What's Wrong With Mountain West Football So Far This Season?

What's Wrong With Mountain West Football So Far This Season?

Air Force

What's Wrong With Mountain West Football So Far This Season?

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What’s Wrong With Mountain West Football So Far This Season?


The Mountain West mostly hasn’t played up to preseason expectations thus far. We take a closer look to try and figure out why.


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Can the conference be fixed?

Roughly one month into the college football season, only four Mountain West teams sit above .500. The conference has just one Power 5 win, against a Colorado Buffaloes team that might be the worst in the country. It has just one non-conference road win, Nevada’s victory over New Mexico State back in Week 0. Almost no one has, to quote a sage of our era, straight up had a good time of things.

Despite what looks like an unexpectedly exciting conference title chase, it’s hard not to wonder where things have gone wrong to this point in the young campaign. That’s why we want to look under the hood and figure out what might be driving the early results.

Returning Production

It wasn’t a secret that many teams across the conference would be replacing a substantial amount of talent since, as Bill Connelly noted in his percentage adjustments throughout the summer, the Mountain West trailed the next least-experienced conference by a full five percent going into the fall. It may have been too optimistic, then, to expect that many teams would continue to operate like normal.

Nevada and Hawaii were obvious rebuild candidates at the very bottom of the list but Utah State, for instance, returned just 50% of its overall production of 2021, too. The Aggies’ net points per drive has dropped from +0.61 (37th in FBS) to -1.43 (110th) while their net available yards percentage has fallen from +8.1% (32nd) to -11.1% (95th), but they’re hardly alone in that regard: Wyoming sat just above the Wolf Pack and Warriors with 34% of its production set to return, while San Diego State brought back only 55% of its 2021 production and Colorado State sat at 58%. Despite their differing win-loss records, all have seen similar declines by both metrics.

Injuries

It may be that recency bias plays a role here, but it seems like nearly every team in the Mountain West is dealing with a harsher rash of early injuries than usual:

  • Air Force has been without DeAndre Hughes, Dane Kinamon, and Jayden Thiergood, among others, in recent weeks.
  • Boise State has played recently without Ezekiel Noa, while Tyreque Jones got banged up in the Week 4 loss at UTEP.
  • Colorado State is already missing both starting offensive tackles while quarterback Clay Millen got knocked out of the Week 4 contest against Sacramento State.
  • Fresno State is headed to UConn in Week 5 without four starters, including quarterback Jake Haener and safety Evan Williams.
  • Hawaii’s passing game has dealt with injuries to wide receivers Jonah Panoke and Zion Bowens.
  • Nevada just lost kicker Brandon Talton for the foreseeable future, and the Wolf Pack have already been without offensive lineman Aaron Frost and defensive back JoJuan Claiborne.
  • New Mexico just lost star safety Tavian Combs for the season, while linebacker Ray Leutele is week-to-week.
  • San Diego State played last week without starting guard Ross Ulugalu-Maseuli while safety Patrick McMorris has also been banged up.
  • UNLV wide receivers Kyle Williams and Jeff Weimer got knocked out of their Week 4 game, and the latter will miss Week 5 with a shoulder injury.
  • Utah State has lost contributors like Phillip Paea and Kyle Van Leeuwen for the season to injury.
  • Wyoming lost expected contributors like Buck Coors and Sabastian Harsh for the season back in fall camp, while Titus Swen and Frank Crum have been slowed at points.

The only team to really escape the injury bug so far is San Jose State, but the nature of the game is such that the Spartans are likely to be dealing with similar issues at some point, just as everyone else.

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