Back in July, the Mountain West announced its conference schedule for the next three seasons. While it is always newsworthy, this particular announcement stood out because it provided a look at what conference schedules will look like in a division-less world.
There were other stories going on at the time, mainly focusing on previewing the conference, so this discussion got postponed until now. It may be old news, but it’s still big news.
The Mountain West was able to protect many of its traditional rivalries in its new scheduling format. It’s clear that was a focus in the arrangments, and their original teams were prioritized over their newest teams. Due to that, some protected games are obvious, while others don’t make a lot of sense at all.
Read below for our thoughts on the new Mountain West schedule.
The Falcons have two main rivals in the Mountain West Conference, in-state Colorado State, and neighboring Wyoming. Guess who they play? In-state Colorado State and neighboring Wyoming. It’s a big win that those two games can continue each year.
The Rams are able to continue to play their two main conference rivals. Every year the in-state game against the Falcons will take place, as will the storied Border War.
The Wolf Pack preserve their most important game against chief rival UNLV in the Fremont Cannon game. Boise State is probably a bigger rival than Fresno State, but the Bulldogs are arguably third, and the two do have a history dating back to their WAC days. Overall, the schedule gives Nevada two competitive games every year against two old foes.
The Rebels seemed to have preserved their two biggest rivals in the new schedule. The obvious one is in-state Nevada (or UNR for you UNLV fans). After the Wolf Pack, their next biggest rival is Hawaii, as Las Vegas is the ninth island, after all. Getting those two games is a huge boon for the Rebels.
Preserving the Border War is a major win for the Cowboys. Keeping the game against Air Force is the icing on the cake. Wyoming gets to play its two biggest rivals each year. It’s hard not to call them anything but big winners.
The Bulldogs do pretty well for themselves in this new schedule alignment, coming away winners. They preserve a game against an old WAC rival in Nevada and then maintain an in-state game against San Jose State. While both games make sense, it wasn’t the best-case scenario for Fresno State, but they fare better than some of their counterparts.
The Rainbow Warriors secure a main rival in UNLV, making sure the battle against the ninth island is preserved each and every year. The other game, playing San Diego State, is a nice pick-up for Hawaii, even if the feeling probably isn’t reciprocated by the Aztecs. The Bows could have much worse draws, so they pick up a win here.
San Jose State
The Spartans, like the other teams on this list, could go either way, so they are in the middle category. Drawing New Mexico is an odd pairing, but getting to play in-state Fresno State is a scheduling victory and protects a traditional rivalry. Unfortunately, they don’t get to play their other main rival, San Diego State.
The Broncos are perhaps the biggest losers in the new scheduling arrangement. They have two traditional rivals (Fresno State, Nevada) and one newer one (San Diego State) within the conference. In the new format, they aren’t guaranteed to play any of them on an annual basis. Not getting any rivals makes no sense. Instead, the Broncos will play Utah State and New Mexico every year. The Aggies make some sense due to their location. And as much as they will benefit from beating up on the Lobos every year, it is anything but an exciting matchup. It’s pretty clear Boise State was given the leftovers in this reshuffle.
The Lobos have a tough draw, although they likely would no matter the pod they were placed in. Having to go up against Boise State and San Jose State each year will all but guarantee one and perhaps two losses on their schedule each year. It also exposes the fact that their main rivals are outside of the conference, and due to that, they were regulated to “other” status during the scheduling shift.
The Aggies end up in this category for the same reasons as New Mexico. Their main rivals are in-state (Utah and BYU, even if those schools wouldn’t necessarily see it that way) and out-of-conference. USU hasn’t formed any strong rivalries with teams inside the conference during its tenure. Although playing Boise State and San Diego State gives them a chance for some fun and competitive games, both seem a bit out of place.
San Diego State
The Aztecs got some puzzling draws in this new schedule and possibly are the second biggest losers after the Broncos. Someone had to have Hawaii, and being a Cali team, it kind makes sense geographically, but the two other teams in California would have made more sense. Instead, SDSU seems to be force-fit into playing Hawaii and Utah State each season. While it makes for an overall favorable schedule, neither can be called rivalries.
For a good discussion on what the Mountain West should have done, read Chris Murray’s post here. He identifies the chief problem; the Lobos and Aggies don’t have rivals in the conference and thus need to play someone, which means a few rivalries have to get set aside. It is worth noting that the schedule is only for the next three years. Hopefully, that means this will be an evaluation period, and the protected games can be reevaluated and adjusted after this cycle is over. Until then, this is the conference schedule, for better or for worse.