By Dave Walsh, columnist
I know it’s very early in the college football season. And it’s even earlier in the conference seasons for most. And yet, even as early as it is in the Mountain West, call me crazy, but to me, things are looking like there could be a real multi-team race for a conference crown.
The Cowboys will be hitting the midway point of their schedule when they play their sixth game of the season on Saturday. It will be just the second Mountain West game of the year for the Pokes. Counting the San Jose State game, the Cowboys still have seven league games to play.
So, yes, it is early, but I’m basing my prediction on what I’ve seen from teams in the Mountain West this season. And, again, most of the games I’ve seen have been non-conference games.
Nonetheless, there have been plenty of chances to see Mountain West foes play. And we have all had the opportunity to see the Cowboys play five times.
I believe there is no question that current events involving the Boise State football program have created some concerns there. The Broncos were the pre-season pick to win the Mountain Division and play in the conference championship game. But Boise State has fired its offensive coordinator, and Bronco starting quarterback, Hank Bachmeier, has decided to enter the portal and leave the program.
From what I’ve seen of Mountain West teams so far, and the added little morsel of controversy and change at Boise State, I’m putting the Wyoming Cowboys on that list as one of those teams in the race for a Mountain West title.
Just look at what we’ve seen already. The Broncos have lost twice, the last time being the loss to UTEP last Friday in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. Was that the crowning blow, prompting the sudden firing and transfer? Who knows, maybe this has been brewing for a long time.
Heck, maybe Boise State just couldn’t handle losing to former Wyoming Head Coach, Dana Dimel. Just kidding, that’s a stretch, but it is a big change for Bronco football. How could it not have an effect? Losing your offensive coordinator and starting quarterback has to be a challenge, doesn’t it?
Air Force is 3-1 overall, and its only loss was to Wyoming. The Falcons were picked to finish second in the Mountain Division. After beating Nevada, Air Force is now 1-1 in conference play.
What about the defending Mountain West Conference champions? What about Utah State? The Aggies were picked in the pre-season poll to finish third in the Mountain Division. But things have not gone well here early for Utah State.
The Aggies opened with a win over UConn in Logan, but have lost their last three-in-a-row since. They took a pounding at number-one, Alabama. And two straight losses at home, to Weber State and UNLV. So Utah State is 1-3 overall, 0-1 in league play, and a game behind the Cowboys.
And how about the team that was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain Division? What about those old rivals from Ft. Collins? How have the Colorado State Rams, picked just above the Cowboys, done so far? Well, not so good. Like 0-4 not so good. Starting with a 51-7 loss at Michigan, and most-recently, a 31-point loss to Sacramento State in Ft. Collins, the Rams have been beaten by an average of 30 points a game.
The only team in the Mountain Division to be picked lower than the Cowboys in the pre-season poll was New Mexico. And the Lobos have actually been pretty good in the early going.
New Mexico is 2-2 overall, with a win over UTEP. They did lose the only conference game they’ve played so far, to Boise State. But the Lobos have looked a lot better than a team picked to finish last in the Mountain Division.
And the Wyoming Cowboys were picked to finish fifth in the Mountain Division. And honestly, the Cowboys have looked, at times, as good as any in the division. The Pokes are young, and they are talented. I think they have the goods to challenge for the top spot.
Now it’s back into conference play, where the stakes are even higher.
The Boise State controversy, and based on what I’ve seen so far from all involved, including the Cowboys, makes me think it could be quite a race to the division title, and a shot at the conference championship.