Hopefully you have been following along with our bowl projections each week, which serve as a week-to-week collection of our team’s thoughts. This post will serve as a snap-shot companion post to the week-in and week-out projections. As the weekly projections more or less plug deserving teams into the existing bowl structure, this one will look at every team in its own right and see what their chances are to go to a bowl game this season (Spoiler: some teams have a much better shot than other teams).
I’ll categorize each team’s chances (as told by me, so you know, it’s flawed) of making a bowl game this year with a rating system that may be familiar to some of you or may be something you’ve never heard of. If you are an avid TV watcher (like me), you may be familiar with the site tvline.com and their annual renewal/cancel scorecard.
Anyway, all 12 MWC teams will be rated using the following: Officially Clinched, A sure thing, A safe bet, Could go either way, A long shot, Essentially eliminated, and Officially eliminated. A short explanation will follow each.
This year, no one has officially clinched a bowl berth, which may be the first time since this annual post has begun. This is yet another demonstration of how the conference is having a disappointing season.
The Falcons have already clinched a bowl game thanks to one of the best offensive lines and defenses in the country. They are solid on both sides of the ball, as long as they can withstand a quarterback injury. The current question is: how big of a bowl game will they play in?
The Bulldogs became the first Mountain West team to clinch a bowl game this season, despite suffering a loss the week before. Thus far, they have exceeded expectations thanks to a defense that is great at forcing turnovers and an offense that produced quicker than expected, considering it is led by so many transfers and young players. Hopefully this team is given a bowl game comparable to their level of talent, which isn’t a certainty in the Mountain West.
The Rebels have been the most improved team in the Mountain West this year. Though their schedule may be back-loaded, they have won every game but one, with their lone loss to a top 5 team. UNLV is playing great on both sides of the ball and it’s been impressive how the program has been able to rebuild on the fly. While it will be interesting to see how they measure up against some of the better teams in the conference, nothing can be taken away from the strong play they have done so far this season.
A Sure Thing
The Cowboys have looked great this season, taking on some big opponents and coming away with either upset wins or close losses. They have dropped their past two games, which has kept them from becoming bowl-eligible. However, it seems like a formality at this point. If they don’t get it in the Border War next week, they will have two great chances at the end of the season.
A Safe Bet
Could Go Either Way
The Broncos don’t usually find themselves in a category this far down, but that speaks to the challenges and inconsistent play they have face this season. They only have to go 2-2 in their final four games, and while it seems like an achievable task, it’s hard to pin down how Boise State will play week to week. A bowl berth will likely come down to the game against Utah State.
The Rams have been much improved this season in the second year under Coach Norvell, and at this point, they are still in the hunt to reach a bowl game. The good news is their schedule is quite favorable down the stretch, with each game looking easier than the last. On the other hand, the bad news is that they face an uphill battle, needing to win three of their final four games in order to get to a bowl game. It is worth seeing how Colorado State competes down the stretch.
Things are pretty similar for the Aggies. They also need to win three of their last four games of the season, and three games are winnable on paper, potentially all four. There was strong consideration for putting Utah State in the “Safe Bet” category because of their softer schedule. However, considering how inconsistent they have played all season, this category makes more sense. Time will tell if the Aggies can pull off a similar second-half surge to last season when they reached a bowl game.
A Long Shot
San Diego State
The Aztecs have had a disappointing season, as many assumed they’d be among the top four or five teams in the Mountain West. Like many on this list, they need to win three of their final four games to qualify for a bowl. Going off of their poor play thus far, and knowing they can only afford one loss to the Aggies, Rams, Spartans, and Bulldogs, and it’s hard to see them accomplishing that task this year.
San Jose State
The Spartans were a bit tough to place. On one hand, they have four wins, which is above the Rams and Aggies. On the other hand, they look to have a harder remaining schedule than the group above them. San Jose State will need to win two of their last three games out of the Fresno State, San Diego State, and UNLV trio. While possible, it isn’t likely at this juncture. However, if they win this week, they will shoot up to “A Safe Bet.”
It’s been a tough year for the Wolf Pack. They finally got their first win in mid-October before winning their second the next week. They have a few hard-fought losses, but that has been about it for the bright spots. They were never close to making a bowl game and have all but been eliminated at this point in the season.
Head coach Danny Gonzalez promised a bowl game earlier this season in a press conference, which was a bold move, but one meant to inspire his players and profess belief in his program. It doesn’t look like it will transpire this season, with pretty much every game being tough and looking like a loss. While the Lobos technically aren’t eliminated yet, there isn’t much evidence to say it won’t be a foregone conclusion.
Similarly to the first category, no one has been officially eliminated, although that is likely to change this upcoming weekend. Credit to the struggling teams for not completely giving up and delaying their official elimination for a bowl game as long as possible.
At this point, the Rainbow Warriors are the lone team that has been officially eliminated from bowl contention this season Hawaii started off competitive, showing they were improved from last season However, their defense has still struggled mightily and their offense has been inconsistent and not the threat to opposing teams they hoped it would be this year. Hawaii still has a long way to go to get back to the middle of the pack.