Wyoming’s upset of Air Force last weekend displayed the parity that has become a trend in the unpredictable Mountain West Conference.
It also solidified what is turning into a three-team race for the MWC championship. At 3-0, both CSU and San Diego State are atop the standings, but Air Force, with a 3-1 conference record, is still in the running.
While last year’s MWC champion Brigham Young has not yet won a conference game, San Diego State is in the driver’s seat despite finishing in the league’s cellar last season.
“I don’t think there’s a big difference between the top teams in our league and the bottom teams in the league,” New Mexico head coach Rocky Long said.
With six of the MWC’s eight teams in action this week, the league championship race could become clearer – or even more confusing.
Colorado State at Air Force, Thursday 5:30 p.m., ESPN
The biggest conference game this week is undoubtedly the showdown between the Rams (7-2, 3-0 MWC) and the Falcons (6-2, 3-1 MWC) on Thursday night. Despite the fact that Air Force has suffered two consecutive heartbreaking defeats to Notre Dame and Wyoming, Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry said his team simply needs to find the intensity it had earlier in the season.
“I don’t think (the loss to Wyoming) was a hangover from the Notre Dame game, you’ve just got to be ready to play every game,” DeBerry said. “I was wary of the Wyoming team because CSU didn’t have an easy game against them. You’ve got to give Wyoming credit, but that game’s behind us.”
With chilly weather predicted for Thursday, the game could be a flashback to the CSU-Air Force shootout of two years ago, when the two teams combined for 84 points and over 1,000 yards of offense while snow poured down on Falcon Stadium.
San Diego State at Brigham Young, Saturday 1 p.m., ESPN+Plus
Although the Aztecs (3-5, 3-0 MWC) began the season with a dismal 0-5 record in their non-conference play, three straight conference wins have proven SDSU will compete for the MWC title. The Aztecs will face a BYU team that is reeling from three straight losses in which the Cougar offense put up a miniscule 22 points combined.
“We haven’t been very good and we’ve turned the ball over a lot,” BYU head coach Gary Crowton. “It’s just been a lack of continuity with all the different players we’ve had in there. It’s in the back of our mind that this is a big game for us.”
Having only played two games at home this year, the Cougars (3-5, 0-3 MWC) are eager for their return to Edwards Stadium in Provo. For the Aztecs, the game could make or break their bid to stay in the running for the conference championship. And SDSU has not forgotten the 59-21 drubbing it suffered at the hands of the Cougars last season.
Wyoming at UNLV, Saturday 3 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
The third and final MWC game this week pits Wyoming (2-6, 1-2 MWC), coming off possibly the biggest win of head coach Vic Koenning’s career, against a UNLV team that had struggled both in and out of the MWC this season.
Wyoming quarterback Casey Bramlet was named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week for his 387-yard, two-touchdown performance against Air Force last week. He will need to have a similar game for the Cowboys to get Wyoming its third win of the season this week.
Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin