Mountain West went 1-16 in regular season games against power conference teams in the 2022 regular season, a figure that was 1-19 if games against BYU are included. That lack of success pushed MW into the third-best Group of 5 conference in the nation last year, behind the American Athletic Conference and Sun Belt. For MW to bounce back in 2023, it needs to play better in those non-conference marquee games. The MW has 21 games against Power 5 foes this season. I’ve grouped each into sections below in terms of their “earnability.”
thanks for the salary
These are games that MW schools will lose easily but will also get good payouts from
San Jose State @ USC (August 26): One of four Week 0 games for MW schools, the Spartans are listed as 30-point underdogs against USC, which will be a preseason top-10 team with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams in the center.
Nevada @ USC (Sept. 2): One week after playing SJSU, the Trojans host Nevada as an even bigger 35.5-point favorite. Williams’ stated goal is to repeat as a Heisman winner, so he’ll be looking to put up big numbers against these MW opponents.
New Mexico @ Texas A&M (Sept. 2): MW’s biggest loser in the first two weeks of the season is New Mexico, which is picking up 38 points at Texas A&M, which is 5-0 all-time against the Lobos, outscoring them 221-42 in the series.
UNLV @ Michigan (Sept. 9): Michigan beat two MW teams last season, Colorado State and Hawaii, by a combined score of 107-17 and should fatten up against another MW team this year when the Rebels play at The Big House.
Hawaii @ Oregon (Sept. 16): Hawaii has three MW-high games against Power 5 foes this year, and this game at Autzen Stadium is by far the toughest. Fun fact: Hawaii won the first four games of this series (three in the 1920s and one in 1969).
Wyoming @ Texas (Sept. 16): Texas is annually the most overrated team in the nation, but Wyoming doesn’t have the offensive juice to challenge the Longhorns, who will again be a Top 25 preseason team (and probably won’t finish the year in the Top 25).
So you’re telling me there’s a chance
These are games MW schools are likely to lose by double digits, but we can’t rule out a situation between Lloyd Christmas and Mary Swanson.
Utah State in Iowa (September 2): The Aggies are 21-point dogs, so it would be close to a miracle to win this game, but given Iowa’s chronic offensive woes, Utah State might have a chance. Damonte Ranch High student Cade McNamara will make his Iowa debut.
Texas Tech @ Wyoming (Sept. 2): Wyoming is a two-touchdown dog, which makes sense since Texas Tech went 8-5 in Joey McGuire’s first season as head coach, but playing up to Laramie is never easy, so we think there is at least one unexpected shot.
Kansas @ Nevada (Sept. 16): After going 23-118 from 2010-21, Kansas moved into the Top 25 in 2022 before losing seven of its last eight games, so it’s not a powerhouse. A Wolf Pack win would be huge for second-year head coach Ken Wilson.
Hawaii @ Vanderbilt (August 26): Hawaii lost to Vanderbilt, 63-10, at home last season, so you might put this under the “Thanks for the paycheck” category. But the Rainbow Warriors are only 17.5-point favorites, so there’s still a slim chance of upsetting.
I could see the MW team winning
These are games MW schools could win despite being clearly underdogs
Stanford @ Hawaii (Sept. 1): Stanford is coming off a three-win season and will play its first game under new head coach Troy Taylor. Add in the fact that this game is on the road and Hawaii could legitimately win this game as a 10-point underdog.
Boise State @ Washington (Sept. 2): Boise State is a 16-point underdog, but I could see the Broncos stealing this game even though Washington is one of the best teams in the Pac-12 with elite quarterback Michael Penix Jr. asking for a title run. national.
Washington State @ Colorado State (Sept. 2): This is pushing the edges of “I could see Team MW win” as Colorado State is a 17-point underdog to a Washington State side that beat the Rams, 38-7, last year. But the game is in Fort Collins.
Oregon State @ San Jose State (Sept 3): Like the previous game, SJSU is a huge home underdog (17 points). The Spartans last beat a power conference team in 2019 (at Arkansas, 31-24) and have good players in skill positions, but the lines will be challenged.
Vanderbilt @ UNLV (Sept. 16): This game falling into this category speaks more to Vanderbilt being a vulnerable opponent in the power conference than to any specific belief at UNLV. After all, UNLV did win at Vanderbilt, 34-10, in 2019, the teams’ only meeting.
Fresno State at Purdue (Sept. 2): The Bulldogs have a history of beating power conference schools and are listed as six point underdogs as Purdue will be playing their first game under head coach Ryan Walters so this one is highly winnable.
UCF @ Boise State (Sept. 9): UCF now qualifies as a power conference team with its move to the Big 12 this season. While there isn’t a line listed yet, I would expect Boise State to be a favorite betting line given that it hosts the Knights.
UCLA @ San Diego State (Sept. 9): SDSU has a long history of beating Pac-12 schools, though Arizona and Utah beat it out last year. UCLA lost star QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson to the NFL, so getting the Bruins early is beneficial.
San Diego State @ Oregon State (Sept. 16): We have back-to-back SDSU games, and it’s a stretch to call this a coin toss since Oregon State is coming off a 10-win campaign. But the Aztecs’ defense should at least give the road team a chance in Corvallis.
Fresno State @ Arizona State (Sept. 16): Fresno State has two winnable power conference games if you include the contest at Purdue. Like the Boilermakers, the Sun Devils have a first-year head coach, but he inherited a three-win team.
State of Colorado @ Colorado (Sept. 16): This will be the first Rocky Mountain matchup for Colorado’s Deion Sanders and CSU’s Jay Norvell. Given the Buffaloes’ roster rotation, this is a great opportunity for Norvell to pick up a win in the rivalry.
That’s 21 games against power conference opponents this regular season for the MW. Given the number of contests in our first two groups, expecting MW to hit .500 against Power 5 opponents is unfair. But it should do better than last year’s 1-16. The MW would probably be happy to win seven of the previous 21 games. We’ll come back after the season and see how the conference fared.
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight into Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.