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Peak Perspective: The 2021 MWC Out of Conference Review

A look back at how the Mountain West fared in non-conference games.

Non-conference games serve a few different purposes. In some cases, it lets teams work out kinks and prepare for the regular season. In other instances, it’s a cash grab, taking money to play games and programs are able to add to their budget. Most importantly, it’s a chance for the Mountain West to measure itself against other conferences and make a statement against Power five teams.

This article looks at how the Mountain West fared in their out-of-conference schedule this season. Overall, they went an impressive 31-18. Specifically, their record was 5-11 against teams from Power 5 conferences, plus two more P5 wins in bowl games.

Note: This article does not include bowl games and instead focuses on the regular season out of conference schedule.

Upsetting the Power (less) 5

  • Fresno State vs. UCLA W
  • Nevada vs. Cal W
  • San Diego State vs. Arizona W
  • San Diego State vs. Utah W
  • Utah State vs. Washington State W

Going 5-5 against the PAC-12 is a great statement for the Mountain West. Any win is significant, but beating the conference champion Utah is a huge deal. SDSU has a long history of winning against PAC-12 teams and continued to do so this season. Four different MWC teams beating five different PAC-12 teams demonstrates it was a strong showing by the conference and not just one or two teams.

Good losses to the Power 5

  • Boise State vs. Oklahoma State L
  • Colorado State vs. Vanderbilt L
  • Colorado State vs. Iowa L
  • Fresno State vs. Oregon L

All four games were close losses, and at least two of them could arguably have ended up victories for the Mountain West. Boise State had a touchdown negated by a bad officiating call and missed an easy field goal in the fourth quarter. Fresno State got bit by the turnover bug while playing the Ducks to the wire. CSU had two close losses, with Iowa being a top-five team when they played and kept it close until the Hawkeyes pulled away late.

Bad losses to the Power 5

  • Hawaii vs. UCLA L
  • Hawaii vs. Oregon State L
  • Nevada vs. Kansas State L
  • New Mexico vs. Texas A&M L
  • San Jose State vs. USC L
  • UNLV vs. Arizona State L
  • UNLV vs. Iowa State L

All of these games ended up as blowouts. Some were not at all surprising, like New Mexico and San Jose State’s losses. Other games, like the Wolf Pack loss, was a game many thought Nevada would win. As for other teams, they were not expected to win, but the hope was they would have had a better showing.

NMSU: Unofficial 13th Mountain West Member

  • Hawaii vs. New Mexico State W
  • Hawaii vs. New Mexico State W
  • Nevada vs. New Mexico State W
  • New Mexico vs. New Mexico State W
  • San Diego Stave vs. New Mexico State W
  • San Jose State vs. New Mexico State W
  • Utah State vs. New Mexico State W

Why do Mountain West teams keep scheduling games against New Mexico State? Especially Hawaii, who ended up playing them twice in the same season. And neither game was in a bowl. New Mexico makes sense because of the in-state rivalry, but that’s the only one. At least they won every game against the Aggies, going 7-0 this year. Mountain West teams would be better off attempting to schedule games against teams from the American, even if it’s with the bottom of the conference.

The Academy Games

  • Air Force vs. Navy W
  • Air Force vs. Army L

Air Force went 1-1 in the games against their arch-rivals. While 2-0 is always the goal, the three academy teams seemed pretty evenly matched this season.

BYU games

  • Boise State vs. BYU W
  • Utah State vs. BYU L

BYU was a top-10 team when the Broncos pulled off the upset. It could have easily been two losses, and pulling out the extra win boosts the conference’s overall record. Going 1-1 against such a strong team is quite the feat.

Group of 5 Toss Ups

  • Air Force vs. FAU W
  • Boise State vs. UCF L
  • Boise State vs. UTEP W
  • Fresno State vs. UConn W
  • New Mexico vs. UTEP L
  • UNLV vs. USTA L
  • Wyoming vs. UConn W

These are called toss-up games because they are basically 50/50 games. While they shouldn’t be, the overall record seems to hover around .500 when the Mountain West plays the rest of the Group of 5. the MWC went 4-3 in this category, and really it was 8-3 when factoring in the games against the MAC. For this season, they stepped up their play and showed how strong the conference really was this season.

Owning the MAC

  • Colorado State vs. Toldeo W
  • San Jose State vs. Western Michigan W
  • Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois W
  • Wyoming vs. Ball State W

The Mountain West should dominate G5 conferences not named the American. Against the MAC, they did. And CSU, SJSU, and Wyoming weren’t the strongest teams in the conference this season and were still able to beat MAC teams with ease.

FCS gimme games (Wins)

  • Air Force vs. Lafayette W
  • Fresno State vs. Cal Poly W
  • Hawaii vs. Portland State W
  • Nevada vs. Idaho State W
  • New Mexico vs. Houston Baptist W
  • San Diego State vs. Towson W
  • San Jose State vs. Southern Utah W
  • Utah State vs. North Dakota W
  • Wyoming vs. Montana State W

FCS games should be gimmes. Often, Mountain West teams are paying money for these teams to come in and lose. It is assumed MWC teams will win, and notching nine victories is a huge success. But they really should not lose any of these games.

FCS gimme games (Losses)

  • Colorado State vs. South Dakota State L
  • UNLV vs. Eastern Washington L

However, two Mountain West teams lost to FCS teams this season. To be fair, South Dakota State and Eastern Washington are both very good teams. However, they should either not be scheduling those teams, or they should just play better than those teams. Unfortunately, these two games were a disappointment for the Mountain West this season.

Overall, the Mountain West had a successful showing in their non-conference schedule. Aside from a few bad games, they measured up competitively against every level of competition they faced in the 2021 season.