Mountain West Football: Ranking The 2023 Non-Conference Games, #19 to #11
The Mountain West has 49 non-conference games on the collective schedule this fall. These ten games are worthy of your attention.
Lots of fun to be had in this bunch.
19. Colorado State vs. Middle Tennessee State
Why the game might be a drag: Last year’s matchup between the Rams and Blue Raiders was a lot more lopsided than many expected and, given CSU’s lingering concerns on the offense line and MTSU’s solid defense, it could be déjà vu in Murfreesboro.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Should the Rams figure out how to maintain a more balanced offense, it could end up being a very intriguing chess match between two squads with a healthy amount of upside heading into 2023. This game could be that critical sixth win both will need to earn a bowl bid.
One player worth tuning in for: DB Teldrick Ross
Teldrick Ross, Defensive Player of the Week
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) November 21, 2022
18. San Jose State vs. Toledo
Why the game might be a drag: The 2022 MAC champions often got things done with defense and a powerful running game, both of which could pose problems on the road for a Spartans team that often struggled to protect Chevan Cordeiro and must figure out how to shore up its front seven.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: If the Spartans are able to replace at least some of their departed stars, their passing game should still have plenty of firepower to make the Glass Bowl tilt a competitive one.
One player worth tuning in for: DB Quinyon Mitchell
Quinyon Mitchell’s second pick-6 from earlier. This man has 4 INTs today 🤯 pic.twitter.com/35m7VSjWP6
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) October 8, 2022
17. Ohio vs. San Diego State
Why the game might be a drag: Ohio improved on defense as 2022 progressed and San Diego State improved on offense once Jalen Mayden took over at quarterback, but if one or both units come out flat in Week 0, it could be a slog to watch.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: For starters, it’s a revenge game because the Aztecs will want to rectify their 2018 Frisco Bowl loss to the Bobcats. Beyond that, the SDSU defense will be challenged right away by an Ohio offense engineered by one of the Group of 5’s top quarterbacks (if he’s back to 100% by August, that is).
One player worth tuning in for: QB Kurtis Rourke
THE MAPLE MISSILE!🍁
Kurtis Rourke makes throwing dimes look like light work. pic.twitter.com/h5uRNSDgxb
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) November 9, 2022
16. Fresno State vs. Arizona State
Why the game might be a drag: The Sun Devils weren’t great last year and now must figure out a wide-open quarterback situation and reinforce a defense that gave up over six yards per play and had an anemic pass rush. Sure, the Bulldogs are replacing a lot, too, but Jeff Tedford’s done this before and going to Tempe won’t scare his team.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: If Fresno State can’t figure out how to stabilize its own pass rush without David Perales and Arizona State can identify a quarterback, the Sun Devils do have a couple of pass catchers who could do some serious damage and help the home team hold serve.
One player worth tuning in for: TE Jalin Conyers
Not giving in.@ASUFootball's Jalin Conyers gets the Sun Devils on the board.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 12, 2022
15. Air Force vs. Navy
Why the game might be a drag: The Midshipmen are turning over a new leaf with a new head coach and still don’t have many obvious options to help a middling offense get more explosive in 2023. Against a Falcons defense that looks like it should be plenty strong, it could get ugly.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: You never know with these Commander-in-Chief Trophy contests. Besides the fabled consistency of the betting under when military academies are involved, the Falcons escaped with a three-point victory last season despite being the better team on paper and now must do it again with a new quarterback and new leading rusher.
One player worth tuning in for: FB Daba Fofana
— American Football (@American_FB) November 12, 2022
14. Utah State vs. Iowa
Why the game might be a drag: It means you will have to watch Iowa football.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Because it’s Iowa football, you know the Hawkeyes aren’t likely to run away from the Aggies, which means “never say never” when it comes to an upset bid. They’re 3-0 against Mountain West teams since 2017, but they haven’t scored more than 27 points.
One player worth tuning in for: DB Cooper DeJean
— Hawkeyes Wire (@HawkeyesWire) September 24, 2022
Why the game might be a drag: The Wolf Pack fell apart as the season progressed while the Jayhawks emerged as one of college football’s best feel-good stories under head coach Lance Leipold. Crazy as it is to say, Kansas might have a significant talent advantage in this game, even in spite of having to travel to Reno.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Power 5 teams have rarely had it easy at Mackay Stadium in recent years. Every remembers Brandon Talton’s walk-off field goal to beat Purdue in 2019, but the Wolf Pack also beat Oregon State in 2018 and downed Washington State way back in 2014. Could “Mackay Magic” get conjured again?
One player worth tuning in for: RB Devin Neal
— Big 12 Conference (@Big12Conference) September 3, 2022
12. San Jose State vs. USC
Why the game might be a drag: Though the Spartans hung around and posted a respectable loss the last time these two squads faced off in 2021, Lincoln Riley’s Trojans are a whole other animal and Caleb Williams is a magician.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: USC created a lot of breaks for itself by generating an absurd amount of turnovers last year, so if SJSU can protect the football and string together a handful of quality drives, they could make build another upset bid at the Coliseum.
One player worth tuning in for: DB Calen Bullock
.@CalenBullock with his 4th interception of the season!
11. Washington State vs. Colorado State
Why the game might be a drag: The Cougars pummeled the Rams in Pullman last September and restocked the offense around quarterback Cameron Ward by bringing in a haul of transfer pass catchers and a new offensive coordinator. CSU will almost certainly be better, but Wazzu should be, as well.
Why the game might be more interesting than you think: Colorado State could find itself with one of the best defenses in the Mountain West this fall, good enough to slow the Cougars running game and give Clay Millen a chance to create a signature moment at Canvas Stadium.
One player worth tuning in for: DB Jaden Hicks
— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) November 8, 2022