Let’s be honest. Outside of a game or two per year, we fans in the southeast don’t pay much attention to the Mountain West. The games usually kick off super late (literally midnight eastern time for home Hawaii games), and they’re usually on obscure TV channels, which is saying something in today’s day and age where essentially every game is televised somehow.
But, Mountain West football has its upsides for fans like us. Pretty much every Mountain West game is perfect for putting on the TV after a long day of tailgating and watching games you care about. There’s no investment (usually) for us, and we can sit back, maybe dose off in the recliner in the second quarter, and maybe wake back up in the early fourth quarter to see a 58-55 shootout. Or maybe you get this gem of a gif...
You get my point. If the CBS game of the week is our nice, juicy burger and the prime-time ABC/ESPN games are our over-indulging dessert, Mountain West games are without question that really weird casserole some brought to your tailgate that you didn’t want to eat during the day, but then you peak into your fridge around midnight, see that’s the only thing left, and find out its exactly as weird as you thought it was. It’s not bad, it’s just... different.
Air Force Falcons
Although Auburn has never played Air Force on the football field, the two have shared a connection the past few seasons. One of Auburn’s best assistant coaches, running back coach Tim Horton, coached wide receivers and running backs in Colorado Springs from 1999-2005.
Boise State Broncos
For over a decade now, Boise State has been the gold standard football program for non-power conference schools. That being said, it may come as a surprise when I tell you their biggest game this year, which can either give them a leg up or put them a step behind in their quest for an automatic New Year’s Six bid, comes against a Sun Belt team. Indeed, they open the season hosting Alabama’s own Troy Trojans. After a phenomenal 2016, the Trojans are this year’s Sun Belt favorites, and whoever wins this game announces themselves as a forced to be reckoned with in the G5 world.
Colorado State Rams
The Rams, who have found some consistency this decade with five straight bowl appearances, have slowly become one of the better programs the Mountain West has to offer. Nobody has come close the sustained success Boise has created, but that shouldn’t be a knock on Colorado State. They start their season off with three out of four power conference games: hosting Oregon State, playing Colorado in Denver, hosting FCS Abilene Christian, then traveling to Alabama. The Rams would probably be okay with winning one of the three games here, but they’re no slouch. They should be able to give their opponents (including Bama*) a decent run for their money, at least compared to other non-power conference schools.
Fresno State Bulldogs
I remember the first time I ever heard about Fresno State. It was on one of my family’s many visits to Tiger Rags, on Gay Street next to the Burger King, and I saw an old game shirt hanging on the wall. If I remember correctly, the shirt had the signature Tiger Rags tiger acting as a teacher, pointing at a map and telling a Bulldog/student that “Fresno is NOT a state”. That game happened in 1996, the year after I was born, so while I don’t remember that game, I do have a connection to it through the timeless game shirts Tiger Rags has made since the early eighties.
The Bulldogs’ first FBS game of the year is in Tuscaloosa, so you know we will be
on the edge of our seat cheering for Fresno not caring at all about how that game goes. Fresno is real bad, y’all. And also not a state.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
As Auburn fans, we can appreciate pregame traditions. The Rainbow Warriors, like Auburn, have one of the best in college football. While many sports teams throughout the Pacific perform a warrior dance called the “haka” (most notably the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks), first year head coach Nick Rolovich had Hawaii perform a ha’a last season. The ha’a, as seen below, is similar to the haka, but is native to Hawaii and is spoken in Hawaiian. It’s pretty impressive, and I’d love to see it performed in person. Auburn vs Hawaii in the national championship?
Most people know Nevada football for two things.
1. The Pistol offense
2. That time Colin Kaepernick was amazing and beat #3 Boise State in the last week of 2010. Which was kinda important considering Auburn was #2 at the time.
The Wolfpack are moving away from the Pistol and into an Air-Raid offense under new coach Jay Norvell. And Colin Kaepernick, unemployed as he may be, ain’t walking onto the field in Reno this year.
New Mexico Lobos
We could talk about how the Lobos share an opponent with our Tigers this year (Texas A&M), but they won’t play until the week AFTER Auburn and A&M play, so there won’t be much of a point in watching that. But hey, who isn’t down for some old school option football, especially when the team is returning all of its backfield from a nine-win team last year?
San Diego State Aztecs
When you’re a non-power conference school like SDSU and you lose a player who sets NCAA All-Time Records, you’re bound to be less interesting the next season. But the Aztecs replace Donnel Pumphrey with another 1,000 yard rusher from last season, senior running back Rashaad Penny. They’re still pretty much a lock to win their division (the Mountain West – West Division is BAAAAAD). Also, they were one of my favorite NCAA Football dynasties back in the day, along with MTSU and Western Michigan. Go Aztecs!
San Jose State Spartans
I’m going to give you a pass on this one. It feels like the Spartans were verging on becoming Clemson-material as far as showing up on our schedule every year. Oh, it was only 2014 and 2015? Oh well.
This is a big one. The Rebels go to Columbus, Ohio on September 23rd this year. If you haven’t heard (how??), Ohio State is basically a lock for the CFP this year, meaning this game might provide some valuable film for the Auburn coaching staff come December as we prepare to play the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.
Utah State Aggies
Utah State was almost our App State-Michigan moment. Respect them.
You’ll be hearing their quarterback’s name a lot this year. Josh Allen is already being touted as a first round draft pick in a class that’s already got some good quarterbacks in it. Who knows how he turns out, but head coach Craig Bohl has turned big quarterbacks at small programs into NFL starters before.
*CSU won’t beat Bama, and it probably won’t be close after the first half. But all I want is one good half. That’s all it will take for UGA fans to be furious with Bobo all over again, which... Yeah. That’ll be worth it.