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MW Notebook: Favorites to step forward this week

The Sports Xchange

October 11, 2015 at 7:28 pm.

Oct 10, 2015; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens (left)  is sacked by Boise State Broncos defensive lineman Kamalei Correa (8) during the college football game at Hughes Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Austin Humphreys/The Coloradoan via USA TODAY Sports

Oct 10, 2015; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Colorado State quarterback Nick Stevens (left) is sacked by Boise State Broncos defensive lineman Kamalei Correa (8) during the college football game at Hughes Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Austin Humphreys/The Coloradoan via USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West’s Mountain Division looks just as expected at the midway point of the regular season.

Boise State, Utah State and Air Force are tied for first place with 2-0 conference records.

Boise State, the preseason favorite and defending champion, and Utah State, the 2013 champion and preseason No. 2 choice, meet Friday night in Logan, Utah. The Aggies haven’t beaten the Broncos since 1997.

This is a prime opportunity for the Aggies because the Broncos are a little beat up and will play their second road game in six days.

“It’s really tough, and not against easy football teams either,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said after his team defeated Colorado State 41-10 on Saturday.

The West leader, as expected, is San Diego State at 2-0. But the Aztecs have looked vulnerable this season while San Jose State has surged. The Spartans picked up a key win last week at UNLV in overtime.

San Diego State will play at San Jose State on Saturday in a game that will determine the West front-runner.

AIR FORCE (3-2, 2-0)

Game: Air Force 31, Wyoming 17. The Falcons broke open the game with three touchdowns in less than seven minutes in the second half. They rushed for 211 yards in the half. Shayne Davern rushed for 130 yards, including a 46-yard TD, to lead the Air Force attack.

Takeaway: The Falcons played outstanding defense, not allowing a touchdown until the fourth quarter. They’ll need that type of play to beat division favorites Boise State and Utah State.

Next: at Colorado State, Oct. 17

BOISE STATE (5-1, 2-0)

Game: Boise State 41, Colorado State 10. The Broncos scored three first-half touchdowns on plays of more than 50 yards and continued to dominate on defense. They haven’t allowed a second-half point during their four-game win streak. True freshman QB Brett Rypien threw for more than 300 yards for the second time in his three starts, sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols scored two touchdowns to raise his national-best total to 14 and junior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck caught an 85-yard TD pass.

Takeaway: The Broncos didn’t play as clean of a game on offense or defense as they had in the previous three wins during their streak and still beat a decent opponent by 31 points on the road. They likely will be double-digit favorites the rest of the season.

Next: at Utah State, Oct. 16

COLORADO STATE (2-4, 0-2)

Game: Boise State 41, Colorado State 10. The Rams allowed three touchdown plays of longer than 50 yards in the first half and committed three turnovers on their way to a blowout loss. Starting quarterback Nick Stevens was benched after two ineffective series but freshman backup Coleman Key was just 5-for-19 for 56 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Takeaway: Stevens returned to the game late and completed eight of his last nine throws, so it doesn’t look like Key is the answer for the Rams. With Utah State and Boise State in the rearview mirror, the Rams should find more success.

Next: vs. Air Force, Oct. 17

FRESNO STATE (1-5, 0-3)

Game: Utah State 56, Fresno State 14. The Bulldogs tried their fourth starting quarterback of the season — redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson — and the results were disastrous on homecoming. The Bulldogs managed just 71 yards in the first half and 194 in the game. Anderson finished with 10 completions and three interceptions on 20 throws.

Takeaway: The Bulldogs lost their fifth straight — every game they’ve played against FBS teams this season. Coach Tim DeRuyter can’t find an effective quarterback and has little hope of getting this team to a bowl game.

Next: vs. UNLV, Oct. 16

HAWAII (2-4, 0-2)

Game: San Diego State 28, Hawaii 14. The Warriors’ offense broke out of its scoreless funk in the second half, but it was too late. They had gone 10 quarters without a point. QB Max Wittek was erratic again with 14-of-34 passing.

Takeaway: Wittek, a USC transfer, has shown that a strong arm doesn’t mean much if it’s inaccurate. He averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt against San Diego State. His backup, Ikaika Woolsey, was 5-for-5 but managed just 3.8 yards per attempt.

Next: at New Mexico, Oct. 17

NEVADA (3-3, 1-1)

Game: Nevada 35, New Mexico 17. The Wolf Pack pulled away with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after the Lobos pulled within 21-17 on a defensive touchdown. QB Tyler Stewart was 16-of-19 with two TDs and also rushed for a pair of TDs.

Takeaway: This could have been a season-ender for Nevada. The Wolf Pack outgained the Lobos 517-273 but found themselves in danger of losing because of a 77-yard fumble return for a TD in the fourth quarter. Unfazed, Stewart threw his two touchdown passes to seal the win.

Next: at Wyoming, Oct. 17

NEW MEXICO (3-3, 1-1)

Game: Nevada 35, New Mexico 17. Nias Martin returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to get the Lobos within 21-17 but the Wolf Pack answered with a TD pass less than two minutes later to rebuild their lead. Nevada outgained New Mexico 517-273.

Takeaway: The Lobos’ usually potent rushing attack managed just 135 yards. They also re-opened the QB debate as backup Austin Apodaca went 10-for-12 for 82 yards with an interception off the bench in the fourth quarter.

Next: vs. Hawaii, Oct. 17

SAN DIEGO STATE (3-3, 2-0)

Game: San Diego State 28, Hawaii 14. The Aztecs’ offense woke up with a 402-yard effort and a balanced attack at Hawaii. Tailback Donnel Pumphrey shook off an ankle injury to rush for 148 yards and three touchdowns while QB Maxwell Smith was an efficient 11-for-15 for 184 yards.

Takeaway: Pumphrey’s availability was a big boost for the Aztecs. He sustained an ankle sprain in the previous game and there was speculation he would miss at least one game.

Next: at San Jose State, Oct. 17

SAN JOSE STATE (3-3, 2-1)

Game: San Jose State 33, UNLV 27 (OT). Running back Tyler Ervin caught a go-ahead touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter and scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. In between, defensive end Isaiah Irving blocked UNLV’s overtime field goal attempt.

Takeaway: QB Kenny Potter returned from injury and was 30-for-48 for 329 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. As well as Joe Gray played while Potter was out, the Spartans have an enviable QB situation.

Next: vs. San Diego State, Oct. 17

UNLV (2-4, 1-1)

Game: San Jose State 33, UNLV 27 (OT). UNLV overcame a 20-10 deficit, took the lead in the fourth quarter, gave up a touchdown on fourth down and booted a tying field goal in the closing seconds. Then the Rebels were unable to score on their overtime possession, which allowed running back Tyler Ervin to score the winning TD.

Takeaway: The Rebels still could be a factor in the West Division race, particularly if quarterback Blake Decker returns healthy.

Next: at Fresno State, Oct. 16

UTAH STATE (3-2, 2-0)

Game: Utah State 56, Fresno State 14. Devante Mays and LaJuan Hunt combined for five rushing touchdowns and the Aggies defense stifled Fresno State’s fourth starting quarterback of the season.

Takeaway: The Aggies have fought back from a disappointing start to the season. The success of their 2015 campaign likely hinges on this week’s game against Boise State.

Next: vs. Boise State, Oct. 16

WYOMING (0-6, 0-2)

Game: Air Force 31, Wyoming 17. Star running back Brian Hill lost a pair of fumbles that proved costly. The Cowboys were in the game at halftime (down 7-3) but allowed three quick touchdowns in the second half, one after a Hill fumble, for their latest lopsided loss.

Takeaway: Wyoming is off to its worst start since 1939 with no relief in sight. The Cowboys committed four turnovers against Air Force — mistakes they just can’t afford.

Next: vs. Nevada, Oct. 17

FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 6 IN THE MW:

1. San Diego State could be back. The Aztecs looked like a mess early in the season but with an always-tricky win Saturday night at Hawaii they’re 2-0 in the West Division and back in the favorite’s role.

2. Boise State has a playmaking secondary. Senior safety Darian Thompson grabbed his 18th career interception to tie the Mountain West record — and that wasn’t the highlight for the DBs against Colorado State. Cornerback Jonathan Moxey made a leaping pass breakup in the corner of the end zone and caught the ball while he was on his back for an interception.

3. Utah State might be better off with Kent Myers. The Aggies went 5-1 with Myers as their starting quarterback last season. He’s 2-0 this year, since Chuckie Keeton was injured again. Myers’ one loss came against Boise State last year.

4. It’s about to get uncomfortable in Fresno. Coach Tim DeRuyter rode Derek Carr to a pair of Mountain West titles but has a losing record since Carr left for the NFL. The Bulldogs have been one of the worst teams in the country over the past two weeks.

5. Coach Tony Sanchez has put some fight into the Rebels. UNLV found a way to win with a struggling offense in the second half two weeks ago at Nevada and forced San Jose State into overtime on Saturday despite playing a backup quarterback. That’s a good sign for the rebuilding program.