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2015 Mountain West football power rankings, from Boise State to UNLV

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Utah State could be excellent, and New Mexico and San Jose State could surprise, but Boise State is the runaway favorite for both the MWC title and a New Year's bowl bid.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of each conference run-through (here's the whole Mountain West), I take a look at how I perceive the conference's balance of power heading into the season. This is in no way based on schedules, so they are not predictions. They're just how I would rank the teams after writing thousands of words about each of them.

From a five-year view, the MWC West Division's average F/+ ranking is 80.3, while the Mountain Division's is 80.2. Balance!

But in the present, all the power's on the Mountain side, and five of what I see as the top six teams in the conference reside in the conference's eastern division. At the very least, that can't hurt Boise State's strength-of-schedule numbers.

Tier 1
1. Boise State

The Broncos return almost everybody from last year's Fiesta Bowl champion, and they have predictably recruited better than everybody else, too. They better play well on that road trip to Utah State, but when it comes to who snares the Group of Five's major bowl bid, it's BSU vs. the field.

Tier 2
2. Utah State
3. Colorado State
4. San Diego State

I think Utah State is a couple of steps ahead of the other two teams here, but I didn't want to create that many tiers for 12 teams.

Tier 3
5. Air Force
6. New Mexico
7. San Jose State
8. Nevada
9. Fresno State

These five fascinate me. Air Force was, on paper, the second-best team in the conference but must replace a lot of the reasons for its sudden defensive breakthrough.

New Mexico could have an incredible offense, SJSU has a lot of young talent, and both Nevada and Fresno State are building for 2016. I don't expect UNR or FS to be down for long, but I don't expect much from either in 2015.

(But seriously, New Mexico could be incredibly fun.)

Tier 4
10. Wyoming
11. Hawaii
12. UNLV

Again, I see two sub-tiers within this one -- either Wyoming or Hawaii could end up a solid Tier 3 team with a couple of breaks, and UNLV is taking a pragmatic, long road to success.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

MWC Mountain

Team 2014 Record (Conf.) 2014 F/+ Rk 5-Yr F/+ Rk 2-Yr Rec. Rk 5-Yr Rec. Rk 2014 TO Luck/Gm Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)
2014 2nd-order wins
Boise State 12-2 (7-1) 21 11 62 69 +0.7 17 (8, 9) 11.0 (+1.0)
Utah State 10-4 (6-2) 52 49 105 103 +1.8 15 (8, 7) 11.0 (-1.0)
Colorado State 10-3 (6-2) 49 103 89 87 +1.1 13 (6, 7) 8.8 (+1.2)
Air Force 10-3 (5-3) 48 83 124 121 +0.2 11 (7, 4) 9.4 (+0.6)
New Mexico 4-8 (2-6) 94 124 113 101 -0.3 14 (7, 7) 4.1 (-0.1)
Wyoming 4-8 (2-6) 113 111 116 112 -0.6 12 (6, 6) 2.8 (+1.2)

MWC West

Team 2014 Record (Conf.) 2014 F/+ Rk 5-Yr F/+ Rk 2-Yr Rec. Rk 5-Yr Rec. Rk 2014 TO Luck/Gm Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)
2014 2nd-order wins
San Diego State 7-6 (5-3) 76 54 74 74 +0.5 14 (7, 7) 8.6 (-1.6)
San Jose State 3-9 (2-6) 116 84 77 95 -3.5 15 (9, 6) 4.1 (-1.1)
Nevada 7-6 (4-4) 64 58 96 98 +1.2 12 (6, 6) 6.4 (+0.6)
Fresno State 6-8 (5-3) 102 67 75 82 -2.4 11 (6, 5) 6.0 (+0.0)
Hawaii 4-9 (3-5) 111 99 118 102 -0.1 13 (7, 6) 2.7 (+1.3)
UNLV 2-11 (1-7) 118 120 108 105 -1.3 11 (6, 5) 2.8 (-0.8)