, and Boise State. When they took care of the ball, they were a difficult team to beat in 2021.

  • Bowl specific grade: B+

Fresno State was in control of this one from start to finish, although the score was closer than they would have liked. Regardless, the Bulldogs were a great team, and although they deserved a better bowl opponent, they ended their season the right way with a win to reach the ten-win mark on the year.

Hawaii:

  • Objective Grade: C
  • Adjusted Grade: C-

Last year this post stated Hawaii had a graceful fall from their championship season. This year seemed like the Rainbow Warriors were in a total nosedive. They were still inconsistent, unpredictable, and frustrating. Fans weren’t the only ones frustrated, as reports surfaced that players have grown tired of the program under the coaching staff. Those reports have been backed up by numerous players transferring. Hawaii was able to be a .500 team, but it seems like the bottom has dropped out from under them.

  • Bowl specific grade: N/A, Covid

Nevada:

  • Objective Grade: B
  • Adjusted Grade: C

The Wolf Pack were a popular pick as a team who could make a run at having a special season. Unfortunately, those hopes barely got off the ground before suffering a crushing defeat in Week 3. Nevada ended up having a good season, but their best team in over a decade fell far short of being among the best teams in the Group of 5.

Bowl specific grade: D-

It was assumed Nevada would struggle in their bowl game, with the coaching staff gone and most starters either gone via transferring or else opting out to prepare for the NFL. Credit to the players who participated in the game, but the odds were stacked against the Wolf Pack for this one.

New Mexico:

  • Objective Grade: F
  • Adjusted Grade: F

The Lobos were expected to struggle this year, but they seemed to regress over the course of the season. However, there were some bright moments. Seemingly for every step forward in a rebuild, there are at least two steps back. Building from scratch takes time, but there were more questions than answers this season. Next year will be a big year for Coach Gonzales and the Lobos.

San Diego State:

  • Objective Grade: A
  • Adjusted Grade: A

Another year for the Aztecs with a new coach, but their formula looked the same as it always has. Their defense was stout, their special team’s unit was elite, and their offense was a mixed bag. However, this year’s difference is that it all came together to produce a 12-2 season and a berth in the conference championship game. Although they suffered two losses that denied them a conference championship and dropped them from the rankings, both of the losses were respectable.

  • Bowl specific grade: A

San Diego State took care of business in their bowl game, winning comfortably thanks to the same formula they have used all season. SDSU deserved a nice win to close out their impressive season.

San Jose State:

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

The Spartans surprised just about everyone last season but could not recapture the magic in 2021. A lack of dynamic wide receivers hit hard, and an injury to their starting quarterback hit even harder. Overall, they seemed like a good but not great football team, as their defense was still able to keep them in games. However, once their QB went out, things spiraled out of control, and their hopes for a bowl game dropped too. Going from champions to not making a bowl is disappointing.

UNLV:

  • Objective Grade: F
  • Adjusted Grade: C-

Outside expectations weren’t all that high for the Rebels this season, which is good because they didn’t do much of it. However, they are playing competitively, which is huge for this young program. Two wins, plus two games against ranked (at the time) conference teams that were within reach at the end of the game is impressive. Growth happened this year, even if it didn’t show up in their record.

Utah State:

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

The Aggies came into this season on the heels of a dismal 2020 season, and they reversed their fortunes in 2021 in every single way. A dynamic offense, an opportunistic defense, and a coaching staff who rebranded the culture and got the players to buy in right away. They suffered a few hiccups during the season but didn’t stop them from winning the division and the conference.

  • Bowl specific grade: A

Much like they did all year, Utah State came into their bowl game fully in control over Oregon State for the majority of the game. It was a fitting way to end the year, just like they started it, with a win over a PAC-12 team and lots of reasons to celebrate.

Wyoming:

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

Wyoming started out strong through their non-conference slate, but then things fell apart once they faced an uptick in competition against the Mountain West. The Cowboy’s defense was excellent once again, but the offense struggled mightily, once again. They rebounded to qualify for a bowl game, but they also expected to play in the conference championship, so their adjusted grade is lower.

  • Bowl specific grade: A-

Wyoming won their bowl game, beating another MAC team this season. With the offense able to move the ball and score in bunches, they cruised pretty easily in this one. It was nice for the Cowboys to end the season on a high note, at least until the wave of players began to hit the transfer portal.

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.