The Boise State football team is three wins away from staging the Mountain West championship game on the blue turf for the second straight year.
And if that happens, the site could be the source of at least a little controversy.
Boise State (7-2) is 4-1 in Mountain West play this season, tied for first in the Mountain Division with Air Force. San Diego State (6-3) is 5-0, holding a two-game lead in the West Division. The Broncos and Aztecs don’t meet during the regular season.
For deciding which division winner hosts the championship game, the Mountain West decided to reward the highest-ranked team rather than the one with the best conference record.
Boise State has an average ranking of 40.5 in the four computers the Mountain West will utilize in the likely event that neither title game participant is ranked by the College Football Playoff selection committee as of Nov. 24. San Diego State’s average ranking is 59.75.
San Diego State’s remaining opponents have a combined record of 9-19, so there’s little opportunity for the Aztecs to climb. Boise State’s opponents have a record of 15-12.
The Mountain West chose the “highest ranked” method to increase the chances of the league champion earning the lucrative New Year’s Six bowl bid available to the highest-ranked Group of Five champion. Boise State is a long shot, but it is the only Mountain West team that appears to have a chance to compete with the American conference champion for the New Year’s Six bid this year. The American has four Top 25 teams.
The MW championship site will be announced no later than the morning of Sunday, Nov. 29 — the day after the regular season ends. If one of the teams is ranked in the Nov. 24 CFP poll and wins that weekend, it will host. Otherwise, the conference will use the average of the Colley, Billingsley, Wolfe and Anderson & Hester computer rankings on Nov. 29.
Boise State is ranked as high as 30th and as low as 45th in those four this week. San Diego State’s ranking ranges from 53rd to 67th. The teams are at least 15 spots apart in each ranking.
The Broncos play New Mexico on Saturday and Air Force on Nov. 20 at home and San Jose State on Nov. 27 on the road. They control their destiny in the Mountain Division because Utah State lost to New Mexico on Saturday, the Aggies’ second loss in three games since upsetting Boise State.
In fact, if Boise State wins and Air Force beats Utah State this week, the division title will be decided by next week’s Broncos-Falcons contest.
Coach Bryan Harsin said the Broncos’ suddenly rosy championship prospects didn’t affect the team.
“Honestly, the mood hasn’t changed from that standpoint because we believed if we keep doing what we’re doing and stick with that mentality we would put ourselves in position to have a chance,” he said. “It’s come a little earlier, but the mindset hasn’t changed. We’re focused on New Mexico. That’s all we can control.”
Half-price ticket deal
Boise State will sell tickets to Saturday’s game against New Mexico at half-price Wednesday to celebrate Veterans Day.
The sale runs from 12:01 a.m. to midnight.
The Broncos play the Lobos (5-4, 3-2) at 8:15 p.m. at Albertsons Stadium. The game will air on ESPNU. The Broncos also are staging a blackout.
Injuries still a factor
Harsin met with the media Monday for the first time since his postgame press conference Oct. 31 at UNLV. He didn’t have much good news on the personnel front coming off the bye.
▪ Quarterback Ryan Finley (broken ankle), safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (broken ankle), cornerback Donte Deayon (knee) and left tackle Rees Odhiambo (broken ankle) aren’t available to play this week, Harsin said. He was non-committal on the status of players who hadn’t had surgery, like middle linebacker Tanner Vallejo. Vallejo has missed the past two games.
▪ Defensive tackle Antoine Turner “most likely” won’t play this season, Harsin said. Turner has missed all season because of academic-eligibility issues. The situation hasn’t been finalized, Harsin said. This is Turner’s final year of eligibility.
▪ Senior nickel Mercy Maston will play this week, Harsin said. Maston didn’t travel to the UNLV game for disciplinary reasons, he said.
The Broncos’ break
Boise State practiced Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday during the bye. The Thursday practice was run by Harsin and the graduate assistants with the full-time assistants out recruiting.
“I still don’t know how it helps us at this point yet,” Harsin said of the long-awaited break. “We’ve got to figure that out. Some of our guys got to go home and see their families. That helps. ... Sunday night, there was great energy. I fully expect tomorrow’s practice to be better than it’s ever been.”
By the numbers
Here’s where Boise State, Air Force and San Diego State stand in the computer rankings the Mountain West will use if necessary to determine the title game host:
Anderson & Hester
New Mexico at Boise State
▪ When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
▪ Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
▪ TV: ESPNU (Mike Corey, David Diaz-Infante)
▪ Radio: KBOI (670 AM), KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
▪ Records: Boise State is 7-2, 4-1 Mountain West; New Mexico is 5-4, 3-2.
▪ Series: Boise State leads 6-0 (Broncos won 60-49 in 2014 in Albuquerque).
▪ Vegas line: Boise State by 30