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Computer rankings matter for Mountain West title game

If San Diego State beats UNR at home on Saturday, the Aztecs will take a perfect Mountain West record into the conference championship game the following weekend.

And almost certainly will have to play on the road.

That because Mountain Division champion Air Force (8-3, 6-1 MW) has a higher average computer ranking, and likely will retain that edge over the Aztecs (8-3, 7-0) after the regular season concludes Saturday.

It doesn’t seem right, but there’s a reason why the Mountain West uses computer rankings. The conference’s athletic directors decided it was important to increase the chances of sending a team to a New Year’s Six game by awarding the highest-ranked team with home-field advantage in the league title game.

But what about a season like this one in which the Mountain West won’t send a team? The conference records and other such tiebreakers should be put in place. San Diego State, should it beat UNR, deserves to host.

The Aztecs, though, need to take responsibility for their situation. They were the ones who lost at home to South Alabama and dropped early season games at California and Penn State.

Air Force’s two non-conference defeats were at Michigan State and Navy, losses that looked better as the season progressed. The Falcons are arguably the better team.

But they’re not the ones who deserve to host.

AROUND THE NATION — Give Ohio State coach Urban Meyer credit for how he handled a potentially explosive situation after star running back Ezekiel Elliott blamed the play-calling following the Buckeyes’ 17-14 loss to Michigan State. Meyer wasn’t happy Elliott chose to be so vocal just minutes after the loss, but understood where he was coming from. Elliott rushed just twice in the second half and 12 times overall. “I couldn’t disagree with his comments,” Meyer said. Play-calling has been a season-long issue, showing how much the Buckeyes miss Tom Herman, their offensive coordinator last season before becoming Houston’s coach. … There are 13 openings for head coaches at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, and there is growing speculation another will come open at Louisiana State with Les Miles being forced out. Even with no opening at LSU yet, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher already has been mentioned as a possible candidate. Fisher stuck to his policy of not to discussing potential job openings, but he noted the high turnover rate in his profession. “I’ve never seen a year like this year,” Fisher told ESPN.com. … The NCAA’s oversight committee met Monday to discuss guidelines on filling the 80 bowl slots should there be a shortage of bowl-eligible teams. So far, 71 teams have become bowl eligible.

AROUND THE MOUNTAIN WEST — Quarterback Kurt Palandech is listed first on UNLV’s depth chart for Saturday’s 11 a.m. PST game at Wyoming. Usual starter Blake Decker (hip and ankle) didn’t play in Saturday’s 52-14 loss to San Diego State, and he was listed as No. 3 for that game. Now he’s No. 2, so perhaps Decker has a greater chance of getting on the field. Coach Tony Sanchez will go into more detail at Tuesday’s weekly news conference. … Boise State has lost consecutive games in the same season for the first time since 2007. … Utah State’s 14-game home winning streak is third longest nationally, trailing only Florida State at 21 games and Clemson at 16. … Air Force’s five-game winning streak is its longest under ninth-year coach Troy Calhoun and its longest since winning six in a row in 2002.

LV BOWL UPDATE — Las Vegas Bowl executive director John Saccenti talks the game’s current picture. The bowl, which will be played Dec. 19 at Sam Boyd Stadium, has the first choice of the Mountain West or Brigham Young against the sixth selection of the Pac-12 Conference.

“Wow, that was fast. The matchup for the Mountain West conference championship was decided over the weekend when everything fell into place for Mountain Division champ Air Force and West Division champ San Diego State. The Falcons beat Boise State, New Mexico lost, the Wolf Pack lost and then the Aztecs won to stay unbeaten in league action. Suddenly, the only thing still up in the air is where the game will played on Dec. 5. … BYU, which of course will play in place of the MW team in either Hawaii or right here in Las Vegas, continued to take care of business with an easy win over Fresno State. The Cougars can improve to 9-3 with a road victory against in-state rival Utah State on Saturday. In the Pac-12, three teams sit atop the South Division standings but because of tiebreakers, we do know the winner will emerge from the USC versus UCLA game. That team will face North Division king Stanford in the league’s title game, which features a neutral setting at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. We get the sixth pick in the conference this year, and the South has plenty of teams our committee is looking at as five of the six teams are bowl eligible. Another game of interest is Arizona State at California as the winner finishes with momentum and a 7-5 overall record heading into the postseason.”

MY FINAL FOUR — I vote in the Sweet 16 Poll organized by the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.

Here is my top four:

1. Clemson. Headed toward Dec. 5 showdown with North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.

2. Alabama. The Crimson Tide are rolling, and coach Nick Saban’s news conferences are becoming must-see events.

3. Oklahoma. The Sooners are, gasp, winning big games.

4. Michigan State. The Spartans played well enough to beat Ohio State by two touchdowns.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65. He is first vice president of the Football Writers Association of America.

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