Mountain West Football: Ranking The 2022 Non-Conference Games, #19 to #11
The Mountain West has 49 non-conference games on the collective schedule this fall. These ten games are worthy of your attention.
Plenty of intrigue all the way around.
Our countdown of Mountain West football’s top non-conference games has reached its second half. These games aren’t quite the creme de la creme, but this part of the list does feature a number of high-profile opponents and a fair bit of sneaky fun.
19. Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Hawaii Warriors
Why the game might be a drag: The Commodores were the worst team in the SEC last year and the Warriors might struggle to find traction on offense out the gate. That could make this a back-and-forth affair where Matthew Shipley gets a good game under his belt and not much else happens.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Both teams do have interesting offensive pieces and suspect defenses, meaning this could be a sneaky touchdown bonanza to usher in college football season.
One player worth tuning in for: Vanderbilt WR Will Sheppard
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 16, 2021
18. Nevada Wolf Pack at Iowa Hawkeyes
Why the game might be a drag: Iowa has never played a terribly exciting brand of football, so the Hawkeyes defense could put a rebuilding Wolf Pack offense into a hammer lock and sit on a lead for sixty minutes.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Because Iowa doesn’t play a terribly exciting brand of football, their often-pedestrian offense could allow Nevada to hang around in much the same way that Colorado State did last year.
One player worth tuning in for: Iowa TE Sam LaPorta
Sam LaPorta led Big 10 TEs last season in…
🥇 Catches (53)
🥇 Yards (670)
🥇 Yards after catch (299)
🥇 Yards after contact (206)
🥇 Catches of 15+ yards (18)pic.twitter.com/wanw3qzxBE
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 12, 2022
17. New Mexico Lobos at New Mexico State Aggies
Why the game might be a drag: The Aggies are starting over again under a new head coach and they have to replace their quarterback, top running back, and top two pass catchers from last year. Oh, and the NMSU defense gave up the second-most explosive plays in the country (84). Even a young Lobos attack should be able to exploit that and run away with a win, right?
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Come on now, it’s the Rio Grande Rivalry! It’s not the most high-profile rivalry in the country, but it’s definitely been one of the most entertaining in recent years since six of the last seven games have been decided by nine or fewer points.
One player worth tuning in for: New Mexico State K Ethan Albertson
4Q, 12:10 | Ethan Albertson, on the 💰from 54!
— New Mexico State Football (@NMStateFootball) November 27, 2021
16. San Jose State Spartans at Auburn Tigers
Why the game might be a drag: The Tigers have what looks to be a potentially ferocious defense on paper, so even a reloaded Spartans offense might not find much success on the road.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Auburn has tons of talent, sure, but they were 11th in the SEC last year in yards per play and have just as much uncertainty at quarterback as they did last year. The Spartans defense could enable SJSU to pull an upset if everything breaks just right.
One player worth tuning in for: Auburn RB Tank Bigsby
Featuring Tank Bigsby: Best RB in College Football
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 4, 2021
15. Utah State Aggies at Alabama Crimson Tide
Why the game might be a drag: Alabama typically doesn’t show much mercy to its non-conference opponents and they’ve cleaned up against the Mountain West since losing the 2009 Sugar Bowl to Utah, winning three games by an average of 24 points. Roll Tide, sadly.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: It’s still a battle of conference champions. If the Aggies can keep Logan Bonner upright and get help from the ground game, the offense could provide a fighting chance.
One player worth tuning in for: Alabama LB Will Anderson
— SlimReaper🥋 (@iDunkedOnKD) May 9, 2022
14. Colorado Buffaloes vs. Air Force Falcons
Why the game might be a drag: The Buffs offense was the worst in the Pac-12 last year and may not be much better in 2022. On the road against a powerful Falcons running game, they could struggle to score again.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: In-state rivalries have a way of forcing you to rethink narratives. After all, the most recent matchup in 2019 went to overtime before Air Force dispatched Colorado, so it may not be as much of a cake walk as it first appears.
One player worth tuning in for: Colorado QB Brendon Lewis
Brendon Lewis 👀
Now THAT'S a throwpic.twitter.com/D5hH2olBzm
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 16, 2021
13. Colorado State Rams at Michigan Wolverines
Why the game might be a drag: Like it or not, Michigan still possesses one of the most talented teams in the country and they rarely lose at home to Group of 5 foes in non-conference play. Everyone remembers the Appalachian State loss, but that was all the way back in 2007 and the Wolverines haven’t had a home loss remotely like that since falling to both Utah and Toledo in 2008.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: One big question that the Wolverines have to address is how they’ll restock their pass rush with David Ojabo and Aiden Hutchinson gone to the NFL. If the Rams can exploit that potential weakness and get the ball out quickly, they could surprise.
One player worth tuning in for: Michigan WR Ronnie Bell
ALL ABOARD THE RONNIE BELL HYPE TRAIN 🚂
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 4, 2022
12. Arizona Wildcats vs. San Diego State Aztecs
Why the game might be a drag: Sure, the Wildcats brought in a new crop of talent in recruiting and the transfer portal, but they were the worst team in the Pac-12 last year and didn’t seriously challenge against a hard-hitting Aztecs defense that figures to be more or less the same in 2022.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: That influx of Arizona talent should make the Wildcats more potent on offense, at least, and it’ll be a revenge game for the road team after last year’s embarrassment. You only get one chance to spoil a program’s new stadium debut, after all.
One player worth tuning in for: Arizona QB Jayden de Laura
WHAT. A. THROW.
Wow, Jayden de Laurapic.twitter.com/VgTDNLXAZR
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 30, 2021
11. Wyoming Cowboys at Illinois Fighting Illini
Why the game might be a drag: Neither team is likely to light up the scoreboard on offense, so you might have to look elsewhere in Week 0 if you want a high-scoring affair.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Both teams could bring the hammer on defense, so while this might not be as high profile a matchup as others, enthusiasts of a certain brand of college football could find a lot to like in that battle of wits.
One player worth tuning in for: Illinois DL Keith Randolph Jr.
Big fella INT!!! 🎆
— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) October 2, 2021