Mountain West 2013 Schedule Preview: Mountain Division
By Joe Jenkins
A schedule will never completely determine the destiny of a team by itself, but things like long road trips, games on short rest and facing your rival on the road can make a promising season much harder to navigate.
With the Mountain West releasing the 2013 schedule, teams now know how bumpy the ride will be on the road to the Dec. 7 championship game.
Here's what each team in the Mountain Division has to look forward to — or lose sleep over — this year.
The Good: The Falcons start the season with a tune-up against Colgate before jumping into conference play. Four of its final six games are played in Colorado Springs, Colo., including tough matchups against San Diego State (Oct. 10) and Notre Dame (Oct. 26).
The Bad: The Falcons face service academy rival, Navy on the road in Annapolis, Md. (Oct. 5). To make things worse, they’ll have to recover quickly because SDSU comes into town five days later. If only there was a system that would prevent a brutally quick turnaround like this … we could call them bye weeks or something.
Key Game: At Boisie State (Sept. 13). The Falcons could seal their Mountain Division fate before the leaves turn. They face BSU under the lights on the Smurf Turf. An early loss to the division favorite could have the flyboys playing catch up all year.
The Good: Head coach Chris Peterson and his boys close out the season with three consecutive home games, including a cross-divisional match up against San Diego State. It’s possible this could be a top-25 matchup by November.
The Bad: A non-conference schedule consisting of Washington, Southern Mississippi, Tennessee-Martin, and BYU isn’t terribly strong. If — and it’s a very big “if” — BSU is able to run the table, critics will point to their strength of schedule as to why they were left out of the BCS Championship.
Key Game: At Washington (August 31). The Broncos have played an opponent from a power conferene to open the season for a few years now. Crashing the BCS becomes a huge question mark if Boise State can’t win at Husky Stadium.
The Good: The Rams could roll their solid 2012 finish into a fast start in 2013. A 4-1 start isn’t out of the question. Games against Colorado, Cal Poly, UTEP and at Tulsa are all winnable. The luck of the conference draw also has them avoiding two of last year’s tri-champs Fresno and San Diego State.
The Bad: Head coach Jim McElwain returns to his old offensive coordinator stomping grounds to see how his team stacks up against the Crimson Tide. The Rams also have to travel to Laramie to face rival Wyoming.
Key Game: At Wyoming (Oct. 19). The battle for the Bronze Boot may not decide the outcome of the Mountain Division, but it is always the biggest game on the Rams’ schedule. If everything falls their way, it could also be the game that makes the Rams bowl eligible.
The Good: The Lobos didn’t exactly stack the out of conference schedule with high-end programs. Their four opponents had a collective record of 18-31 (.367) in 2012, so head coach Bob Davie should expect to enter conference play with a winning record.
The Bad: New Mexico was unlucky enough to draw all three of the defending champions in 2013 and they get to play them all on the road. They close the season with trips to Fresno State (Nov. 23) and Boise State (Nov. 30).
Key Game: New Mexico State (Oct. 5). The Lobos have the good fortune of hosting the 2013 installment of the Rio Grande Rivalry. They’ll look to retain the Maloof Trophy and go into the teeth of their conference schedule riding high.
The Good: The Aggies won’t travel much to close out the season with three out of their last four games taking place at Romney Stadium. They also get to play in-state rival BYU at home (Oct. 4).
The Bad: To call Utah State’s early schedule brutal is an understatement. The Aggies travel to Salt Lake City to play Utah in the Battle of the Brothers (Aug. 29) to open the season and play USC in Los Angeles one month later.
Key Game: Boise State (Oct. 12). As one of the new teams in the MWC, the Aggies need to prove they belong. There’s no better way to do that than to hang tough with the class of the conference. It also marks the end of the brutal stretch of games that runs from the end of August through mid-October.
The Good: There’s no reason to believe the Cowboys won’t have a decent start to their season. There are winnable games early against Northern Colorado (Sept. 14) and Texas State (Sept. 28).
The Bad: The Cowboys open the season with a tough road game against Nebraska (August 31). Two straight games against defending MWC champions is never fun, either. Wyoming hosts Fresno State (Nov. 9) before traveling to Boise State (Nov. 16).
Key Game: Colorado State (Oct. 19). The battle for the Bronze Boot could mean more to Wyoming than it normally does. A win against the Rams could put the Cowboys in prime position to secure bowl eligibility.