Pulling numbers from my bum in an attempt to predict this Saturday’s Mountain West football action:
Boise State at Colorado State, 5 p.m. on CBSSN
Record-wise, this looks like it should be a close game. Boise State looks like it’s on the down slide, having lost three games at this point in the season for the first time since 2001 and having the most losses in a season in the Chris Peterson era, while Colorado State has an even record and is playing meaningful games in November for the first time in a while.
The problem is that it ignores the truth of it. Boise State is still a top 40 offense and has a good defense. Senior quarterback Joe Southwick has quietly put together a strong season, completing 72 percent of his passes and a TD to interception ratio of nearly 2 to 1. Jay Ajayi has also put together a strong year, ranking 11th in the nation in rushing yards with 917 yards, and his 12 rushing TDs is tied for the most in the nation with several other rushers. None of the Broncos three losses have been to bad teams (that doesn’t mean they haven’t been bad losses, though.)
Garrett Grayson and Kapri Bibbs have been every bit the match of Boise State’s tandem this year, with Grayson throwing for 1,847 yards, completing a shade under 60 percent of his passes with 14 TDs and 6 interceptions. Bibbs has reached the end zone 12 times this year, with 767 yards and is averaging 6.0 yards per carry. It won’t help the Rams one bit that Grayson has been hurting this week, but likely will play.
The difference here is going to be on defense. Colorado State is allowing more than 30 points per game. The Broncos should be able to get a couple of stops against the Rams offense, but I don’t think the Rams can slow down Boise State enough to win this one.
Prediction: Boise State wins 44-31.
Hawaii at Utah State, 1 p.m. Saturday, CBSSN
Even without Chuckie Keeton, the Aggies should win this going away. The Rainbow Warriors are in the throes of a wretched season in which they can’t stop even rudimentary offenses, and can’t run the ball. It’s left them forced to throw all the time, and it’s producing a lot of turnovers.
Prediction: Utah State wins in a laugher, 52-16.
Nevada at Fresno State, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
The Wolf Pack’s defense has resembled bowling pins this season more often than not, they are allowing 36.3 points per game, good for 111th in the FBS, with the bowl subdivision teams they’ve beaten having a combined one win (Air Force and Hawaii). Fresno State may have had a couple of close calls against average teams, particularly San Diego State, so far this season. Nevada may look like an average team this season, but Colin Kaepernick isn’t running through that tunnel to save them.
Fresno State may also be looking to shake off a D-plus performance against San Diego State, in which they needed late heroics on a field goal as time expired just to force overtime. The Bulldogs are 7-0 for a reason, and they are going to take out their frustrations from last week in San Diego on the Wolf Pack at home in front of a rowdy sellout crowd.
This one has the potential to be a laugher because everything is trending the Bulldogs’ direction: the crowd, the field, the offense. Fresno State’s defense, though, might not allow that. They have been suspect even against bad teams, and Nevada’s offense has just enough firepower to steal some points.
Prediction: Fresno State wins 48-24.
New Mexico at San Diego State, 5 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports Networks
San Diego State has paper tiger written all over it. After dropping the first three games of the season, including a humiliating 21-point loss to FCS Eastern Illinois, they hit what can only be termed as the easy part of their schedule. They won three straight by beating New Mexico State, Air Force and Nevada before losing a tough one they should have won against Fresno State last Saturday.
That being said, New Mexico isn’t exactly a world beater. They run the ball well, and that’s really about it. Expect the Aztecs to get to .500 on the season in this one.
Prediction San Diego State wins 27-17.
San Jose State at UNLV, 1 p.m. Saturday
Both teams enter riding a high tide, and both would be best served by winning this game too. San Jose State is riding a three-game win streak, but needs this one to avoid having to beat some decent teams down the stretch to get into a bowl game. UNLV needs only one win to get to bowl eligibility and will likely get it one way or another since Air Force in on the schedule, but winning this one will mean likely seven wins and probably a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl in front of a friendly crowd.
San Jose State’s running game, which as found its footing since freshmen Tim Crawley and Jarred Lawson started getting regular carries, could be the difference. Yes, David Fales is one of the conference’s best, but what could likely lift the Spartans is their ability to abuse one of the worst running defenses in the nation. Given how the two freshmen have performed, they should be able to do it easily.
Prediction: San Jose State wins 38-27
Army at Air Force, 9 a.m. Saturday, ESPNU
These are two bad teams, and there’s no way to really be nice about it. They are the most boring of teams in the worst possible way.
Army is first in the nation in rushing yards and last in the nation in passing yards, and it’s all by design thanks to the the option offense they have always run. But they have feasted on some poor teams this year, which is why they have three wins. Air Force also runs the ball first and throws it never (122nd in passing yards, 12th in rushing yards), but hasn’t been able to take advantage of playing bad teams because, aside from a Nevada team that barely beat them, they haven’t played any.
The problem is that the Falcons don’t have enough constant contributors. For a running offense, Air Force’s running backs have put up rather pedestrian numbers. They have also used seven different quarterbacks this year, although it looks like Nate Romine has won the battle for that job … for now.
The Falcons schedule eases the next three weeks with Army, New Mexico and UNLV, and that may give them a chance to win. This game is essentially a pick’em – Army’s defensive numbers are superior because they have played lesser competition than the Falcons. Expect this one to fly by fast.
Prediction: Air Force wins 35-31.