Mountain West Football: Ranking The 2023 Non-Conference Games, #39 to #30
The Mountain West has 49 non-conference games on the schedule this season. These ten games could surprise us with entertainment value.
Some mild intrigue here.
Miss any part of our countdown? Check out the rest of our ranking of Mountain West football’s non-conference games right here:
39. Idaho vs. Nevada
Why the game might be a drag: The Wolf Pack fell into a malaise last year which included a loss to FCS Incarnate Word. If the quarterback competition hasn’t been resolved and the defense struggles to replace its departed stars, the Vandals, who made the FCS playoff themselves in 2022, could make it two years in a row that Nevada suffers that kind of defeat.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: What if Nevada gets its offense on track, though? In that case, you could have a shootout on your hands with Jerry Rice Award winner Gevani McCoy on one side and one of Brendon Lewis or Shane Illingworth on the other.
One player worth tuning in for: WR Hayden Hatten
Vandals back on top 35-31 after McCoy finds Hatten down the sideline on fourth down!
— Idaho Football (@VandalFootball) November 27, 2022
38. Idaho State vs. Utah State
Why the game might be a drag: The Bengals’ second appearance on this list may not be much more inspiring than the first if Utah State is able to reign in the turnovers that plagued them in 2022 and find some answers on defense. The Aggies could win this one in a walk.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: No, Idaho State probably isn’t as good on paper as Weber State this time last year, but the erratic Aggies had one of their worst games of 2022 against a FCS opponent.
One player worth tuning in for: DL Cortland Horton
Big sack by Cortland Horton on 4th down! pic.twitter.com/mKgcKfDLVt
— Idaho State Football (@BengalGridiron) August 27, 2022
37. Nevada vs. Texas State
Why the game might be a drag: Both teams are in the midst of a rebuild and with so many new pieces in tow, it could be a slog if things don’t come together as envisioned.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: What if one or both teams is farther ahead in that rebuild than expected? Both the Wolf Pack and Bobcats have hit the transfer portal hard to shore up their depth and new Texas State head coach G.J. Kinne has an offensive background that could make this an interesting chess match with Nevada’s own Ken Wilson.
One player worth tuning in for: LB Jordan Revels
— thaflyestvulture__ (@jordanrevels91) February 21, 2023
36. UNLV vs. Michigan
Why the game might be a drag: Not only have the Rebels not beaten a Big Ten team since 2003, these Wolverines have been in the College Football Playoff two years in a row. It could end up looking a lot like the lopsided wins Michigan had over Hawaii and Colorado State last season, which is no fun at all for Mountain West football fans.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: The Rebels have a strong case to say they’re better than last year’s Warriors and Rams and, thus, more capable of hanging around in Ann Arbor. Maybe they get saddled with a 20-point loss rather than a 40-point one, but UNLV could make some noise.
One player worth tuning in for: RB Blake Corum
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) October 15, 2022
35. New Mexico vs. UMass
Why the game might be a drag: This game represents a matchup between the two teams who finished at the bottom of the SP+ rankings last season. We might end up with a puntfest on our hands, though at least Aaron Rodriguez would get a showcase to demonstrate his prowess in that scenario.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: There’s nowhere to go but up, right? The Lobos could be much improved on offense and both sides have talented young defenders that could make this a surprisingly tough battle.
One player worth tuning in for: DB Jordan Mahoney
Bend don't break ❌
Jordan Mahoney gets the pick late to take us into halftime.
— UMass Football (@UMassFootball) October 15, 2022
34. New Mexico vs. Texas A&M
Why the game might be a drag: The Lobos have been shut out in each of their last two trips to SEC country, so while the Aggies had a disastrous 2022, the talent gap between these two teams is still as wide as ever and the 12th Man will be rocking. Regardless, UNM will get a big paycheck for their appearance.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: What if A&M’s 2022 campaign wasn’t a fluke? Even with new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino in tow, this is still an Aggies team that managed just 20 points against UMass at home and lost to Appalachian State at Kyle Field, as well. Why couldn’t the Lobos pull a shocker themselves?
One player worth tuning in for: WR Ainias Smith
🏈 6 Rec
🏈 164 Rec Yds
🏈 2 TD
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 3, 2022
33. New Mexico State vs. New Mexico
Why the game might be a drag: The Aggies entrenched themselves as New Mexico’s superior program in 2022 by holding the Lobos to nine points, the fewest in a game against NMSU since 1976, and claiming a bowl bid while their hated rivals flailed. If UNM hasn’t figured out its offensive woes, 2023 could very easily be a repeat.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: It’s a rivalry game that’s often been a hotly contested one because six of the last eight clashes between the Aggies and Lobos have been decided by nine or fewer points. UNM has also won four of their last five at home against NMSU, so you know they’ll be motivated to reclaim bragging rights in the Land of Enchantment.
One player worth tuning in for: DL Izaiah Reed
Loading . . . ❤️🩹👑 pic.twitter.com/3D5dpqkqU8
— Izaiah Reed (@officialZay56) January 31, 2023
32. Eastern Washington vs. Fresno State
Why the game might be a drag: The Bulldogs typically haven’t had much trouble dispatching FCS opponents in recent years and the Eagles just suffered their first losing season since 2006. Without the high-flying offense that made them one of the best FCS programs in the country, the Red Wave could be on hand for a rout.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: What happens if Fresno State’s revamped offense is slow to come together? In theory, the Bulldogs should have superior talent on both sides of the ball, but a slow start could make this a lot more intriguing than it would seem at first glance.
One player worth tuning in for: WR Efton Chism III
— Efton Chism III (@EftonChism) December 19, 2022
31. Kent State vs. Fresno State
Why the game might be a drag: The Golden Flashes weren’t a bad team in 2022 but their head coach bolted to join Deion Sanders in Colorado and they have been absolutely gutted by the transfer portal. They return the lowest amount of production from last season of any FBS team and project to be dead last by SP+, so the Bulldogs might legitimately expect to win this one by 30 or more.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: It isn’t unheard of these days that a team undergoes a great deal of upheaval but remains competitive. Kent State still returns a few quality pieces on defense as well as speedy running back Xavier Williams, and you can never underestimate the power of MACtion too much.
One player worth tuning in for: DL CJ West
🖐🏾’s wrld pic.twitter.com/ubOed6qT9H
— CJ West (@CJWEST50) March 23, 2023
30. Vanderbilt vs. UNLV
Why the game might be a drag: The Commodores weren’t great in 2022, but they were much improved from the year before and hammered Hawaii on the islands on their way to a 3-1 record in non-conference play. They won’t be fazed by a trip to Vegas and have the athletes to win another rout should UNLV get caught unprepared.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: If both teams hit their stride early, it’s not hard to envision a bonanza of points and one of the more underrated matchups anywhere in Mountain West non-conference action.
One player worth tuning in for: WR Will Sheppard
Will Sheppard against press man on a slant is UNFAIR! Vandy leads UK! pic.twitter.com/IrsMT2hnrI
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 12, 2022