We recently examined the Top 10 Thursday night opening games taking place on August 28, 2014. Now it’s time to give the Mountain West Conference some love.
The Mountain West recently announced the conference’s 2014 Friday night schedule. Key conference and non-conference matchups will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and CBSSN. For true college football junkies, there’s nothing like getting a jumpstart on Saturday’s action with some historically high-scoring contests that will go a long way in determining who meets in the conference championship game on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014.
1. Fresno State at Boise State
Friday, Oct. 17, 8pm ET, ESPN
The Bulldogs and Broncos met in September last year in a Friday night classic that saw Fresno State and
David Derek Carr eek out a one-point victory over Chris Petersen’s Boise State squad. Much has changed in just one year. While Carr prepares for the NFL Draft, Petersen is busy in Seattle as the newly crowned head coach of the Washington Huskies. It’ll be interesting to see how each team adjusts to these big-time changes.
After last year’s tussle, most experts expected a rematch in the Mountain West Championship game, but when Boise State slipped up in OT towards the end of the season at San Diego State, Utah State claimed the Mountain Division title a week later. This year’s fantastic mid-October showdown in Boise, Idaho could very well be the first of two matchups between the schools in 2014.
2. San Diego State at Fresno State
Friday, Oct. 3, 10pm ET, CBSSN
And then there’s San Diego State. After a brutal home-opening loss to Eastern Illinois in 2013, along with losses to Ohio State and Oregon State, the 0-3 Aztecs rallied nicely to win 8 of their last 10, including the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. A win at Fresno State on Oct. 3 could give the Southern California ball club an inside track to the West Division crown. One thing the Aztecs will need to improve upon from last year is a 93rd-ranked defense gashed for 31.7 points per game.
3. BYU at Boise State
Friday, Oct. 24, 9pm ET, ESPN or ESPN2
Boise State plays in one of the better Mountain West non-conference matchups when it hosts BYU in late October. The contest will also be the Broncos’ third non-conference opponent that went bowling last season, giving them one of the more challenging non-conference schedules in the Mountain West.
Historically pass-happy BYU is coming off a 2013 campaign that saw the school ranked 10th in rushing at an impressive 267 yards per game. Ironically, it was the 339 passing yards by the Cougar’s QB Taysom Hill that propelled BYU to a 37-20 win over the Broncos a year ago.
4. Washington State at Nevada
Friday, Sept. 5, 10:30pm ET, ESPN or ESPN2
Washington State probably wants to forget about the last time it faced a Mountain West opponent. Pirate-enthusiast Mike Leach and his Cougars had a commanding 22-point lead over the Colorado State Rams in the 2013 New Mexico Bowl. A few 4th quarter fumbles later, Leach’s squad was walking towards the locker room with a 48-45 defeat.
Washington State will attempt to get non-conference revenge versus a Nevada Wolf Pack team that finished uncharacteristically out of bowl contention in 2013 after the departure of longtime coach Chris Ault. The Wolf Pack simply must shore up a defense that ranked 104th in total points allowed last season, especially against Washington State’s free-wheeling QB Connor Halliday.
5. San José State at Utah State
Friday, Nov. 21, 9:30pm ET, ESPN2
San José State makes its lone Friday night appearance against a Utah State team that has had the Spartans number over the past few years. The Aggies were the only thing standing between SJSU and a WAC championship in 2012, and last year the Spartans were thumped at home in the rematch, 40-12. Not only does Utah State looks to be strong again in 2014, but also as of this writing the Spartans have yet to announce who will replace record-setting QB David Fales.
6. Northern Illinois at UNLV
Friday, Sept. 12, 10pm ET, CBSSN
UNLV ended the 2013 regular season with a pair of victories to become bowl eligible, including a monster 45-19 upset of San Diego State The late season surge placed the Rebels into a New Year’s Day Bowl game, the club’s first postseason action since 2000. This CBSSN early-season matchup pits UNLV against a Jordan Lynch-less Northern Illinois team looking to steal a victory in Las Vegas.
7. Utah State at Wyoming
Friday, Nov. 7, 8pm ET, ESPN2
One word describes the Wyoming Cowboys defense in 2013: Leakage. The Cowboys sprung leaks all over the field last season, especially in the secondary, en route to giving up over 36 points per game. To help right the ship, the school hired Craig Bohl of North Dakota State fame. Bohl led his team to back-to-back-to-back FCS championships the past three seasons. He and his new coaching staff will get quite a challenge in early November from Utah State, especially with the return of pocket-escape artist Chuckie Keeton at QB.
8. Colorado State at Air Force
Friday, Nov. 28, 3:30pm ET, CBSSN
The Ram-Falcon Trophy will once again be up for grabs when Colorado State travels to Air Force for the school’s 53rd all-time meeting (Air Force leads 31-20-1). While the Rams were finishing their season with a stunning bowl victory over Washington State, the Falcons were at home nursing the wounds of a 2-10 season, including zero victories in conference play.
Much like their military counterparts, Army and Navy, the Falcons were able to move the ball on the ground (262 yards per contest). The problem was actually putting the ball in the end zone. The offense was just 93rd in the country in scoring. When combined with a defense that gave up exactly 40 points per game, it’s easy to see why the Falcons missed the postseason for the first time in 6 years.
Andy Coffaro is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him on Twitter @andycoffaro and LinkedIn.