Mountain West power ratings: UNLV on top (again) as dream season continues, Fresno State falls and SJSU rises

Last season, the Hotline published weekly ‘Best of the West’ power ratings that considered not only Pac-12 teams but those in the Mountain West and Brigham Young. The exercise was so popular that we’re adding a MW-specific column to our array of offerings this season.

With one week of regular-season play remaining, the Mountain West has six bowl-eligible teams and two more that could reach the threshold with victories in their finales.

For context, consider the following:

— The MW placed seven teams in the postseason last year and six in 2021.

— The conference is tied to five bowl games with the potential for a sixth (depending on openings elsewhere).

— Any teams with at least six wins that aren’t placed into a conference-affiliated game would become free agents available to fill spots in bowls with vacancies.

— The selection process could get interesting if Colorado State and/or Utah State win this week.

To the power ratings …

(All times Pacific)

1. UNLV (9-2/6-1)

Last week: 1
Result: won at Air Force 31-27
Next up: vs. San Jose State (12 p.m. on MW Network)
Comment: Time to start discussing Barry Odom’s qualifications for Coach of the Year nationally, not just within the Mountain West. Also, time for Odom to start discussing a contract extension with UNLV (if he hasn’t already).

2. Boise State (6-5/5-2)

Last week: 2
Result: won at Utah State 45-20
Next up: vs. Air Force (Friday, 1 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: We’ll take the dominant performance at Utah State as a sign the Broncos weren’t exactly heartbroken following the dismissal of coach Andy Avalos.

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3. San Jose State (6-5/5-2)

Last week: 5
Result: beat San Diego State 24-13
Next up: at UNLV (12 p.m. on MW Network)
Comment: Well, well, well: Look who’s won five in a row (all by double digits) and is tracking for another bowl berth. Every year the Spartans keep Brent Brennan is a year they should count themselves fortunate.

4. Fresno State (8-3/4-3)

Last week: 3
Result: lost to New Mexico 25-17
Next up: at San Diego State (7:30 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: In a season littered with surprising results across the Mountain West, the Lobos’ win at Fresno State tops the list. It might take us years to recover from the visual of seeing the final score.

5. Air Force (8-3/5-2)

Last week: 4
Result: lost to UNLV 31-27
Next up: at Boise State (Friday, 1 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: With three consecutive losses, the Falcons are on the short list of the sport’s biggest late-season fades. When November began, they were one of four frontrunners to claim the Group of Five’s berth in the New Year’s Six.

6. Wyoming (7-4/4-3)

Last week: 6
Result: beat Hawaii 42-9
Next up: at Nevada (6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network)
Comment: Periodic reminder that few coaches in the country do more with less than Craig Bohl, who has led the Cowboys to six winning seasons in the past seven years (excluding 2020, when they played just six games).

7. Colorado State (5-6/3-4)

Last week: 7
Result: beat Nevada 30-20
Next up: at Hawaii (8 p.m. on Spectrum Sports)
Comment: The Rams have already secured their best season since 2017 and justified the Jay Norvell hire. Look for CSU to take the next step next season and compete for the conference title.

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8. Utah State (5-6/3-4)

Last week: 8
Result: lost to Boise State 45-20
Next up: at New Mexico (Friday, 12:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network)
Comment: Had you offered the Aggies one game to become bowl-eligible — their final game, at New Mexico — they probably would have welcomed the opportunity. But can they take advantage of it?

9. Hawaii (4-8/2-5)

Last week: 9
Result: lost at Wyoming 42-9
Next up: vs. Colorado State (8 p.m. on Spectrum Sports)
Comment: Not much to play for this weekend in Honolulu, save being a spoiler and blocking CSU from the postseason.

10. Nevada (2-9/2-5)

Last week: 10
Result: lost at Colorado State 30-20
Next up: vs. Wyoming (6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network)
Comment: Nowhere to be found on our 2023 Nevada bingo card: The win over New Mexico would be more impressive than the victory at San Diego State.

11. New Mexico (4-7/2-5)

Last week: 12
Result: won at Fresno State 25-17
Next up: vs. Utah State (Friday, 12:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network)
Comment: If one victory can change a head coach’s future employment status, then Danny Gonzales delivered it Saturday night with the stunner in Fresno. In the previous four series matchups, excluding the screwy 2020 season, FSU had outscored New Mexico 151-23.

12. San Diego State (3-6/1-6)

Last week: 11
Result: lost at San Jose 24-13
Next up: vs. Fresno State (7:30 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: Not exactly the season-ending matchup Fox Sports expected when it slotted the Aztecs and Bulldogs for FS1 on prime time on the West Coast. Such is life in the wild Mountain West.

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