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Boise State has risen to its expected perch atop the Mountain West Conference behind the play of a true freshman quarterback who started the season as a backup.

After Ryan Finley suffered a broken ankle Sept. 18 against Idaho State, Brett Rypien got his chance. He's taken full advantage of the opportunity, leading the the Broncos to eye-popping wins over Virginia (56-14) and Hawaii (55-0).

Since coming off the bench, Rypien has completed 51 of 69 passes for 718 yards and six touchdowns. His rating of 190.02 would rank him third in the country, if he'd played enough games to qualify.

Given Rypien's success, reporters asked coach Brian Harsin if he should have been No. 1 all along, especially because of the way Finley struggled in a 35-26 loss at BYU the third week of the season.

"Let me be clear on this," Harsin said. "Ryan Finley was the clear starter coming out of fall camp. We felt like Brett could play, but we made our decision and the hard thing right now is to speculate. Ryan's not playing. Brett is. ... Right now, [Rypien] is playing well and doing a nice job."

According to Harsin, Rypien has made huge improvement since August.

"Just more throws, more opportunities to hear the same coaching points, more reps," Harsin said. "… He's throwing the ball really well. Physically, he has just gotten better. That's what you're seeing out there, the ball coming out of his hand — he's more consistent with his mechanics. That's showing up."

Around the Mountain

• Air Force, already hard hit by injuries, lost four more players in its 33-11 loss at Navy. At least two — nose guard David Harris and linebacker Connor Healy — won't play Saturday against Wyoming. In all, the Falcons will be without seven starters. Said linebacker Dexter Walker, "We have players who can play. It's their time. It's like I was just telling some guys, 'It's your opportunity and opportunities only come every once in a while. You've got to take advantage of it.' "

• Coach Bob Davie's record at New Mexico improved to 14-28 after the Lobos rallied for a 38-29 win over New Mexico State. Interestingly, none of those 14 victories have come over teams that finished the season with a winning record. Asked about his lack of a "signature win" Davie said, "I think we've had a couple. I think, certainly, beating New Mexico State [qualifies]. I think beating New Mexico State four straight years is probably pretty much of a signature." Since 2010, the Aggies' record is 11-54.

• Winless Wyoming has many problems, but red zone production is one of the most glaring. The Cowboys, who are 0-5, have converted only 10 of their 19 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. That's the worst conversion rate in the country. In last week's 31-13 loss at Appalachian State, Wyoming trailed 7-0 in the first quarter when quarterback Cameron Coffman threw an interception that was returned 91 yards for a touchdown. "We all need to lock into our assignments and get the job done," said coach Craig Bohl. "We're not doing that."

• Mountain West teams are 16-30 against non-conference opponents with five games remaining. San Jose State had a chance to improve that record last week at Auburn, where the Spartans out-gained the Tigers and matched them physically. But San Jose State turned the ball over four times, costing the Spartans a chance for an upset as Auburn won 35-21. "We're continuing to climb the mountain," coach Ron Caragher said. "I told them that we have taken another step. It just didn't show up in the final score or the win-loss."

Twitter: @sluhm —

Power Rankings

Mountain West

1 • Boise State (4-1)

Rolling with a freshman QB

2 • Utah State (2-2)

Myers jump-starts offense

3 • San Jose State (2-3)

MWC's most balanced offense

4 • Air Force (2-2)

Key injuries piling up

5 • Colorado State (2-3)

Plagued by turnovers, penalties

6 • New Mexico (3-2)

Bowl talk starts in Albuquerque

7 • UNLV (2-3)

Suddenly looks like a contender

8 • Nevada (2-3)

Tries to bounce back vs. Lobos

9 • Hawaii (2-3)

Three losses to top-25 opponents

10 • San Diego State (2-3)

Defense held up in Fresno win

11 • Fresno State (1-4)

'Dogs have dropped four straight

12 • Wyoming (0-5)

Red zone scoring: Last nationally