What a difference a week can make. In week one of the 2012 college football season the Mountain West looked like a collection of formidable mid-major programs. Week two saw a ding in the armor with the conference going a collective 1-7.
My top ranked squad the Boise State Broncos neither won nor lost as they were on a bye week. The UNLV Rebels and Wyoming Cowboys suffered heartbreaking home losses. Moving up in my rankings are the San Diego State Aztecs who demolished the Army Black Knights.
Here are my Mountain West power rankings heading into week three:
1. Boise State (0-1) Last Week (1)
No change at the top just yet for Chris Petersen and his crew. The only game we have to go off of was the narrow loss at the Michigan State Spartans. Quarterback Joe Southwick has a ways to go before he is playing at the level fans in Boise have come to expect. Coach Petersen has charged the junior to up the effort telling the Idaho Statesman,
“He’s just got to get better. There are a handful of plays if we can make at that position we’ll win the game. I’ve been around a lot of pretty good players, some can make them and some can’t.”
If the junior does improve expect the Broncos to nab their first, and likely only, Mountain West title. The Broncos must not look past the Miami (OH) Redbirds this weekend as the BYU Cougars are looming September 22.
2. Nevada (1-1) Last Week (2)
Last Saturday’s 32-31 loss to the South Florida Bulls hurt the Wolf Pack faithful more than sitting on a cactus. Here is a stat that is sure to sound troubling, two games into the 2012 season, the Pack have allowed 13 plays of 20 or more yards. Giving up explosive plays is an easy way to lose. That being said in those two games, Nevada has won at the Cal Bears and lost by one to USF. Sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo has mastered the pistol attack but needs help on the defensive side of the ball or Chris Ault’s squad will be in shootout after shootout. The Northwestern State Demons of the FCS visit Mackay Stadium Saturday, and that offers an opportunity for Nevada to work out their… well… demons.
3. Fresno State (1-1) Last Week (3)
Still no changes in my Mountain West power rankings as the Bulldogs sit happily at number three. Gauging exactly where the Dogs are in the big picture is difficult. New head coach Tim DeRuyter certainly has a team better than FCS Weber State and not close to the Oregon Ducks. While Fresno State will stay in the Pac-12 this week, they draw the most favorable squad the conference has to offer in the Colorado Buffaloes. One area the Dogs are already showing signs of improvement is on defense. DeRuyter is a smart defensive minded coach and made adjustments in Eugene that went unnoticed in the 42-25 final score. In the second half, Fresno State forced three turnovers and only gave up 149 yards of offense. That is impressive. Add in an offense led by Derek Carr at quarterback and you can see why the future is bright in The Valley.
4. San Diego State (1-1) Last Week (5)
The Aztecs racked up 244 yards rushing on Army en route to the only victory for the Mountain West last weekend. Transfer quarterback Ryan Katz had a solid effort of efficiency leading SDSU on seven drives of six yards or more. Special teams is another issue as kicker Chance Marden missed both field goal attempts of 37 and 40 yards adding more fuel to head coach Rocky Long’s “go for it on 4th” mentality. On the flip side, Colin Lockett returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score. Shoring up the kicking game is a must for an Aztecs squad that is likely to find itself in close conference games.
5. Air Force (1-1) Last Week (5)
Quarterback Connor Dietz showed a boatload of mental toughness going into the Big House and nearly pulling off a shocker against the Michigan Wolverines. Experience was not on Air Force’s side heading into 2012. Apparently experience is overrated. Dietz led six drives that were at least ten plays, with the opening resulting in a missed field goal. Running back Cody Getz finished with 133 yards on the ground and is proving more than capable of being the Academy’s workhorse.
6. Wyoming (1-1) Last Week (4)
It hurts moving the Cowboys down to the sixth spot. Playing at home agains the Toledo Rockets was an opportunity to showcase the improvement made by Wyoming. Yes the Pokes piled up yards, but so did Toledo. Both teams eclipsed a 500 total. Quarterback Brett Smith was picked of twice but otherwise had nice numbers going 20 for 28 with 339 yards. Defense is still an issue in Laramie but don’t get too worried Wyoming fans. Toledo was a tough opponent, and Smith was knocked out of the game late in the 4th with the outcome still in doubt. According to reports, the Cowboys star QB is doubtful for the upcoming game against the Cal Poly Mustangs. If Smith is going to miss a week, this would be it. After that, the Pokes need him in the lineup to contend in conference.
7. Colorado State (1-1) Last Week (6)
If any team exemplifies the highs and lows of two weeks of college football it is Colorado State. The Rams were living large after their win in Denver over in-state rival CU. Enter the FCS North Dakota State Bison and oh how the story changes. While NDSU is as as good as the AA ranks get, CSU should have been able to take care of them at home. Now head coach Jim McElwain has to circle the wagons and prepare for a difficult road test at the San Jose State Spartans. What hurts the most about last Saturday was the way the Rams fell at home. The Bison had 21 first downs compared to CSU’s 11. Running the ball with stud back Chris Nwoke is a strength for the Rams. Nwoke missed the game because of injury and the drop-off was steep as McElwain’s crew only managed 72 yards on the ground. Talent is still a major issue in Ft. Collins.
8. Hawaii (0-1) Last Week (8)
Odd to think that the Warriors would be rated so low as they are usually a much stronger mid-major program. Last week was a bye for June Jones and company, so the only body of work we have is the loss at the USC Trojans. Saturday the Lamar Cardinals visit Aloha Stadium where they will get lei’d then beaten down. September 22 Nevada visits the islands. We will learn much more then.
9. New Mexico (1-1) Last Week (10)
Ok so I’m jumping UNM over the Rebels. Here is my reasoning. While the Lobos have plenty to work on, I’m seeing an identity on offense with B.R. Holbrook operating a run first option out of the quarterback position. Against the Texas Longhorns Holbrook was knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter. Bob Davie’s new team showed some signs of life, being able to pick some first downs against a much more talented team, before the injury sidelined his QB.
10. UNLV (0-2) Last Week (9)
Let me say this, I really like Tim Cornett and what he brings to the Rebels offense as a running back. Coach Bobby Hauck is attempting to play smashmouth football with his talented back and experienced o-line. Losing to the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at home is just another example of how this team has little else going for it. Hauk’s team still does not know how to win close games as evidenced in the week one loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and last weeks 17-14 final with NAU.
James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America
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