Study: Common factors in the last 5 Mountain West champions

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday June 26, 2017

How do you win the Mountain West? Take a look at what the last five league champions have done against Mountain West opponents (rank).

*(Note: Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State were co-champions in 2012, but I went with the highest-ranked team. The last four years have included a title game)

- Every champion led in scoring defense or scoring offense. Each team had a calling card. The SDSU teams and 2012 Boise were led by the defenses.

- Four of the five champions were in the top 3 in turnover margin, and none had a negative margin.

- All five teams finished in the top 4 in rushing defense and third down defense

- The past three teams had a top-3 rusher in the league. SDSU had Donnel Pumphrey in the top 3 for the past three years, and Boise State had Jay Ajayi at No. 2 in 2014.

- None of the teams were very good in the red zone, save for Boise State’s 2012 defense and 2014 offense.

- Here were the one-possession conference games each team had. 

2016 SDSU
34-33 loss at Wyoming
27-24 win vs. Wyoming (MWC title game)

2015 SDSU
27-24 win vs. Air Force

2013 Fresno State
41-40 win vs. Boise State
42-37 win at Hawaii
35-28 (OT) win at SDSU
24-17 win vs. Utah State

2012 Boise State
32-29 win at New Mexico
21-19 loss vs. SDSU
27-21 win at Nevada

- What’s in store for 2017? SDSU and Boise haven’t met in the past two years. They face off on Oct. 14 in San Diego this year. Every Mountain West team returns its starting QB, except for San Jose State. SDSU only has 11 returning starters, but New Mexico (10), Boise State (9) and Air Force (7) return even fewer. Colorado State has 15 returning starters, including nine on defense in Mike Bobo’s third year.

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to