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 Hardest Mountain West Non-Conference Schedules
Utah State: vs UCONN, @ Alabama, vs Weber State (FCS), @ BYU
● QB Spotlight ●
Logan Bonner – Utah State
• Bonner is a gun slinger and has been a very solid QB in college. In his career he’s thrown for 6,794 yards 66 TDs and rushed for 1 TD. pic.twitter.com/EEMGTysKZf
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) June 7, 2022
The two teams that took part in the MWC Championship Game have the two hardest Mountain West non-conference schedules. The champion went (11-3) after winning three of its four non-conference games. The Aggies will get a chance to run it back with starting quarterback, Logan Bonner, and leading rusher, Calvin Tyler, Jr.
UCONN is just about an FCS program at this point and Weber State (FCS) will be of no consequence. Alabama, however, will be a bit of a test. The Crimson Tide, despite falling in the CFP National Championship Game last year, has been the premier college football program since 2007 with little-to-no opposition. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young will run it back and contend for his first title.
BYU has been a solid independent program for a while now and has even won 21 games over the past two years. One of those wins came last year against this Aggies team.
San Diego State: vs Arizona, vs Idaho State (FCS), @ Utah, vs Toledo
All year, it looked like San Diego State was going to be one of the best G5 teams in the nation. They swept their non-conference slate which included a pair of Pac-12 teams, Arizona and Pac-12 Champion, Utah. Their only blemishes were a 10-point loss to Fresno State and a blowout in the MWC Championship. The Aztecs return its leading quarterback and receiver.
The Aztecs were able to take down Arizona last year along with their FCS foe. Again, those two should not be an issue. San Diego State’s slate features two teams with pulses, Utah and Toledo. Utah is the defending Pac-12 champion and will be out for revenge.
Toledo is a MAC school, yes. However, the Rockets are the odds-on favorite to win their conference. They have a tough schedule all around but they are a dangerously athletic team.
Hawai’i: vs Vanderbilt, vs Western Kentucky, @ Michigan, vs Duquesne (FCS)
All things equal, Hawai’i could be considered to have the most difficult Mountain West non-conference slates every year due to travel. To say that this year’s Hawai’i team will look drastically different will be an understatement. According to 247Sports’ Transfer Portal tracker, 22 Rainbow Warriors have jumped ship.
Vanderbilt is not the strong SEC team, there’s no getting around that. The only chance Hawai’i has in this and the Western Kentucky matchups are if they are heavily fatigued from travel. Western Kentucky was one of the most prolific offenses in 2021. The question will be whether or not the new pieces will be able to pick up where Bailey Zappe and Jerreth Sterns left off.
Michigan is riding high after their greatest season since before the turn of the Millennium. They are coming off of a B1G Title and CFP appearance and will likely not break a sweat beating Hawai’i in the Big House.
Colorado State: @ Michigan, vs Middle Tennessee State, @ Washington State, vs Sacramento State (FCS)
2021 was not kind to the Colorado State Rams. They finished with just three wins, only one of which was out of conference Although, they gave Vandy and Iowa a bit more than they anticipated.
The Rams’ 2022 season will kick off at noon in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Realistically, the Wolverines will be able to dispatch Colorado State. Now, CSU has had the ability to give P5 schools trouble so Michigan needs to not overlook this team.
Middle Tennessee State finished their C-USA season just (7-6). Whereas Washington State ended with the same record. The Wildcats have an exciting offense that will be able to take advantage of any deficiencies in the Rams’ defense.
Fresno State: vs Cal Poly (FCS), vs Oregon State, @ USC, @ UCONN
Jake Haener wants to be a Fresno State legend 🐶 pic.twitter.com/vE8ZvHiWH5
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 21, 2022
For just the fourth time since 2013, Fresno State finished with double-digit wins in 2021. The Bulldogs were led by Jake Haener at quarterback who threw for 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns. He will be back yet again along with Jordan Mims and Jalen Crooper.
Fresno State will be a solid football team again in 2022. Last year, Fresno State took down UCLA and very nearly beat Oregon. They should not have much issue with Oregon State or UCONN.
USC looks like they will be a legitimate threat this fall. Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams, and all of the resources that southern California provides are a lethal combo. Fresno State hasn’t beaten the Trojans since 1992. However, there have been a few close calls.
San Jose State: Portland State (FCS) Auburn, Western Michigan, New Mexico State
Finally, the middle-of-the-road not-really-hardest-but-not-really-easiest of the Mountain West non-conference schedules. San Jose State couldn’t back up its near-perfect 2020 last year. They won three of its four non-conference games last year but only managed three MWC victories. They lose Nick Starkel but gain gunslinger Chevan Cordeiro from Hawai’i.
Auburn has been a mid-tier SEC program. Compared to the rest of the nation —and especially Group of 5 programs — a (6-7) Auburn team should be more than enough. However, if the Tigers go into this matchup overlooking San Jose State, they may have to work a bit more than anticipated.
Neither Western Michigan nor New Mexico State should pose much of a threat if we are being honest.
How Much Time Does the MWC Have?
The Pac-12’s days may be numbered as it is. They may get desperate and try to poach some of the top-tier MWC programs. When then? There has been plenty of clamoring for North Dakota State to make the jump to the FBS level. If a few MWC teams are stolen, the conference could look at NDSU and some of its Missouri Valley Football Conference rivals to replenish.
The Mountain West non-conference schedules may look very different in the near future.
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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