In recent seasons, the Mountain West has developed a reputation of being a football conference that is full of good teams, but has lacked one true dominant team. It can be argued that the MW is a deeper conference that it gets credit for, and is doing so again this season.
Just because no team is in the driver’s seat for a NY6 spot at this point in the season, it doesn’t mean some teams in the conference aren’t playing good football. In fact, two teams are currently in the running to be the top mid-major team this season.
At the onset of this season, the conference has produced four wins against teams in Power 5 conference, which is three more than they had during the regular season last year. Furthermore, they have also taken care of business more often than not when playing other Group of 5 teams and have only suffered one loss against a team from the FCS, both of which are improvements from last year. It is also worth noting that the Mountain West has played a handful of close games that have resulted in losses, but have been more competitive than the box score or record would capture.
While it is too soon to know how many teams will make a bowl game, the conference should have five teams that are a lock to play in the postseason. Then, there looks to be as many as four teams that will be actively in the hunt to try to qualify for a bowl game. While it is unlikely nine teams will end up with six or more wins, seven seems realistic and shows how deep the Mountain West is this season.
Here’s a rundown of how each team is doing so far.
Their defense looks every bit as good as last year, if not better. Once again, they are one of the best units in the entire nation, and are certainly at the top of the conference. The offense is efficient and getting better as the weeks go on. The Falcons haven’t had big tests on their schedule at this point, but they are passing the tests they do have by winning the games on their schedule.
The Broncos got destroyed by one of the best teams in the country and then lost to a good team on a last-second field goal. On the other hand, they have one of the most productive running backs in all of college football, one of the most intriguing quarterbacks, and a great kicker/punter combination.
The Rams haven’t been a great team, but their offense is exciting and can score quickly. Recently, they went wire to wire with the biggest name in college football. Also, Colorado State is home to one of the better wide receivers and he is beginning to gain some national attention.
Fresno State has played two Power 5 teams this year and has come away with two Power 5 wins. In one of those games, they were favored and completely dominated. The most complete team in the Mountain West is right outside the top 25.
The Rainbow Warriors haven’t set the world on fire, but they have taken a step forward in 2023. Just compare last year’s season opener against Vanderbilt with this one. It’s clear Hawaii is a different team. They have a tough schedule but they are competing.
The Wolf Pack shouldn’t be confused with a good team this season, especially after losing to Idaho. In fact, it’s been over a year since their last victory. With that being said, Nevada held their own against Kansas, so they have it in them to compete against good teams.
The Lobos are definitely in the bottom part of the Mountain West, but in the early going, they appear better than previous years. New Mexico’s offense seems more competitive and there are a number of strong players on the team. They haven’t had the kind of showing you want to see so far, but there is a lot of room to grow.
San Diego State
The Aztecs have a tough schedule and while they haven’t looked great, they are competing. Their defense looks as solid as ever and seems skilled at creating turnovers. The San Diego State special teams unit once again has one of the better specialists in the nation. Though they weren't on the same tier as teams in the Power 5, they are a tough game.
San Jose State
San Jose State has had an extremely tough schedule. Their offense has shown the ability to play with anyone. While their defense still needs to round into form, they have a number of playmakers on offense, including one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.
The Rebels have one of the conference wins against Power 5 teams. While Vanderbilt should not be confused with an elite team, it is clear UNLV was on par with them and never looked overmatched. Speaking of elite teams, the Rebels didn’t look completely overmatched in their game against Michigan, making them earn all of their points throughout the game. It shows how deep the conference is that UNLV is competitive.
The Utah State offense looks explosive and has the ability to score in bunches. This makes them quite dangerous at any given time. While their issue is consistency, the opposition can never be sure when the Aggies are going to explode.
The Cowboys upset Texas Tech in Laramie and then went toe-to-toe with Texas on the road. Plus, Wyoming appears to have a balanced and effective offense, which should make every opponent remaining on their schedule nervous. At this point in the year, they are one of the best teams in the Mountain West and have shown they can hold their own against Power 5 teams as well.