Boise State’s path to a New Year’s Six bowl game has been laid out.
On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff selection committee released its first top 25 rankings of the season. The Broncos (7-1, 4-0 Mountain West) landed at No. 22, right in the middle of a pack of Group of Five teams vying for a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
Now that they know where they stand in the eyes of the committee, the Broncos’ next step toward a trip to Arlington, Texas, is a Mountain West championship.
The highest-ranked conference champion from the Group of Five earns the New Year’s Six bid. That requirement could work out in Boise State’s favor because Cincinnati and Memphis — Nos. 20 and 21 in the CFP poll, respectively — end the regular season against one another and could play again a week later in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Cincinnati also has a couple of potential trap games left at USF (Nov. 16) and at home against Temple (Nov. 23), which is the only team this season that has a win over Memphis.
The Broncos are very much in the driver’s seat to host the Mountain West championship game on Dec. 7 if they remain atop the Mountain Division standings. Their top competition at this point comes from San Diego State (7-1, 4-1), which sits atop the West Division. The division champ with the best conference record hosts the championship game.
If there’s a tie in determining the host, the initial tiebreaker is head-to-head results, which wouldn’t factor into this equation because the Broncos and Aztecs don’t meet this season. If Boise State and San Diego State have identical records, it would come down to which team is ranked highest in the final CFP poll and wins in the final week of the regular season or the team with the highest computer ratings. San Diego State did not make the top 25 in Tuesday’s initial CFP rankings.
Within the Mountain Division, Boise State’s top competition is Utah State (4-4, 3-1), which owns a 23-17 win over San Diego State and hosts the Broncos on Nov. 23. Wyoming (6-2, 3-1) and Air Force (7-2, 4-1) are not out of the running, but even after this weekend’s game in Albertsons Stadium, the Cowboys face a difficult schedule with Utah State and Air Force remaining.
Air Force has a loss to Boise State on its record, which means it might need the Broncos to lose twice to win the division.
If there is a tie in determining divisional champions, the first consideration is head-to-head competition. In a three-way tie in which the teams split against each other (Boise State, Utah State and Air Force at 7-1, for example), the tiebreaker goes to winning percentage in games played within the division (wouldn’t be a factor), then to winning percentage against the next highest-ranked team in the division (wouldn’t be a factor) and finally winning percentage against common conference opponents (wouldn’t be a factor). So in that case, the top two teams would be determined by CFP rankings (if available) or computer ratings, and the head-to-head winner between those two would prevail. That tiebreaker currently favors Boise State, but that could change if Air Force sneaks into the CFP rankings.
Of course, Boise State can keep it simple by winning its final four conference games.
Cowboys protect the ball
When Wyoming comes to town on Saturday (8:15 p.m., ESPN), it will mark Boise State’s second straight game against a team ranked in the top 10 nationally in turnover margin.
The Cowboys are tied with Cincinnati at No. 8 in the country with a 1.0 turnover margin. Wyoming’s offense is predicated on the running game, but quarterback Sean Chambers was intercepted just three times before going down two weeks ago with a season-ending knee injury and the Cowboys have lost just two fumbles all season.
Last weekend, Boise State had to rally on the road to beat San Jose State, which was ranked No. 2 in the country in turnover margin. The Spartans have since fallen to No. 4 with a 1.33 margin.
‘He’s a big rascal’
Like most teams, Wyoming takes on the personality of its coach, Craig Bohl — a throwback to football’s olden days when violent collisions were welcomed. The Cowboys’ offense is powered by a physical running game, which ranks No. 14 in the country with 239.4 yards a game. The defense has made its name by stopping the run and also ranks No. 14 nationally, giving up 98.4 yards a game.
But after finding out this week that Chambers will end his second season in a row on the sideline with an injury, even Bohl may be softening a bit.
“It’s hard for me to see a quarterback run out of bounds, but I’ve got to take a look at that and maybe I’ve got to change,” Bohl said Monday during his weekly press conference. “I’ve always told him don’t slide, but we probably need to slide a little bit more.”
During the press conference, Bohl’s personality was on full display. On the veterans along Boise State’s offensive line, he said, “They’re shaving and we aren’t.”
And when the topic of the Mountain West’s all-time sacks leader, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, came up, he said, “He’s a big rascal out there, and he plays really aggressive.”
Back on the Blue
The last time Wyoming was in Albertsons Stadium was 2017. The Cowboys played two games on the Broncos’ blue turf that year. They dropped a regular-season meeting to Boise State and beat Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. On Monday, Bohl said he lodged a few complaints before the bowl game about the state of the turf and its impact on the game.
Bohl said his first issue was with the Broncos wearing all blue uniforms on a field that was also blue.
“It was kind of hard to see those guys,” said Bohl, adding that it’s still better than playing on Eastern Washington’s red turf. “I felt like I had gone to the optometrist. I couldn’t see anything because it was all red.”
Boise State has announced it will wear all black uniforms on Saturday.
The Cowboys also complained in 2017 about how hard the playing surface was and how some of the yard lines near the sideline were curved. Bohl was happy to report Monday that new turf was installed this year. Unfortunately, he said, it’s still blue.
“It’s blue but I’m just happy it’s new turf,” Bohl said. “I would rather have all our colleges be on green, but that’s me. I’m a traditionalist.”
Boise State is 12-1 all-time against Wyoming, and the Broncos never have lost to the Cowboys in Albertsons Stadium.
WYOMING AT NO. 21 BOISE STATE
When: 8:15 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,367 turf), Boise
TV: ESPN (Roy Philpott, Kelly Stouffer, Lauren Sisler)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State is 7-1 overall, 4-0 Mountain West; Wyoming 6-2, 3-1
Series: Boise State leads 12-1 (last meeting: Boise State won 34-14 in 2018 in Laramie, Wyoming)
Vegas line: Boise State by 13
Weather: 59 degrees, mostly sunny, 5 mph wind
Mountain West standings
|San Diego State||4-1||7-1|
|San Jose State||1-4||4-5|