Mountain West Conference Connect Four: Breaking Down the Top Four Teams
Rolling into Week Six of the college football season, the Mountain West Conference has been predictable to this point.
Well, at least the top two teams.
What has been surprising is the one team that should be at the top but has just one win, and the two teams that are sitting in second place ready to pounce on the leaders.
Could there be a surprise at the top of the conference in the next few weeks and could the one team that is normally sitting in the cellar continue their surprising season over the next few weeks?
We're going to break down the top four teams in the Mountain West Conference, take a look at where they've been, how they've gotten there, their wins so far, and the games to come that will decide where they finish.
The Horned Frogs look like the team to beat in the Mountain West Conference. However, most people might look at them and wonder who they've beaten in terms of strength of schedule.
They opened the season with a win over Oregon State who was ranked 24th at the time. Since then, Oregon State hasn't done TCU any favors by looking like a strong team.
The one team that has helped them, at least somewhat, is Baylor which is surprising in its own right. The Bears sit at 4-1 going into their matchup with Texas Tech this weekend. Win that game, and TCU looks even better.
What has brought the Horned Frogs so much success, at least in the last few years, is their defense and they continue to be just as strong. TCU is giving up just 12.4 points and 238 yards per game, good for sixth and third respectively.
Looking at the schedule they still have left, four of their final seven games will be at home including home games against BYU and Air Force, although BYU has been a severe disappointment this season.
The only games that could keep them from going unbeaten—or even getting into a BCS bowl—would be Air Force or Utah with the more likely loss coming against the Utes especially since it's on the road.
Wyoming, BYU, (25) Air Force, at UNLV, at (10) Utah, San Diego State, at New Mexico
The Utah Utes might have the same thing said about them that has been said about TCU: "Who have they played?"
The answer to that question is, well, nobody really. You could look at their win over Pitt, who was ranked 15th at the time, as a good win but Pitt hasn't had a game that's made Utah look good at all.
Outside of Pitt, Utah has wins over San Jose State, who just lost to UC Davis, New Mexico, who couldn't fight their way their way out of a paper bag, and UNLV whose only win came against aforementioned New Mexico. Like I said, they haven't played anybody yet.
While I'm not saying that Utah isn't a solid team, especially because their defense has held teams to 12.8 points 246.8 yards per game, but when you see who those points and yards came against, it's not hard to argue that those numbers are a tad overrated.
Their first real test will come this weekend against Iowa State and their ground game which is averaging 151 yards per game. The Cyclones are coming off a 52-38 win at home over Texas Tech, but also have losses to Kansas State and Iowa.
If Utah's defense is as good as advertised, then maybe they can sneak this one out. But if the numbers are inflated thanks to bad teams, then they'll be returning home with a loss.
At Iowa State, at Wyoming, Colorado State, at (25) Air Force, (5) TCU, at Notre Dame, at San Diego State, BYU
Air Force (4-1)
The Air Force Falcons might be the one surprising team that continues to hang around the top spots in the Mountain West Conference.
While the Falcons are normally a thorn in the side of a lot of the top teams and can come up with a win at any given time, they're not known to be up near the top with a legit shot at staying there.
Their four wins have come over BYU, Wyoming, Navy, and Northwestern State with their lone loss coming on a three-point defeat at the hands of Oklahoma, a game the Falcons could have easily won.
Quarterback Tim Jefferson has made an immediate impact for Air Force this season. While he's not one of the more prolific passers in the conference, he's done damage with his arm as well as his legs.
Jefferson has 503 yards passing, averaging just 100.3 yards per game, and three touchdowns but he's added 349 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Not only can Jefferson hurt any given team, but so can running backs Jared Tew and Asher Clark.
Tew is averaging 96.4 yards per game while Clark is averaging 84.6.
The next four weeks will be telling at just how good this Air Force team really is.
Colorado State, at San Diego State, at (5) TCU, (10) Utah, at Army, New Mexico, at UNLV.
San Diego State (3-1)
Yes, you read that right, San Diego State. The Aztecs are raising a lot of eyebrows this season and could raise a lot more by the time this season is over. After all, they're off to their best start since 1994.
A few weeks ago, the Aztecs had what they thought was a win over then 25th-ranked Missouri. They had punched in a score with less than two minutes to go and the ensuing kickoff had stuck the Tigers inside their own 20. There was no way they could lose this game.
Two plays later, Missouri was celebrating, and San Diego State was stunned. A short pass turned into a game-winning touchdown thanks to the lack of tackling.
That frustration was taken out on Utah State the following week to the tune of a 41-7 rout of the Aggies.
Despite the disappointing loss to Missouri, the Aztecs did have a bright spot in what was a dismal ending. Running back Ronnie Hillman had run for 235 yards and two scores. The Aztecs for the first time since Marshall Faulk finally had a running back who defenses would fear.
You know things are changing in the Mountain West when San Diego State is favored, on the road, against BYU. When was the last time we heard that?
How about this fact. Rivals.com's latest rankings has San Diego State at No. 40 out of 120 teams. Would a convincing win over BYU push them closer to cracking the top 25?
At BYU, (25) Air Force, at New Mexico, at Wyoming, Colorado State, at (5) TCU, (10) Utah, UNLV
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