Mountain West Football: Ranking The 2023 Non-Conference Games, #49 to #40
The Mountain West has 49 non-conference games on the collective schedule this fall. We rank them all, beginning at the bottom of the list.
Not a ton of flash, but there are interesting angles.
Miss any part of our countdown? Check out the rest of our ranking of Mountain West football’s non-conference games right here:
49. Robert Morris vs. Air Force
Why the game might be a drag: Even though the Falcons will need to prove they can replace Haaziq Daniels, Brad Roberts, and others, it’s likely they’ll still have a huge talent advantage over a Colonials team which was one of four FCS teams to finish the 2022 season with zero wins. It could be a laugher, but the home team could tap into its depth chart to get a number of players some reps.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: RMU may not have been quite as abysmal as their record from last year suggests. They had a pair of one-score losses in the first half of 2022, return an all-conference linebacker in the middle of their defense, and also restocked the roster with a number of transfer portal arrivals from the FBS ranks who could spur a turnaround.
One player worth tuning in for: LB Joe Casale
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48. Utah Tech vs. Colorado State
Why the game might be a drag: Rams fans may not consider this a drag, but Utah Tech definitely isn’t Sacramento State. The Trailblazers had a down year in 2022 and lost nearly all of their all-WAC players to the transfer portal this offseason (including defensive back Tyrell Grayson, who transferred to… CSU). It could be an uphill climb to competitiveness, which could mean Clay Millen and company will have a field day.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: After last season’s lopsided loss to a FCS opponent, the Colorado State faithful may not be inclined to take any foe for granted. Given that UTU also returns a pair of all-conference defenders, they could be pesky if the Rams haven’t fully resolved their offensive line woes from last season.
One player worth tuning in for: LB Will Leota
— Utah Tech Football (@UtahTechFB) October 23, 2022
47. Bryant vs. UNLV
Why the game might be a drag: The Bulldogs backslid last season after reaching seven wins in 2021, allowing at least 35 points in seven different contests. That could be very good news for a Rebels offense that looks fully stocked and will be plenty motivated to start the year on a high note.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Bryant might possess a pretty potent offense. Quarterback Zevi Eckhaus has thrown 47 touchdowns in his two years as the team’s starter while Anthony Frederick and Ethan Gettman were named FCS All-Americans last year. The Bulldogs took also Florida International to overtime, one of five losses by eight or fewer points, and the Eastern Washington debacle isn’t so far in the past that the Rebels will want to look past Bryant.
One player worth tuning in for: WR/KR Anthony Frederick
The 🦅 flies! Eckhaus to Frederick for the 61-yard score! pic.twitter.com/q6KBAIm7EI
— Bryant Football (@BryantUFootball) November 19, 2022
46. Tennessee Tech vs. New Mexico
Why the game might be a drag: The Golden Eagles weren’t really competitive against the best teams they faced last year, going 0-5 against Kansas and a quartet of ranked FCS teams. Granted, the Lobos aren’t the Jayhawks and have plenty to prove themselves, but they dispatched Maine with relative ease in 2022 and should be in position to do the same with TTU.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: If UNM actually struggles again, the flipside of Tennessee Tech’s 2022 fortunes is that they essentially broke even against everyone else on their schedule, finishing the season with five straight games decided by eight or fewer points and going 3-2 in that stretch.
One player worth tuning in for: LB Jacquez McGowan
45. Albany vs. Hawaii
Why the game might be a drag: After making the FCS playoffs back in 2019, Albany hasn’t been able to recapture that form and gave up over 33 points per game last season. Hawaii should also be improved in its second season under Timmy Chang, so last year’s struggles against Duquesne may truly be a thing of the past.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: The Great Danes have one of the better young quarterbacks in the FCS and will certainly put in the work to rebound from the 1-5 record they had in games decided by eight or fewer points. If anything, this game could evolve into a late-night shootout on the islands.
One player worth tuning in for: QB Reese Poffenbarger
— Enveonline (@Enveonline) September 25, 2022
44. Sam Houston State vs. Air Force
Why the game might be a drag: The Bearkats enter the FBS ranks coming off of a 5-4 campaign, which might not sound too bad until you realize they won the FCS national championship game just two years earlier. Their offense was not nearly as potent as it had been during its prior run of success, which could be bad news against a Falcons defense that figures to be stingy.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: You can’t really count out a team making the move from FCS to FBS. James Madison hit the ground running last year while Liberty, Coastal Carolina, and Appalachian State have all set high bars for themselves. What’s to say SHSU couldn’t do the same by defending its home turf against the Falcons?
One player worth tuning in for: LB Kavian Gaither
🔸#CFB G5 Spotlight🔸
-6-foot, 200 lbs
-WAC Defensive Player of Year & Buck Buchanan Award finalist
-79 tackles, 12 TFLs, 3 sacks, 2 passes defended, 1 INT in 2022pic.twitter.com/oo3tPhSr7o
— HERO Sports (@HERO_SportsCFB) May 30, 2023
43. New Mexico State vs. Hawaii
Why the game might be a drag: These two teams met in Las Cruces last season and the Aggies blew out the Warriors, building a 25-point halftime lead before cruising to a 45-26 victory. On paper, NMSU also figures to be the better team, so there’s a chance not much will have changed.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: The Aggies do have to replace a ton of talent on defense with Chris Ojoh, Lazarus Williams, Trevor Brohard, and others all gone, meaning that Hawaii’s run-and-shoot could flip the script on last year’s tilt if New Mexico State isn’t prepared.
One player worth tuning in for: QB Diego Pavia
Diego Pavia ➡️ Kordell David TOUCHDOWN
— New Mexico State Football (@NMStateFootball) November 26, 2022
42. Cal Poly vs. San Jose State
Why the game might be a drag: The Beau Baldwin era never really got off the ground in San Luis Obispo and now the Mustangs are starting over without their top offensive contributor from a year ago. Oh, and they also finished dead last among FCS teams in yards per play allowed in 2022, a fact about which the Spartans are surely licking their chops.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: One thing that Poly may still have in their favor is a passing game that averaged a respectable 7.4 yards per attempt last season and returns starting quarterback Spencer Brasch. If San Jose State struggles to generate a pass rush without Viliami Fehoko and Cade Hall, the Mustangs could definitely hang around.
One player worth tuning in for: LB David Meyer
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41. Idaho State vs. San Diego State
Why the game might be a drag: The matchup between these two teams last year was a laugher and things didn’t really get much better for the Bengals from there, finishing 2022 with just one victory. With a new head coach in once again and a roster on hand which includes just six seniors, why wouldn’t it be more of the same this September?
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Despite losing star linebacker Charles Ike, ISU might have the makings of a solid defense on its hands. If the Aztecs fall into some of the offensive scuffles that plagued them early last season, this game could be much more competitive than expected.
One player worth tuning in for: RB Raiden Hunter
ISU is off to its best start all year. Charles Ike snared an interception. Seven plays later, the Bengals punched it in from 2 yards out, thanks to Raiden Hunter.
Idaho State 14, Cal Poly 0, 9:25 2Q. pic.twitter.com/wq7elhbfge
— Greg Woods (@GregWWoods) October 15, 2022
40. Portland State vs. Wyoming
Why the game might be a drag: While PSU will get a couple of key pieces back from injury, the Viks will have to replace stars on both sides of the ball while identifying answers on a defense that allowed a whopping 6.7 yards per play in 2022. The Pokes could take advantage of that weakness and get Laradise rocking in a hurry.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: The Viks almost knocked off another Mountain West team, San Jose State, in their season opener last year. They also threw a scare into Hawaii in 2021 and will be battle-tested after a road trip to Oregon which opens their 2023 campaign.
One player worth tuning in for: QB Dante Chachere
2Q, 14:02 | Viks 21, 'Jacks 7
— Portland State Football (@psuviksFB) October 1, 2022