Boise State continues to play its best football of the season, while the American Athletic Conference continues to tighten its grip on the Group of Five berth in a New Year’s Six bowl.
The Broncos, winners of seven straight, are No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings, behind the AAC’s Central Florida and Memphis, at 15th and 20th, respectively.
For Boise State to have a shot at the New Year’s Six berth, it will likely need Memphis to lose to 3-8 East Carolina this week, then beat UCF or South Florida in the AAC championship. If South Florida beats UCF this week, the Bulls may jump Boise State if they go on to win the AAC, but it’s not guaranteed.
What is guaranteed is back-to-back games against Fresno State for the Broncos, starting Saturday, then in the Mountain West championship game. It would not be surprising if the Broncos win this week that they will be in Las Vegas regardless of how Dec. 2 goes.
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Here are our bowl projections for this week (last week’s are here):
Las Vegas (Dec. 16): Boise State vs. Arizona State
The Pac-12 has provided no shortage of possibilities for the game, as Oregon and Arizona State became bowl-eligible last week. Two games this weekend will be winner-in, loser-out in terms of getting to six wins: Cal-UCLA and Colorado-Utah. The conference already has seven bowl-eligible teams, so it will have nine when all is said and done. Las Vegas is the sixth slot. Right now, that’s the Sun Devils, 6-5 overall and 5-3 in conference. The Broncos played Arizona State in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl, which was Kellen Moore’s last collegiate game. Whoever loses the game between Arizona State and Arizona (7-4, 5-3) could be Vegas-bound, though the Cal-UCLA winner or Oregon could be on the radar.
New Mexico (Dec. 16): Utah State vs. Southern Miss
Frisco (Dec. 20): San Diego State vs. Memphis
Famous Idaho Potato (Dec. 22): Toledo vs. Fresno State
Hawaii (Dec. 24): Colorado State vs. North Texas
Arizona (Dec. 29): Wyoming vs. New Mexico State
Finally, the Mountain West has another bowl team with Utah State’s sixth win. But that creates an interesting scenario, since the conference has five bowl tie-ins. I placed San Diego State in Frisco, which will pair a team from the AAC with an at-large from another Group of Five conference. There isn’t a true pecking order in the AAC, so putting the Aztecs and Memphis together could be a great matchup. I moved Wyoming out of the Potato as Josh Allen may not play. If UNLV wins Saturday against rival Nevada, the Rebels will hit the six-win mark. Keep an eye on the Foster Farms bowl, which the Mountain West has a backup agreement with. If the Big Ten can’t fill all its slots, a Mountain West team will face one from the Pac-12. Seven teams are eligible, with at least one, and possibly two, getting there this weekend. As many as three Big Ten teams could be in the New Year’s Six, and Foster Farms could be sixth in the pecking order.
NEW YEAR’S SIX
Rose (Jan. 1, CFP semi): Oklahoma vs. Miami (Fla.)
Sugar (Jan. 1, CFP semi): Alabama vs. Wisconsin
Peach (Jan. 1): Georgia vs. UCF
Orange (Dec. 30): Clemson vs. Notre Dame
Fiesta (Dec. 30): USC vs. Ohio State
Cotton (Dec. 29): TCU vs. Auburn