It seemed so unlikely a month ago that the Boise State football team would be in firm control of the Mountain West’s championship race in early November.
But after a second straight complete performance — a 41-14 win against Nevada on Saturday at Albertsons Stadium — the Broncos are two wins away from clinching the Mountain Division title. They have three games left. They can lose any one of the three and still win the division.
“We’ve been here before,” coach Bryan Harsin said, remembering key November losses the past two seasons. “We control nothing other than what we do this week, and that’s it. That’s exactly what I’m trying to make sure our guys avoid is, ‘Yeah, we can do the minimum.’ ... That’s not how we want to operate.”
The Broncos improved to 7-2 overall and 5-0 in the Mountain West with their fifth straight win. Wyoming beat Colorado State on Saturday and is the only one-loss team in the Mountain Division. That loss came at Boise State, so the Broncos hold the tiebreaker.
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And with Fresno State leading the West Division, there’s a good chance the title game will be in Boise, as it was in 2014 — the only time the Broncos have won a division they were expected to dominate when the conference split into divisions in 2013.
First up for Boise State is a trip to Colorado State for next Saturday’s game. This is the game that was supposed to define the Broncos’ conference season — a road game against a team that was a trendy pick to win the Mountain Division. But the Rams have fallen flat during the same stretch in which Boise State has gotten hot, ever since the calendar flipped to October.
If that really is the most difficult game left on Boise State’s schedule, the Broncos are perfectly positioned to play it. They’ve shown an ability to dominate on the road, winning at BYU, San Diego State and Utah State in October, and the long-dormant offense has come to life with back-to-back 40-point performances.
“These last two or three games, we’ve been clicking on all cylinders — offense, defense and special teams,” safety DeAndre Pierce said. “It’s something that we’ve got to keep working on each and every week.”
The last two games actually could be more difficult — a home game against Air Force, which has beaten Boise State three straight times, and a road game at Fresno State.
But if the Broncos keep improving and playing the smart, fundamentally sound football that has been the basis for this hot streak, the Mountain Division should be theirs.
“Even during the couple losses, I still think we got better in areas,” junior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “There’s things maybe the outside world can’t see. We come back and watch film and we’re getting better — getting better in the run game, getting better in pass protection, routes are being run better, I’m obviously gaining more confidence in distributing the ball, which I needed to do. ... The commitment to that has been our key on offense the last few weeks especially.”