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Peak Perspective: The 2023 Mountain West Out-of-Conference Review

It’s time to dive into how the Mountain West did in their 49 non-conference games.

Non-conference games serve a few different purposes. In some cases, it lets teams work out kinks and prepare for the regular season. In other instances, it’s a cash grab, taking money to play games against programs in exchange for money to add to their budget. Most importantly, it’s a chance for the Mountain West to measure itself against other conferences and make a statement against Power five teams.

This article looks at how the Mountain West fared in their out-of-conference schedule this season.

Note: This article does not include bowl games and instead focuses on the regular season out-of-conference schedule.

Mountain West 2023 OOC Record:

  • Overall 25-24
  • P5 4-17
  • Mid-majors 10-6 (includes NMSU, independents)
  • New Mexico State 1-1
  • FCS 11-1

Upsetting the Power (less) 5

  • Fresno State vs. Purdue
  • Fresno State vs. Arizona State
  • UNLV vs. Vanderbilt
  • Wyoming vs. Texas Tech

Last year, the Mountain West had one single regular season win against a team from a Power 5 conference. This season, they had four wins, which is a much better showing. Not all of these were upsets; Fresno State (in both games) and UNLV had a strong chance to win those games, even if they weren’t all expected to win. Wyoming could be considered a true upset, but they were at home, and strange things have happened in Laramie. It was great for the Mountain West to get these wins, no matter the level of competition.

Good losses to the Power 5

  • Boise State vs. UCF
  • Colorado State vs. Colorado
  • Hawaii vs. Vanderbilt
  • Nevada vs. Kansas
  • UNLV vs. Michigan
  • Utah State vs. Iowa
  • Wyoming vs. Texas

It is worth noting that MW teams played seven competitive games against P5 teams, even if they didn’t come away with the victory. For some games, like Boise State, they likely should have won, but it will still be considered a “good loss.” For others, like Colorado State, Nevada, and maybe Wyoming, a win was attainable, but the teams faded at the end. As for the rest, they keep the game respectable despite rough odds, and it’s fair to count them as “moral victories” for one reason or another.

Bad losses to the Power 5

  • Boise State vs. Washington
  • Colorado State vs. Washington State
  • Hawaii vs. Stanford
  • Hawaii vs. Oregon
  • Nevada vs. USC
  • New Mexico vs. Texas A&M
  • San Diego State vs. UCLA
  • San Diego State vs. Oregon State
  • San Jose State vs. USC
  • San Jose State vs. Oregon State

Nearly all of these games ended up as blowouts, and some had the Mountain West teams out of it even from the first quarter. None of these were surprising this year. Boise State and San Jose State were two of the best teams in the conference this year and they were embarrassed in the three games listed here. A bright spot would be that there are less games in this category than there were last year. The other teams did not fare any better. Unfortunately, this list shows how wide the gap is when it comes to Power 5 talent and Mountain West conference.

NMSU: Unofficial 13th Mountain West Member

  • Hawaii vs. New Mexico State W
  • New Mexico vs. New Mexico State L

The Mountain West played less games against New Mexico State this season, which ended up being a good thing because those Aggies had a successful season. The Lobos lost their rivalry game once again, which is disheartening. However, Hawaii, who has been playing New Mexico State nearly every year, came away with the victory in 2023. Normally, playing .500 ball against NMSU would be a bad look, but this year, it's about par for the course given the talent that team had.

The Academy Games

  • Air Force vs. Navy W
  • Air Force vs. Army L

Air Force went 1-1 in the games against their arch-rivals. The goal is always to win the Commander-In-Chief Trophy games, and this year, the Falcons fell short of that goal. Looking at the larger picture, going 1-1 in their G5 games isn’t great of the conference either.

BYU games

For the first time in seemingly forever, the Mountain West didn’t play any games against BYU. That’s the outcome of the Cougars move to the Big 12 and having to cancel many of their arranged games to accommodate a conference schedule.

Group of 5 Matchups

  • Boise State vs. Memphis L
  • Colorado State vs. Middle Tennesee W
  • Fresno State vs. Kent State W
  • Nevada vs. Texas State L
  • New Mexico vs. UMass W
  • San Diego State vs. Ohio W
  • San Jose State vs. Toledo L
  • UNLV vs. UTEP W
  • Utah State vs. James Madison L
  • Utah State vs. UConn W
  • Wyoming vs. Appalachian State W

These games are against fellow Group of 5 teams, as the name indicates, and depending on the teams, the games can sometimes be evenly matched. With that being said, the Mountain West should still be winning a majority of these games in order to boost its prestige. This season, the conference went 7-4 in the games listed above, which is good, but it also left a lot to be desired. The MW lost winnable games against Memphis and Toledo, especially considering it was Boise State and San Jose State going up against them. All the non-conference games are important, but the more wins the Mountain West can have against other mid-major conferences, the more they can distinguish themselves as the premier G5 conference, which is something they have never been able to claim.

FCS gimme games (Wins)

  • Air Force vs. Robert Morris
  • Air Force vs. Sam Houston
  • Boise State vs. North Dakota
  • Colorado State vs. Utah Tech
  • Fresno State vs. Eastern Washington
  • Hawaii vs. Albany
  • New Mexico vs. Tennesee Tech
  • San Diego State vs. Idaho State
  • San Jose State vs. Cal Poly
  • UNLV vs. Bryant
  • Utah State vs. Idaho State
  • Wyoming vs. Portland State

FCS games should be gimmes. Remember that the Mountain West teams almost always pay money for these teams to come in and lose. It is assumed MW teams will win, and notching twelve victories is a huge success. But they really should not lose any of these games. It’s debatable whether they should even be scheduling these games. For the 2023 season, the conference took care of business despite a few games that were closer than they should have been.

FCS gimme games (Losses)

  • Nevada vs. Idaho

However, one Mountain West team did lose to one FCS opponent this season. Honestly, the Wolf Pack was embarrassed by the Vandals in their game this season. Granted, Idaho was a great FCS team this year, but that’s no excuse. Overall, only losing one game makes for a great winning percentage. On the other hand, every FCS loss hurts.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Mountain West had a better showing in their non-conference schedule compared to last year. They won or held their in half of the games they played against Power 5 teams and had winning records against mid-majors and FCS teams. Hopefully, it’s a building block towards 2024.