The College Football Playoff semifinals are set: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl, and No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Both games are Dec. 31.
The Idaho Vandals could play in front of plenty of friendly faces in their bowl game.
The (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star is reporting that Idaho was initially set to play Air Force in Dec. 30’s Arizona Bowl, but ESPN, which owns the Dec. 22 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise stepped in. The bowl prefers to keep the Vandals in-state, and would set up a matchup with Colorado State. Idaho has played in two other bowl games in its history, both in the Boise-based bowl (1998 and 2009). Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel also reported the Vandals will play in the bowl.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl director Kevin McDonald would not confirm a matchup is set, saying via text message “too much can still happen as things in other games start to fill.”
ESPN’s Brett McMurphy is reporting that the winner of the Mountain West championship between San Diego State and Wyoming will head to the Las Vegas Bowl against Houston. McMurphy also said Mississippi State will face Miami (Ohio) in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Idaho would be taking the MAC’s spot in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, so Miami, out of the MAC, has found a spot outside the conference’s usual structure, allowing the MAC’s bowls outside of Boise to be filled.
Idaho defeated Georgia State 37-12 on Saturday at the Kibbie Dome, improving to 8-4. The Vandals’ eight regular season wins are the most since they also had eight in 1998. Don’t expect the bowl to be an in-state matchup, as Boise State’s brass has expressed a desire to not play Idaho. Colorado State (7-5) won four of its last five games by 19, 37, 18 and 32 points.
▪ Some games of importance for Boise State’s possible bowl destination are Kansas State’s 30-6 win over TCU, West Virginia’s 24-21 win over Baylor, and of course the Mountain West championship between San Diego State and Wyoming (5:45 p.m., ESPN). Baylor, at 6-6, will likely be the last Big 12 team picked in the bowl process, putting them in the Cactus.
▪ ESPN will host its bowl announcement show at 10 a.m. Sunday, the Broncos’ bowl destination will come then at the latest.
▪ Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reported Saturday morning that Boise State coach Bryan Harsin has spoken to Oregon officials in Texas. He did not specifically say it was a formal interview, but Harsin has been recruiting in Texas this week.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl signed a contract extension through 2023, announced Friday. Read here for the details. The new deal will pay him slightly less than Harsin. If the Oregon dalliance is serious, don’t be surprised if Boise State tries to get proactive.
▪ The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle spoke with Cowboys Athletic Director Tom Burman, who said if Wyoming wins the Mountain West championship, it will play in the Las Vegas Bowl, and if it loses, “99 percent” it will play in the Poinsettia against BYU.
▪ Boise State will host its annual football banquet at noon Sunday. You can still get tickets here. The Scout Team Players of the Year will be announced among the awards. Some names I’ve heard that have been impressive among the redshirting freshmen: outside linebacker Desmond Williams, safety Jordan Happle, offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland and tight end John Bates.
▪ Two Boise State commits played in big playoff games Friday. Tyreque Jones had a touchdown catch as San Gorgonio High won its first CIF title in California, and Cartrell Thomas had three touchdowns in a loss for Lancaster High in the Texas 5A quarterfinals.
Here are my bowl projections (you can read more below), along with the New Years Six:
Peach (Dec. 31): Alabama vs. Penn State
Fiesta (Dec. 31): Washington vs. Clemson
Rose (Jan.2): Ohio State vs. USC
Sugar (Jan. 2): Auburn vs. Oklahoma
Orange (Dec. 30): Florida State vs. Michigan
Cotton (Jan. 2): Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan
MOUNTAIN WEST BOWLS
Las Vegas (Dec. 17): San Diego State vs. Houston
New Mexico (Dec. 17): New Mexico vs. Texas-San Antonio
Poinsettia (Dec. 21): Wyoming vs. BYU
Famous Idaho Potato (Dec. 22): Colorado State vs. Idaho
Hawaii (Dec. 24): Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee
Cactus (Dec. 27): Boise State vs. Baylor; more bowl info here
Arizona (Dec. 30): Air Force vs. South Alabama
Playing a bowl game in the Phoenix area has been good to the Boise State football team, and if reading the tea leaves as they appear, the Broncos could be headed back to the desert.
The Pac-12’s inability to fill all of its bowl slots has created a vacancy in the Dec. 27 Cactus Bowl, and the Mountain West is the backup option. The bowl will select second after the Las Vegas Bowl.
Bowl games will be finalized Sunday.
Many expect the winner of Saturday’s Mountain West championship between Wyoming and San Diego State to be selected to play in Las Vegas, though it is not obligated to take the winner. There are still no concrete fits for anyone, as the Pac-12 also won’t likely fill the Las Vegas Bowl, so the opponent there is unknown.
If Western Michigan doesn’t reach the Cotton Bowl, the Broncos are expected to be shopped around by ESPN-owned bowls. Las Vegas is one, and a matchup of Boise State, the kings of the Group of Five, against Western Michigan might be too much to pass up.
Speaking to KTIK 93.1 FM on Thursday, Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey addressed the bowl games. He said the date of the bowl game is important, but the experience is paramount (when, where and who).
Apsey said the Cactus Bowl date is not the most convenient, as the team would have to leave on Christmas Eve for Arizona, but did say a new experience is something the department looks at. A dozen players on the roster redshirted in 2012 the last time the Broncos played in Las Vegas, so a majority have not been there, either.
All that being said, for my projections, let’s assume San Diego State wins the conference (they are favorites despite playing at Wyoming) and Las Vegas can attract a Power Five team.
Air Force, at 9-3, would prefer playing in one of the upper-tier bowls, and the Poinsettia makes sense, but Wyoming would draw and has played BYU 77 times, but not since 2010, reviving an old matchup.
There also is the possibility the champion would prefer to play BYU instead of a 5-7 team like Mississippi State in Vegas.
▪ Las Vegas (Dec. 17): San Diego State vs. Mississippi State
▪ New Mexico (Dec. 17): New Mexico vs. Texas-San Antonio
▪ Poinsettia (Dec. 21): Wyoming vs. BYU
▪ Famous Idaho Potato (Dec. 22): Colorado State vs. Central Michigan
▪ Hawaii (Dec. 24): Hawaii vs. Middle Tennessee
▪ Cactus (Dec. 27): Boise State vs. Baylor
▪ Arizona (Dec. 30): Air Force vs. Idaho
A few notes: I slotted Mississippi State into Las Vegas, as at least two 5-7 teams will be needed to fill bowls, and the Bulldogs’ APR is second-best among them. ... New Mexico coach Bob Davie said last month he prefers to play a bowl at home. ... Colorado State (7-5) has never played in the Boise-based bowl game, while Air Force did in 2014. ... Hawaii (6-7) is not technically bowl eligible, but it will be picked before the 5-7 teams, so the Warriors are in. ... I previously had Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl, and it still is possible, though I had that when a Pac-12 team was possible. The Broncos still could wind up there, one possibility if San Diego State wins the MW but pushes to play BYU at home, thus sending Wyoming to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and allowing Air Force to face a Power Five team in the Cactus. ... I’ve also heard from multiple Boise State sources a bowl matchup with Idaho is extremely unlikely. ... Some wondered if Baylor would accept a bowl bid, but Athletic Director Mack Rhoades said the Bears would. A tumultuous year, a coach turning down the coaching vacancy, and possibly going into the bowl with six straight losses, one Dallas-area paper said they shouldn’t.
For fun, here are some other outlets’ bowl projections for Boise State:
ESPN: Cactus vs. Baylor
CBS Sports: Cactus vs. Baylor
Fox Sports: Las Vegas vs. Mississippi State
Sporting News: Famous Idaho Potato vs. Miami (Ohio)
Sports Illustrated: Famous Idaho Potato vs. Ohio