College Football Playoff Rankings: Will the Mountain West's Late Start Keep It From The Top 25?

College Football Playoff Rankings: Will the Mountain West's Late Start Keep It From The Top 25?

Boise State

College Football Playoff Rankings: Will the Mountain West's Late Start Keep It From The Top 25?

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College Football Playoff: Projecting the Week 13 Rankings


Nevada, San Jose State, and Boise State lead the Mountain West, but will the late start shut them out of the first CFP rankings?


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Never say never, but it’s a longshot.

Mountain West football has begun the second half of its season and now comes one of college football’s most important junctions, the unveiling of the first College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday.

While it seems like a foregone conclusion that the conference won’t be playing for the New Year’s Six bowl spot in 2020, it isn’t inconceivable that any team in the Mountain West which keeps winning could make some headway over the next few weeks in what is an unusually crowded Group of 5 field. Right now, it’s more a question of “when” than “if”.

Let’s examine the case for each Mountain West contender at the moment:

Boise State (4-1, 4-0 Mountain West)

SP+ rank (through Week 12): 35 | FEI rank (through Week 11): 29 | Sagarin rank: 54 | FPI rank: 41 | Strength-of-schedule rank (per Sagarin/Sports Reference): 96/92

The case for the Broncos: Among the Mountain West teams in the mix, Boise State has by far the rosiest picture in the eyes of the advanced numbers. The offense has also very quietly hammered conference opponents week in and week out, averaging 45.8 points and 6.41 yards per play in four Mountain West victories.

The case against the Broncos: Not to belabor the point too much, but getting thumped by a top ten team, even with the added context of COVID-19 restraints on personnel, probably won’t help matters. It may not hurt them much, either, but it seems clear they would’ve been the likeliest candidate to get ranked had they found a way to beat BYU.

Nevada (5-0)

SP+ rank (through Week 12): 53 | FEI rank (through Week 11): 87 | Sagarin rank: 91 | FPI rank: 79 | Strength-of-schedule rank (per Sagarin/Sports Reference): 126/116

The case for the Wolf Pack: Well, wins always help and, at the moment, Nevada has the most of any in the Mountain West. They also have clearly defined strengths which have helped them rise in the eyes of numerous analytical measures as preseason projections are replaced by actual production.

The case against the Wolf Pack: How much will beating San Diego State count for? Now that the Aztecs have lost to both the Wolf Pack and San Jose State, it may be that they are closer to a middle-of-the-pack conference foe who won’t move the needle much in the eyes of the selection committee. And relative to other Group of 5 teams in the conversation, their overall resume leaves a lot to be desired unless UNLV, Utah State, and New Mexico can steal some wins in the weeks to come.

San Jose State (4-0)

SP+ rank (through Week 12): 72 | FEI rank (through Week 11): 73 | Sagarin rank (through Week 12): 85 | FPI rank: 81 | Strength-of-schedule rank (per Sagarin/Sports Reference): 119/94

The case for the Spartans: Who doesn’t love a good narrative? San Jose State is off to their best start since 1955, their potent offense trails only Nevada on a yards-per-play basis, and the defense has taken a leap forward thanks to a tenacious pass rush that finally complements what has been an underrated secondary. They also own the edge on Nevada and Boise State in average margin of victory, defeating their four opponents by a 29-15 margin.

The case against the Spartans: Of the three teams in the running to be ranked, San Jose State is the only one to be affected by COVID cancelations and, considering their lackluster schedule strength, they may wish they’d had a chance to defend the Valley Trophy against a pretty good Fresno State. Like Nevada, their SOS may not move the committee unless Air Force and/or San Diego State can make some noise in the next few weeks.

How do the three Mountain West teams stack up against everyone else in the hunt? Read on to learn more.

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