Mountain West Football: Current Championship Game Tiebreaker Situations, Explained
Boise State and San Jose State are undefeated, but where do they really stand in the race to the title game and who else is still alive?
Confused by the new rules? We clear things up.
As we head into the last couple weeks of the Mountain West football season, the race to the top two spots in the conference is as wide open as ever. Though there are two unbeaten teams atop the current standings, the San Jose State Spartans and Boise State Broncos, the pressure to stay on top is still very much on.
Part of this is owed to the new set of tiebreaking rules that the conference created to deal with cancelations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, which you can find here. At the moment, some teams have played as many as six conference games (Hawaii, Nevada) while others have played only three (Air Force, Colorado State), which can make sorting out who’s still alive and who’s not a bit of a chore. Luckily, we’re here to do that work for you. Here’s how things look with two weeks to go.
Who’s still eligible for the championship game?
Right now, the answer is everyone. The linked document above states that eligible teams “must play no less than two fewer Conference games than the average number of Conference games played by all Conference teams (rounded up/down at .50”. In a nutshell, this meant that when the average of conference games played was seven, teams had to have at least five games under their belt to be in play.
With the number of cancelations brought on by COVID-19, that average has dropped. To this point, eight conference games have been canceled, so the maximum number of conference games has dropped from 92 to 76; 76 divided by 12 gives you an average of 6.33 games played, which rounds down to six. Assuming there are no more cancelations, that means every eligible team needs to have played a minimum of four Mountain West games and, in the next two weeks, everyone will have cleared that benchmark.
Okay, so who is actually still in contention?
At this point, there are five teams left who can reach the top two in the Mountain West. San Jose State and Boise State are currently in those spots thanks to their 4-0 conference records, while Nevada has fallen to third at 5-1. Fresno State is in the chase at 3-1, while Wyoming is 2-2.
Why aren’t Air Force and Colorado State still alive despite having only two conference losses? Possible win percentage. Even if things break exactly right for the Falcons and Rams, the best finish they can have is only 3-2 (.600) and that would put them behind a host of teams that could finish 4-2 (.667). If Boise State and San Jose State dropped their last two, Wyoming won its last two, and Fresno State split its last two, all four would still finish ahead of Air Force and CSU.
What about San Diego State?
The short answer is that their two conference losses to San Jose State and Nevada were killers. Even if things break in such a way that San Diego State in a three-way tie at 4-2, the tiebreakers don’t work in their favor. Consider these two outcomes:
Scenario 1: The Aztecs beat Colorado State. San Jose State loses to Hawaii but beats Nevada. Boise State and Nevada lose their last two games. Fresno State beats Nevada but loses to New Mexico. Wyoming loses to New Mexico but beats Boise State. Hawaii wins out.
- San Jose State: 5-1
- Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State: 4-2
- Hawaii, Nevada: 5-3
- Wyoming: 3-3
The first three-team round-robin tiebreaker is bypassed because of canceled games. The next comes down to winning percentage against the next-best team(s) in the standings. In this case, Boise State is 1-0 against Hawaii and Nevada, San Diego State is 1-1 and Fresno State is 1-1. The Broncos would get out of the tiebreaker at this point.
SDSU nor Fresno State would have played Wyoming, so this tiebreaker goes down the standings until it is resolved and, well, it gets messy. Both teams would have beaten Colorado State, neither team would have played Air Force, both teams would have beaten Utah State and UNLV, which leaves New Mexico as the straw that would finally break the Bulldogs.
Things would then reset to two-team tiebreakers. The first goes back to head-to-head results, but Boise State and SDSU do not play each other. Record against the next-best team in the standings again comes next, but neither team played Fresno State. Again, both had victories over Hawaii, but the Aztecs’ loss to Nevada is the ultimate difference maker here.
Scenario 2: The Aztecs beat Colorado State. San Jose State, Boise State and Fresno State lose their last two games. Nevada and Hawaii win out. Wyoming loses to New Mexico but beats Boise State.
In that case, here are your conference standings:
- Nevada: 6-2
- Boise State, San Diego State, San Jose State: 4-2
- Hawaii: 5-3
- Fresno State, Wyoming: 3-3
The three-team round-robin tiebreaker would again get bypassed, but SJSU would get bumped by the same second tiebreaker with their loss to Hawaii. Boise State and SDSU would reset to the primary two-team tiebreaker, record against the next-highest team in the standings. That would be the Spartans now, whom Boise State did not play but against whom the Aztecs lost.
This is a lot to process.
Yeah, I know. The more labyrinthine scenarios aren’t likely to play out, but read on to learn more about what each team faces in the next two weeks.