Mountain West Football: Division Champion Tiebreakers, Explained
If Utah State beats Boise State on Saturday, what happens next? It could get messy, but we explain the possibilities.
If chaos erupts, here’s how to make sense of it.
Little by little, the race to the Mountain West football championship has cleared and there are now just five teams left in the running. In the West division, things are pretty clear cut: San Diego State will head to Hawaii for a winner-takes-all contest against the Warriors this Saturday.
There are still a few possibilities, however, in the Mountain division. Boise State visits Utah State with a chance to wrap things up cleanly this weekend, but if the underdog Aggies pull off an upset at home, things could get pretty interesting with another week to go after that.
In that event, it would be time to start talking about tiebreakers. The Wikipedia page for the Mountain West title game lays out how each potential outcome is prioritized and the conference itself put out a document which explains the step-by-step process, but I’ll explain how each situation could come to be and who would benefit.
Two-team Tiebreaker Procedures
Head-to-head results between the tied teams:
- Air Force (7-1) beats New Mexico and Wyoming, Boise State (7-1) beats Utah State and loses to Colorado State — Boise State wins the division
- Air Force (7-1) beats New Mexico and Wyoming, Utah State (7-1) beats Boise State and New Mexico, Boise State (6-2) loses to Utah State and Colorado State — Air Force wins the division
- Utah State (7-1) beats Boise State and New Mexico, Boise State (7-1) loses to Utah State and beats Colorado State, Air Force loses to New Mexico and/or Wyoming (6-2 or 5-3) — Utah State wins the division
- Utah State (6-2) beats Boise State but loses to New Mexico, Boise State loses to Utah State and Colorado State (6-2), Air Force loses to New Mexico and Wyoming (5-3) — Utah State wins the division
- Hawaii (5-3) beats San Diego State (5-3); Nevada loses to Fresno State and/or UNLV (4-4 or 3-5) — Hawaii wins the division
Three-team Tiebreaker Procedures
#1: Head-to-head results between the tied teams:
- Hawaii (5-3) beats San Diego State (5-3), Nevada wins out (5-3) — Hawaii wins the division
In potentially beating both the Aztecs and the Wolf Pack, Hawaii would own the head-to-head edge and would win the West division.
What about the Mountain division? If Utah State beats Boise State and then the Aggies, Broncos and Air Force all win their season finales, each team would finish 7-1. However, none of them would finish with the head-to-head tiebreaker: Boise State beat Air Force, Utah State beat Boise State, and Air Force beat Utah State. More on this later.
It’s still possible, too, that all three teams could finish with two losses:
- Utah State beats Boise State and loses to New Mexico (6-2), Boise State loses to Utah State and Colorado State (6-2), Air Force loses to either New Mexico or Wyoming (6-2)
Keep this scenario in mind as I’ll be referring to it a lot. In either case, the conference would go to the second tiebreaker…
#2: Winning percentage in games played against division opponents
This is the tiebreaker which enabled Wyoming to emerge from the Mountain division in 2016, since the Cowboys went 4-1 against its division opponents and Boise State and New Mexico were both 3-2.
If all three teams finish with one loss: This wouldn’t help since they would all finish undefeated against Colorado State, New Mexico, and Wyoming, finishing 4-1 in Mountain division play.
If all three teams finish with two losses (as outlined above):
- Air Force: win vs. CSU and UNM/Wyo, loss vs. UNM/Wyo (2-1)
- Boise State: win vs. UNM and Wyoming, loss vs. CSU (2-1)
- Utah State: win vs. CSU and Wyoming, loss vs. UNM (2-1)
In sum, each team would finish 3-2 in Mountain division play, so we’re stuck here, as well. The conference would then move to the third tiebreaker…