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Peak Perspective: Top 2023 Out-of-Conference Matchups in the Mountain West

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Colorado State at Washington State Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The out-of-conference schedule for the Mountain West Conference will offer up a number of intriguing matchups against formidable FBS opponents in the early portion of this year’s season. From traditional powerhouses like Texas and USC, to programs that are showing early potential with bright futures like UCF and James Madison, the now Division-less Mountain West conference will surely be battle tested all the way around when conference play kicks off in Week 3, with a handful of these games potentially containing significant implications moving deeper into the season.

WIth that being said, and without further adieu, here are 5 of those matchups that you should look forward to in 2023:

5. James Madison visits Utah State (Sep. 23)

The Aggies had a very up and down season in 2022, while JMU, in the team’s inaugural FBS season, finished atop of the Sun Belt. They could give Utah State a run for their money if their defense is half as good as it was last year. However, while the Aggies had a rough go of it in their out-of-conference games last year, they played their best football inside of Maverik Stadium, winning 4 out of their six games there, while the Dukes’ struggles came primarily on the road. Expect a battle though, as JMU is a program that has only gone up these past few years.

4. UCF taking their talents to Boise State (Sep. 9)

While this won’t be the undefeated & self-proclaimed “National Champs” from a few years ago coming to visit Boise’s blue turf to play the Broncos, it is still a formidable opponent that has surged in recent years and taken the college football world by storm. Now, with third-year Head Coach Gus Malzahn leading his team into a fiercely competitive Big 12, the Knights will want to prove they belong in a conference with so much firepower. But look for the Broncos to want to do something similar - prove they can hang around with a rising top program in the country. The spotlight will be shining bright on Taylen Green on September 9th when he tries to help his team do just that.

3. Fresno State takes on Purdue (Sep. 2)

While the Boilermakers were in the Big 10 title game last year, a lot has transpired for them since that game. Not only have they lost five starters to the NFL, but they will also have a new first-year head coach to lead their team this season in Ryan Walters. However, the Bulldogs are going through a similar reshaping of their identity. While Jeff Tedford on the sidelines is a familiar face for Bulldog fans, there will be no Jake Haener or Jordan Mims to lead their offense out on the field. So what should we expect in this matchup of defending conference title championship game teams? Only time will tell...

2. Oregon State travels southbound to San Jose (Sep. 3)

SJSU’s home opener will come in week 1 against a very tough and scrappy Oregon State team that has preseason expectations to be a player in the race for the Pac 12. An interesting draw to this game will also have to do with the fact that the Spartans hold quite a few former Oregon State coaches and players that include Head Coach Brent Brennan and linebacker Matthew Tago. While OSU is sure to be a tough matchup for Chevan Cordeiro and the Spartans, having a little bit of insider knowledge could give them a unique advantage against the Beavers at home.

1. Colorado State vs. Colorado (Sep. 16)

A Prime matchup indeed. In case you hadn’t heard (or live under a rock) Deion Sanders has come on to lead the Colorado Buffaloes as their new head coach this year - and he’s brought a ton of talented young players with him, including top QB prospect Shedeur Sanders. Colorado State on the other hand will have Coach Norvell and his slew of talent back for another year, looking to get comfortable in this rivalry renewal and silence the hype of the revamped Colorado Buffaloes. One thing for sure, is after a four-year hiatus, the Rocky Mountain showdown is going to pack a punch.