The best way to measure one conference up against another is to look at non-conference. The 2022 Mountain West non-conference schedules are all over the place but every team has at least one Power 5 team on the schedule.
In this series, we will continue to look at each team’s out-of-conference slate and rank them based on difficulty. There are some teams who have serious gauntlets. Other teams have a cakewalk.
The Easiest Mountain West Non-Conference Schedules
Boise State: @ Oregon State, vs UT-Martin (FCS), @ UTEP, vs BYU
● QB Spotlight ●
Hank Bachmeier – Boise State
• Bachmeier is a seasoned veteran who has thrown for 6,108 yards 35 Touchdowns while completing 62.4 percent of his passes in his career. He’s also rushed for 3 TDs. pic.twitter.com/4MTLVmfPe4
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) June 7, 2022
The 2021 Broncos were disappointing. For just the first time since 2013 — and the second time since 1997 — Boise State lost five games. It’s unreal how consistently good Boise State has been since making the jump to FBS. Last year, they split their non-conference slate and went (2-0) against teams they’ll face this year.
Oregon State went (7-6) in 2021, good for its best season since 2013. The Beavers have consistently been one of the worst Power 5 programs, so last year could have been an anomaly. UTEP also finished (7-6) in 2021. One of those losses was to this Boise State team, 54-13.
Plus, Boise State took down a then-10th-ranked BYU team, 26-17. The Broncos return its leading passer, rusher, and second-best receiver, so it is reasonable to think they will have a legit shot to sweep their four non-conference games.
Wyoming: @ Illinois, vs Tulsa, vs Northern Colorado (FCS), @ BYU
Wyoming was a confusing team in 2021. They broke out of the gate by winning all four of their non-conference games, including two of the best in the MAC. Then, they dropped six of their final eight games to limp into the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, There, they won an exciting game with another MAC program in Kent State, 52-38.
Illinois is one of the worst programs in the Big Ten. They went (5-7) in 2021, winning at least five games for just the fourth time in ten years. Tulsa will be an interesting matchup. The Golden Hurricanes are a middle-of-the-road AAC team.
Finally, a trip to BYU will be a good game for the Cowboys. Former Utah State quarterback Andrew Peasley will be using his COVID redshirt allowance for a fifth year of eligibility for Wyoming. He went 5/7 for 38 yards and an interception against the Cougars last year in mop-up duty at USU.
Air Force: vs Northern Iowa (FCS), vs Colorado, vs Navy, vs Army
.@AF_Football’s Brad Roberts had ✌️ touchdowns in the first half ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/6i02y1CO6d
— Air Force Falcons (@AF_Falcons) October 17, 2021
Air Force finished 2021 with ten wins for the fourth time in eight years. The Falcons employ the same triple-option attack as its service academies rivals but wouldn’t it just be fun if Air Force ran the Air Raid attack? Either way, Air Force is returning each of its top six rushers, including First-Team All-MWC back, Brad Roberts. AFA lost its three games by four, seven, and seven (OT). It could have been a very different year if they took those games.
Air Force takes a traditionally different route as compared to the other Mountain West non-conference schedules. Naturally, they’ll face both Army and Navy for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which hasn’t been Air Force’s since 2016. Air Force beat Navy 23-3 and lost in Overtime to Army, 21-14.
Colorado will need to shore up its rush defense before they travel to these Falcons. The Buffaloes allowed nearly 180 yards per game on the ground last year.
New Mexico: vs Maine (FCS), vs UTEP, @ LSU, @ New Mexico State
Last year, New Mexico finished with just one MWC victory. The Lobos started off strong by beating an FCS foe and New Mexico State. But then, they dropped five in a row, including their other two non-conference games. While they are among the least difficult Mountain West non-conference schedules, it’s time to start splitting hairs.
New Mexico dropped its match against the UTEP Miners, 20-13 in what would end up being a routine day where they were systematically shut down on offense. Meanwhile, they took the Rio Grande Rivalry from New Mexico State for the third time in a row and extended its lead in the series to 73-55-5.
From here on out, each of the Mountain West non-conference schedules have just one team with a pulse. For New Mexico, it’s LSU. The Tigers recruit at a high level and are home to plenty of talent. It’s going to take a lot for New Mexico to make this one competitive…
UNLV: Idaho State (FCS), Cal, North Texas, Notre Dame
● WR Spotlight ●
🔓 Breakout Watch
Ricky White – UNLV
• White transfers in from Michigan State. He should make an immediate impact for the Rebels. In his career he’s caught 10 passes for 223 yards 1 TD averaging 22.3 yards per catch. pic.twitter.com/njkY5hAYqj
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) July 7, 2022
UNLV was not very good in 2021 either. They finished with just two wins, each within MWC play. The Rebels lost to an FCS team, a pair of then-ranked P5 programs, and a very strong UTSA squad. Needless to say, their journey is a bit easier in 2022 despite the inclusion of a CFP hopeful.
Cal finished 2021 a measly (5-7) with just one win over a non-conference foe. The North Texas Mean Green ended 2021 (6-7) after losing its bowl game. As stated before, these rankings are not as much about how likely each team wins all four, they’re about how good the quartet is as a whole.
Finally, the moneymaker will be against Notre Dame. The Irish have CFP aspirations as Marcus Freeman takes over from Brian Kelly.
Nevada: @ New Mexico State, vs Texas State, vs Incarnate World (FCS), @ Iowa
Finally, one of the borderline easiest/hardest Mountain West non-conference schedules continues the trend of FCS, two meh teams, and a better Power 5 team. The Wolfpack have to replace Carson Strong and Romeo Doubs this year after winning eight games, three of which were non-conference. Nevada dropped three MWC games, each by two points. 2022 could have looked very, very different.
The Wolfpack’s roster is filled with new transfers. Right off the bat, they’ll get their opportunity. Despite losing most of its playmakers from 2021, Nevada should be able to get through New Mexico State, Texas State, and Incarnate World (FCS).
Iowa, on the other hand, will be a challenge. They’ve drawn Kinnick Stadium for a primetime game. The Hawkeyes are a darkhorse candidate to win the Big Ten West and challenge to make the CFP.
Go [Mountain] West, Young Man
The West division has a more difficult path, considering four of the six easiest Mountain West non-conference reside in the East. The conference is home to four teams who won double-digit games in 2021 and very well could again in 2022.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Pac-12, how many of the current 12 MWC programs will remain when the dust settles?
Mid-American: Easiest; Hardest
Conference-USA: Easiest; Hardest
Mountain West: Easiest; Hardest
Sun Belt: Easiest; Hardest
American Athletic: Easiest; Hardest
Pac-12: Easiest; Hardest
Big 12: Easiest; Hardest
ACC: Easiest; Hardest
SEC: Easiest; Hardest
Big Ten: Easiest; Hardest
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