Mountain West Football: Every 2019 Bowl Game, Ranked
Every bowl game is precious, but we determine which ones are just a little more precious.
Which ones will be must-see television?
There weren’t a lot of surprises when the Mountain West Conference unveiled its slate of seven bowl games on Sunday afternoon but, all in all, there’s a lot of good football on our hands in December and January!
Mountain West Wire’s official stance is that “any bowl game is a good bowl game”, but that’s not going to prevent us from determining which bowl games are… better. Which matchups are the best ones over the next month?
Here’s what I think.
7. Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl – Utah State vs. Kent State
The Mid-American Conference in 2019 may be best described as an egalitarian paradise. Akron might have been the worst team in college football and just two teams managed eight wins overall, but ten of the 12 MAC teams had between three and six wins in conference play. It may be neat to have had such a wide-open field, but it also means there aren’t a plethora of truly inspiring teams in that field.
Utah State, meanwhile, didn’t have quite the season many imagined it might back in the summer, but at least Jordan Love will (presumably) have one last opportunity to light up the scoreboard. It’s fine, but fine doesn’t always equal exciting.
6. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – Nevada vs. Ohio
Most of the excitement will derive from whichever Wolf Pack and whichever Bobcats team decides to show up on January 3. Ohio, like Kent State, clawed their way to a bowl from that same MAC morass but may have been the conference’s biggest disappointment, requiring two blowouts over Bowling Green and Akron just to get to 6-6 after losing a litany of heart-breakers.
If both offenses come out on fire, this bowl could easily surpass its standing here, but there’s also the danger that Nevada could fall victim to yet another lopsided defeat against one of the Group of 5’s most capable quarterbacks, Nathan Roarke. We’ll see.
5. Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl – Wyoming vs. Georgia State
If past precedence is any indication, this game might just naturally be a close contest. Since its inception in 2015, three of the four Arizona Bowls have been decided by one score.
The big question is whether the Wyoming offense or the Georgia State defense will be able to generate the same level of excitement as their counterparts on the other side of the ball. Wyoming never quite put the puzzle back together completely after Sean Chambers’s injury and Georgia State never quite fully capitalized on beating Tennessee back in September, allowing 6.64 yards per play on the season.
4. SoFi Hawaii Bowl – Hawaii vs. BYU
For the second straight year, we get something of a WAC throwback and, even better, this bowl is back where it belongs on Christmas Eve. It’ll be a chance for the Warriors to even the overall score just a little bit, too, in a series that’s been particularly lopsided as of late.
The Cougars have also had a penchant for creating close games, with seven of their 12 contests being decided by ten points or fewer. If nothing else, it’s still the best excuse you’ll have to duck your family for a few hours right before the holiday.
3. New Mexico Bowl – San Diego State vs. Central Michigan
Now we’re talking. The Aztecs defense didn’t suffer the same November swoon that befell them in 2018 and while SDSU fell short of the division title, their reward is to face the very capable MAC runners-up.
After languishing with one of the worst offenses in the country last fall, Jim McElwain turned the Chippewas attack into one of the best in the conference, finishing third on a per-play basis while more than doubling the points scored per game. It will be an underrated “offense vs. defense” tilt in Tucson, so make sure you don’t overlook this game.
2. Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl – Boise State vs. Washington
“Chris Petersen’s last ride” is a fine narrative, but what’s more intriguing is the potential for a real defensive showcase. The Huskies may not have the big names like last year’s iteration, but young talents like Cameron Williams and Joe Tryon make for a fascinating contrast with established stars like Curtis Weaver and Kekoa Nawahine.
Alternatively, it could be a quarterback showcase. Jaylon Henderson has more than earned the right to start for the Broncos one last time, but perhaps Hank Bachmeier will find his way back under center to duel Jacob Eason, who’s been up and down this fall. Either way, it should be a fun one.
1. Cheez-It Bowl – Air Force vs. Washington State
The triple option and the Air Raid? Say no more.
The Cougars have perhaps never been more themselves than they were this year, leaning on the pass more than any other team in the country, while the Falcons’ ground game has rarely been more efficient than it has been this fall. It could be one of bowl season’s biggest point bonanzas when all is said and done.