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Stats Corner: Power Rankings by Probability

A preview of all 12 Mountain West teams using statistics.

Mountain West Football Championship - Boise State v San Jose State Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There is an old saying “Why don’t you put your money where you month is?” And that is very true in sports. I can say I think Utah State will go undefeated and if I am in a fantasy league picking against the spread I would take Utah State against the 40-point spread, meaning that if they lose by less than 40 points I win, but if I had to put $1000 of my own money down, I would probably pick Alabama to win by more than 40 points. As compared to three people who each put $1000 down for Utah State to win the national title, if USU does they each get one million dollars as USU is 1000 to 1 odds to win (must be nice to be able to risk that much on a long shot bet).

Because money is involved, betting odds are more likely to be reliable sources of data. This is not to say that betting odds are always correct, as weird things happen in sports, but as probability data is controlled by money there is an incentive to be as accurate as possible.

Therefore, using data from ESPN, this time on Stats Corner we are going to create a Power Rankings by Probability for winning the conference title. This is not ranking teams by who I think is the best team, or who I think would win head to head on a neutral site, but rather who is most likely to win the conference title. That is not the same as the other options as it takes into consideration the teams being played, each team does not play all the teams in the conference, and where the game is being played, home vs away. ESPN was used over Draftkings as ESPN as data for the entire season whereas, Draftkings only had data for first two weeks of season. The percentages by the opposing team is the percentage chance that the team in the rankings has of winning.

Boise State:

46.8% Chance of winning the conference, 62.9% of winning the Mountain Division

Oregon State 50.2%

New Mexico 90.8%

UT Martin 97.7%

UTEP 83.5%

San Diego State 78.0%

Fresno State 74.7%

Air Force 62.4%

Coloardo State 89.8%

BYU 43.0%

Nevada 72.9%

Wyoming 75.4%

Utah State 81.7%

Outside of BYU, the Broncos are currently favored in all their games. This does not mean they are likely to go undefeated, they only have a 2.3% chance (you multiply all the probabilities together to find the over probability) and a 14.7% chance of going undefeated in conference. There are the only Mountain West team to have percentage chance of going undefeated. Everyone else had zeros after the decimal point before they got to a number.

Fresno State:

20.0% Chance of winning the conference, 48.4% of winning the West Division

Cal Poly 96.6%

Oregon State 51.6%

USC 19.9%

UCONN 84.9%

Boise State 25.3%

San Jose 78.2%

New Mexico 83.1%

San Diego State 62.1%

Hawaii 81.7%

UNLV 72.0%

Nevada 61.3%

Wyoming 76.7%

The favorite out the West division, the Bulldogs are favored is all but two games, Boise State, hence the second place ranking, and USC. Fresno State only has a 2.8% of going undefeated in conference but a 17.5% chance of being undefeated in West division.

Air Force:

11.9% Chance of winning the conference, 21.3% of winning the Mountain Division

Northern Iowa 87.2%

Colorado 63.1%

Wyoming 60.6%

Nevada 75.9%

Navy 79.5%

Utah State 50.7%

UNLV 70.4%

Boise State 37.6%

Army 42.0%

New Mexico 90.8%

Colorado State 79.9%

San Diego 42.4%

While Air Force has three games where they are the underdogs, they are still third on the list as one game is non-conference and the second game is San Diego State in the West Division. They have 1.9% of going undefeated in the conference and 3.6% chance of going undefeated in the Mountain division, it’s that Boise State game, a theme for the rest of the teams below.

San Diego State:

10.6% Chance of winning the conference, 29.2% of winning the West Division

Arizona 67.1%

Idaho State 97.5%

Utah 9.8%

Toledo 60.1%

Boise State 22.0%

Hawaii 77.3%

Nevada 60.4%

Fresno State 37.9%

UNLV 78.7%

San Jose State 76.2%

New Mexico 81.1%

Air Force 57.6%

I can hear it now, “San Diego State has a higher chance of winning its Division than Air Force does AND it is favored against the Falcons, so why is it ranked behind them?” This ranking is based on winning the conference. The difference is Boise State and Air Force are in the same division, meaning if Air Force wins, it can lose a conference game and still be ranked ahead of Boise State, however if San Diego State beats Boise but loses to Fresno State it needs the Bulldogs to lose again to make it the conference title game. Do I think San Diego State is a better team than Air Force? Yep. Do I think the Aztecs will be the beat the Falcons the last week of the season? Yep. But the schedule and divisions, gives the edge to the Falcons when it comes to winning the conference and that is what this ranking is.

Utah State:

4.2% Chance of winning the conference, 9.4% of winning the Mountain Division

UCONN 90.6%

Alabama 0.8%

Weber State 81.3%

UNLV 78.9%

BYU 18.0%

Air Force 49.3%

Colorado State 56.8%

Wyoming 45.9%

New Mexico 86.9%

Hawaii 43.8%

San Jose 70.7%

Boise State 18.3%

I still cannot get over $1000 for the Aggies to win it all, there is a .0005% chance that the Aggies will go undefeated (that’s 1 in 200,000 attempts), if you take out the Alabama game it goes to .07% chance, but still. Underdogs in four conference games, although three of them are close to toss-ups, will make it tough for them to repeat.


1.7% Chance of winning the conference, 4.6% of winning the Mountain Division

Illinois 24.9%

Tulsa 47.4%

Northern Colorado 96.3%

Air Force 39.4%

BYU 13.4%

San Jose State 64.3%

New Mexico 69.9%

Utah State 54.1%

Hawaii 35.1%

Colorado State 53.9%

Boise State 24.6%

Fresno State 23.3%

Here is another case of a team being favored to win head-to-head, against USU, but the schedule not doing any favors. The differences between USU and Wyoming are the Air Force game 49.3% for the Aggies vs 39.4% for the Cowboys and the Hawaii game 43.8% for USU and 35.1% for Wyoming. The reason is home versus away. Include the Cowboys getting Fresno State from the West and they may be better than Utah State, but their path to the title is more difficult.


1.5% Chance of winning the conference, 6.8% of winning the West Division

New Mexico State 78.2%

Texas State 62.4%

Incarnate Word 97.6%

Iowa 9.6%

Air Force 24.1%

Colorado State 67.7%

Hawaii 37.9%

San Diego State 39.6%

San Jose State 46.4%

Boise State 27.1%

Fresno State 38.7%

UNLV 53.7%

With only two conference games where they are currently favored, a conference title is a long shot, but at least they have a 58.3% chance of making a bowl game.

San Jose State:

1.3% Chance of winning the conference, 6.3% of winning the West Division

Portland State 92.4%

Auburn 3.7%

Western Michigan 63.2%

Wyoming 35.7%

UNLV 66.0%

Fresno State 21.8%

New Mexico State74.9%

Nevada 53.6%

Colorado State 63.5%

San Diego State 23.8%

Utah State 29.3%

Hawaii 62.7%

Favored against the Wolfpack (home field advantage) and in five conference games, but has a lower probability of winning the division and the conference and ranked lower than Nevada, mainly due the draw of Utah and Wyoming from the Mountain division.


1.1% Chance of winning the conference, 6.7% of winning the West Division

Vanderbilt 72.0%

Western Kentucky46.8%

Michigan 2.0%

Duquesne 97.8%

New Mexico State 70.9%

San Diego State 22.7%

Nevada 62.1%

Colorado State 37.8%

Wyoming 64.9%

Fresno State 18.3%

Utah State 56.2%

UNLV 73.7%

San Jose State 37.3%

I know, Hawaii has a higher chance of winning the West Division that San Jose State, but the Spartans have a higher chance of winning the conference. This means that the path for Hawaii is easier, but in a conference title game the Spartans are more likely to win, 1.3% vs 1.1%, not much but a little. Interestingly, Hawaii has a pretty good chance to make it to 6 wins 76.2% as they play 13 games instead of 12.

Colorado State:

.5% Chance of winning the conference, 1.8% of winning the Mountain Division

Michigan 2.4%

Middle Tennessee 40.9%

Washington State 20.3%

Sacramento State 81.4%

Nevada 32.3%

Utah State 43.2%

Hawaii 62.2%

Boise State 10.2%

San Jose State 36.5%

Wyoming 46.1%

Air Force 20.1%

New Mexico 77.1%

I will admit, this one surprised me. Not that I thought Colorado State was going to be a powerhouse, but only being favored in 3 games and having such a low probability of success was startling. It could be a long season for the Rams.


.4% Chance of winning the conference, 2.7% of winning the West Division

Idaho State 93.0%

Cal 18.0%

North Texas 42.8%

Utah State 21.1%

New Mexico 74.5%

San Jose 34.0%

Air Force 29.6%

Norte Dame 1.7%

San Diego State 21.3%

Fresno State 28.0%

Hawaii 26.3%

Nevada 46.3%

Better hope for a good first game, because it does not look promising for the Rebels.

New Mexico:

0.0% Chance of winning the conference, 0.0% of winning the Mountain Division

Maine 74.2%

Boise State 9.2%

UTEP 42.1%

LSU 1.4%

UNLV 25.5%

Wyoming 30.1%

New Mexico State 50.3%

Fresno State 16.9%

Utah State 13.1%

Air Force 9.2%

San Diego State 18.9%

Colorado State 22.9%

Ok, so it is not quite 0, but there are a lot of 0s after the decimal point and before a number when running the numbers. New Mexico has 4.4% of winning 6 games to go bowling, that’s about the chance of San Jose State beating Auburn. Looks like another long year for the Lobos.

Probability of winning 6 games

Boise State 99.5%

Fresno State 95.1%

Air Force 92.3%

San Diego State 87.8%

Hawaii 76.2%

Utah State 73.9%

San Jose State 60.7%

Nevada 58.3%

Wyoming 47.8%

Colorado State 30.1%

UNLV 21.4%

New Mexico 4.4%