1. Nevada (Last week: 3)
Nevada shed any concerns following a blowout loss to Kansas State as it opened conference play last week. In a battle of preseason division favorites, the Wolf Pack rolled past Boise State 41-31 – outscoring the Broncos by 11 in the final two quarters after trailing by one at the half. The 2020 Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, Carson Strong, completed 65.8% of his passes for 263 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions, with four different players surpassing 40 yards receiving. Toa Taua, meanwhile, erupted for 124 yards and two scores on just 12 carries, shredding a Boise State run defense that ranks 11th in the conference. The defense has room for improvement after giving up 431 yards and 31 points, but the Wolf Pack can find optimism in the six sacks they recorded during the game.
2. San Diego State (Last week: 2)
With Fresno State taking a tumble over the weekend, San Diego State has replaced the Bulldogs as the only MW team in the AP Top 25. The Aztecs haven’t played since their 48-21 rout of Towson on Sept. 25, but will open league play Saturday as a 19.5-point home favorite against New Mexico. With an undefeated record and a pair of Power Five wins, SDSU makes a strong case as the top contender in the conference.
3. Wyoming (Last week: 4)
The MW’s other team without a blemish on its record was also off last week, with Wyoming set to begin its conference slate Saturday at Air Force. The Cowboys move up one spot from last week following back-to-back lackluster showings from Fresno State, which previously led the power rankings.
4. Air Force (Last week: 8)
Air Force opened MW play with a 49-45 loss to Utah State, but the Falcons have since bounced back in convincing fashion. The Falcons have recorded 31-7 and 38-10 wins over Florida Atlantic and New Mexico the past two weeks, with Brad Roberts and Hazziq Daniels continuing to lead the league in rushing yards and touchdowns, respectively. Air Force’s 17.8-point average win margin is tied with SDSU for the best in the conference.
5. Fresno State (Last week: 1)
Fresno State took the top spot in the inaugural MW power rankings after climbing to No. 18 in the country during the first month of the season. What a difference one week can make. After surviving a close call against winless UNLV, the Bulldogs blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead in a 27-24 loss to Hawaii. Jake Haener lit up the stat sheet again, passing for 388 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw four interceptions after tossing just two in his team’s first five games.
6. Boise State (Last week: 5)
A loss to arguably the top team in the conference isn’t a red flag for Boise State, but a continued inability to put away close games should be. The Broncos ended up losing to Nevada 41-31, despite holding a one-point lead after two quarters. Their first six drives of the second half resulted in two fumbles, one interception, one turnover on downs, one punt and a field goal, allowing the Wolf Pack to rattle off a 21-3 run and take control of the game.
7. San Jose State (Last week: 6)
San Jose State takes a step back in the rankings, despite a winning effort over the weekend. The Spartans edged out New Mexico State 37-31, which is the closest the Aggies – who are the third-worst team in the country, according to ESPN’s College Football Power Index – have come to beating an FBS opponent since 2019. Nick Nash filled in nicely for injured SJSU quarterback Nick Starkel, completing 15 of 18 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns. However, the Spartans also allowed NMSU’s Jonah Johnson to torch them for 300 yards and three scores through the air.
8. Hawaii (Last week: 9)
Following a rough start to the season that included a pair of blowout losses at the hands of Pac-12 opponents, Hawaii has slowly resurfaced as a potential darkhorse contender in the West. The Rainbow Warriors took SJSU down to the wire in a four-point loss on Sept. 18, before blowing out NMSU 41-21 and roaring back to beat Fresno State 27-24 in their last two tests. They’ll have the weekend off, with arguably their biggest game of the season looming Oct. 16 at Nevada.
9. Utah State (Last week: 7)
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Utah State after winning a 49-45 shootout at Air Force to start league play. The Aggies have since lost to Boise State 27-3 and BYU 34-20. However, with lowly UNLV and Colorado State awaiting them after the bye week, things could be trending upward.
10. Colorado State (Last week: 11)
Embarrassing losses to South Dakota State and Vanderbilt started Colorado State’s season on a sour note, but the Rams appear to be heading in the right direction. They rolled over Toledo 22-6 with a 19-point second half on Sept. 18, and played No. 3 Iowa to within 10 points the following week. CSU will look to keep this momentum going as it opens conference play Saturday at home against SJSU.
11. New Mexico (Last week: 10)
When your only wins more than a month into the season are against New Mexico State and a winless FCS opponent, it hasn’t been a good start. That’s exactly where the New Mexico Lobos find themselves. They’re coming off a 28-point loss to Air Force, and it likely won’t get easier this week against a ranked San Diego State team.
12. UNLV (Last week: 12)
Surprising as it may seem, UNLV has made progress as it continues to seek its first win of the year. The Rebels followed up a season-opening loss to an FCS team by losing to Arizona State and Iowa State by a combined score of 85-13, but they’ve been competitive as of late. UNLV has played Fresno State and UTSA to within a touchdown the last two weeks, and will come off its bye on Oct. 16 against a beatable Utah State squad.