The 2018 college football season is barely in the rear-view mirror, and that means one thing — already looking forward to the next one.
Way-too-early top 25s are already out there, including USA Today’s, which has Boise State at No. 24. Most national publications agree that UCF is the favorite to get a third straight New Year’s Six bowl berth from the Group of Five. However, the Mountain West did finish with three Top 25 teams in Boise State, Fresno State and Utah State.
If the Mountain West wants to make some noise in 2019, it will have to do something that it has not done well lately: pull off some big nonconference wins. The conference is 15-67 against Power Five schools, including bowl games, the past four seasons.
Luckily for the conference, right off the bat, there are multiple chances, some looking winnable. The first week of action will see six Mountain West schools face off with Power Five opponents.
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▪ Hawaii starts the college season by hosting Arizona on Aug. 24, with the Warriors coming off an eight-win season while the Wildcats went 5-7 with losses to BYU and Houston.
▪ Utah State plays at Wake Forest on Aug. 30, a chance for new coach Gary Andersen to notch a big win with QB Jordan Love returning.
▪ Colorado State plays its annual rivalry game Aug. 30 in Denver against rebuilding Colorado, which lost seven straight to end the season and fired its coach along the way.
▪ Perhaps the marquee game for the Mountain West in the opening weekend comes Aug. 31, when Boise State plays Florida State in Jacksonville. The Broncos have the longest active streak of consecutive winning seasons with 21, while Florida State will be trying to rebound from its first losing season since 1976 (excluding NCAA sanctions). CBS Sports ranks it the No. 8 nonconference game of 2019.
Boise State must replace its starting quarterback and a 1,400-yard running back, while Florida State must figure out its own sticky quarterback situation, plus resolve its big offensive line issues. The Seminoles went 5-7 in 2018 under first-year coach Willie Taggart.
▪ Also on Aug. 31, Fresno State plays at USC with another shot at a Pac-12 foe — the Bulldogs went 2-1 against the conference in 2018. The Trojans need a strong start to their season after missing out on a bowl game. Fresno State loses a lot of talent, but Jeff Tedford has proven capable of fixing things quickly. CBS Sports has it as the No. 10 nonconference game.
▪ There’s another strong opportunity for the conference on that Saturday when Nevada hosts Purdue. The Wolf Pack beat Oregon State in Reno last season and are coming off a bowl win. Purdue has one of the nation’s most electric players in Rondale Moore and the Boilermakers have some momentum after coach Jeff Brohm decided to stay following a chance to leave for Louisville.
Of course, there will be more chances after the first week — among the matchups in September are San Diego State at UCLA, Nevada at Oregon, Minnesota at Fresno State, Air Force at Colorado, Colorado State at Arkansas, Hawaii at Washington and New Mexico at Notre Dame.
The Mountain West usually releases its full schedule in early March.