The Mountain West season enters the third week of their abbreviated eight-game season with a doubleheader featuring Utah State going to Reno to face Nevada, and Wyoming taking the quick bus ride south to Fort Collins to meet Colorado State.
As we enter the third week of the season, we’re beginning to get a much better feel for the haves and have nots of the Mountain West. What’s in store for Thursday Night? Let’s dive in.
Utah St. (0-2 OVR, 0-2 MWC) at Nevada (2-0 OVR, 2-0 MWC)
Spread: Nevada -17
Total: O/U 57
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, FS1
Prior to the start of the 2020 season, a lot of questions circled around the Utah State Aggies and how quickly they would be able to replace the loss of QB Jordan Love, who of course was selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers after three outstanding seasons in Logan.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the answer to that question has not exactly transpired in the manner Utah State could have hoped for. The Aggies find themselves dead last in both total offense and total defense.
A lot of this could be the direct outcome of playing the two best teams in the conference in Boise State and San Diego State to open the season, but through the first two weeks of the year, Utah State is closer to being one of the worst teams in college football than they are a team that could get back in the mix in the Mountain West Conference.
Their opponent on Thursday Night won’t alleviate their defensive woes, as Nevada has been spectacular on offense through their first two games in wins over Wyoming and in-state rival UNLV last Saturday.
Defensively, however, Nevada is nowhere near as stingy a group as the Boise State and San Diego State defenses are, so Utah State figures to at the least look a little better on offense heading into their third game of the season.
With that said, Utah State still figures to be in for a difficult evening. As stated above, Nevada’s offense has been outstanding out of the gate. The Wolf Pack lead the Mountain West in time of possession, averaging nearly 35 minutes a contest thus far and QB Carson Strong has 770 yards passing, six touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a QB rating of 183.
Look for Nevada to once again dominate time of possession and bully their way to another win, however, also look for Utah State to start showing improvement on the offensive side of the ball. I still like the Wolf Pack to cover the 17-point number though, even with these anticipated improvements from the Aggies tonight.
Prediction: Nevada 38, Utah State 17
Best Bet: Nevada -17
Wyoming (1-1 OVR, 1-1 MWC) at Colorado St. (0-1 OVR, 0-1 MWC)
Spread: Wyoming -3
Total: O/U 54
Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network
After struggling to open the season against the aforementioned Nevada Wolf Pack, Wyoming looked much more like themselves, especially on the defensive side of the ball, in last week’s 31-7 home win over Hawaii.
Wyoming held the Rainbow Warriors to just 233 yards of offense and smothered Hawaii dual-threat QB Chevan Cordeiro the entire game, holding the young quarterback to just 110 yards passing with one interception.
Offensively, the Cowboys still are not the prettiest team to watch, but they were able to get workhorse rusher Xazavian Valladay going with a 32 carry, 163-yard night with two touchdowns. Freshman QB Levi Williams played well but was not asked to do much more than manage a game that was in Wyoming’s control the entire way.
The same, however, could not be said about Colorado State. Thanks to the Rams’ season-opener against New Mexico being canceled, their season-opener actually game last Saturday and in much the same manner as has been the case for many schools, Colorado State just never looked like they could get into a rhythm and looked very much like a team that hadn’t laced them up in about 11 months.
Now Colorado State has a game under their belt and they hope that shaking off the rust will have the same benefit as it did for Wyoming last week. If they are to get past this stingy Wyoming defense though, they will need to get the famed Addazio rushing attack going tonight, as in their season-opening loss to Fresno State the Rams only ran for 149 yards as a team and a paltry 3.7 yards per carry.
Rams’ QB Todd Centeio also accounted for 80 of those yards, with 35 of those yards coming on one scramble, the running backs themselves could not get much of anything going on the ground.
To compound matters further, before you wish to jump on the Todd Centeio wagon, the Temple transfer was actually benched in the 4th quarter, so a potential QB controversy also awaits in the wings should Colorado State stumble out of the gate once again.
If there is a weakness on the Wyoming defense, it comes in the secondary. Does Colorado State have the personnel in the passing game to effectively take advantage of this weakness? It’s hard to say after their first performance, especially with said QB controversy possibly taking shape.
I believe tonight you will see a much sharper looking Colorado State team, but I don’t believe that equates to a win. I believe Wyoming is the better overall team here and will escape with a narrow victory in the 112th installment of “The Border War.”
Prediction: Wyoming 30, Colorado State 24
Best Bet: Wyoming -3 (would play all the way up to -4)