Ten years ago, when Boise State made the conversation to break through college football barriers en route to an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, it was considered historic.
Today, after three Fiesta Bowl victories, it’s considered a down season if the Broncos aren’t mentioned for a big-time bowl game.
It’s fitting then, in a week where Boise State is honoring its undefeated 2006 team that beat Oklahoma in that famous Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos are back in the driver’s seat with a chance to do it all again.
Thanks to then-No. 6 Houston’s loss at Navy on Saturday, Boise State is the front-runner to get the Group of Five conferences’ automatic bid to a New Year’s Six bowl, which would be the Cotton Bowl this season.
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The Cotton Bowl is the Group of Five’s postseason destination (if no teams make the four-team College Football Playoff) because the Fiesta and Peach are hosting national semifinals, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange have contracts with Power Five conferences to fill their spots.
“If we don’t take care of our own business, none of that stuff matters,” Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said Monday. “I tend not to put too much emphasis on that right now, but I’m happy. Who wouldn’t be?”
Boise State (5-0, 2-0 Mountain West) moved up to No. 15 in the Associated Press and Coaches polls Monday, its highest ranking since ending the 2011 season No. 8.
Houston (5-1), of the American Athletic Conference, is ahead of the Broncos at No. 12 in the Coaches Poll and No. 13 in the AP, but the Cougars need to win the AAC to be considered for the automatic spot, which means they need Navy to lose twice. Two other Group of Five teams are ranked: Western Michigan (24) and Navy (25).
The Broncos know there is no ignoring the chatter, even this early in the season. There are seven regular-season games remaining, a potential appearance in the Mountain West Championship game, and we’re still three weeks away from the first College Football Playoff rankings being released (Nov. 1).
Still, the message to players: Focus.
“We talked about it the other day. Coach (Bryan) Harsin, in a team meeting, he just said, ‘You’ve got to block out all that outside noise, try to avoid patting yourself on the back, especially too early,’ ” senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck said.
The focus starts with Saturday’s home game against Colorado State (8:15 p.m., ESPN2). The Rams (3-3, 1-1) ended a two-game losing streak Saturday when they scored the final 21 points to beat Utah State 31-24 in Fort Collins. It certainly will keep the Broncos focused, not looking ahead to a nonconference revenge tilt five days later against BYU.
“We’ve been burned before doing that,” linebacker Darren Lee said.
The cliche of “one game at a time” has been mentioned all season, of course, but facing different styles each week, from Washington State’s 71 pass attempts to New Mexico’s 61 rushes, has forced the Broncos to focus on each game.
Senior linebacker Tanner Vallejo said after the 49-21 win at New Mexico, “I think in the past we might have underestimated a team or two looking forward to ‘bigger’ games.”
Senior defensive end Sam McCaskill said, “Having something to prove every single day has been huge for us.
“Talking about the rankings, in years where we’ve slipped up, people have kind of gotten caught up in that, being like, ‘If we keep doing this, we’ll make it to a big bowl game at the end of the year,’ and start thinking forward and forward,” McCaskill said. “You can’t get anywhere else unless you take care of this week.”
RYPIEN EARNS MW HONOR
For the third consecutive week, a Bronco was named Mountain West offensive player of the week Monday. Sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien completed 21-of-28 passes for 391 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in Friday’s 49-21 win at New Mexico. Rypien had all but 23 of those yards by halftime. He was playing his first game since his paternal grandmother died, a month after he lost his maternal grandmother.
Junior running back Jeremy McNichols was the two-time reigning MW player of the week.
HOMECOMING, FIESTA FESTIVITIES
The return of the first Fiesta Bowl team coincides with homecoming this week at Boise State. For the first time, the State Capitol will be lit up in blue and orange Friday night, while more than 30 downtown businesses have signed up to create Boise State-themed displays.
On Saturday, the homecoming parade begins at 5 p.m. at the Morrison Center parking lot and will head east on University Drive to Broadway Avenue. Approximately 45 players from the 2006 team have RSVP’d and will join the current Broncos on their pregame Bronco Walk.
Players from the Fiesta Bowl team will be honored at halftime.
Colorado State at No. 15 Boise State
- When: 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday
- Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
- TV: ESPN2 (Mark Neely, Ray Bentley, Cole Cubelic)
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
- Records: Boise State 5-0, 2-0 Mountain West; Colorado State 3-3, 1-1
- Kickoff weather: Low 60s, cloudy with slight winds and possible light rain
- Vegas line: Boise State by 31
- Series: Boise State leads 5-0 (won last meeting 41-10 in Fort Collins in 2015)
- Tickets: Boise State Athletic Director Curt Apsey said Monday afternoon that 5,500 tickets remain. Tickets are available at the Boise State ticket office, at broncosports.com/tickets or 208-426-4737.