There is only one weekend left before the CFP selection committee sits down to decide not just which four teams will comprise the inaugural College Football Playoff but also which of the Group of Five champions is going to earn the first long-sought guaranteed bid into one of the non-playoff New Year’s games. And with the goal in reach, several top contenders stumbled in their penultimate challenges to winnow down the field.
Standing atop the heap after the dust settled on a Thanksgiving weekend of football was a familiar face. After being overshadowed by teams like East Carolina, Colorado State, and Marshall throughout the season, the team with the best shot of representing the mid-majors against the powerhouses during the bowl season is Boise State. An opening loss to Ole Miss didn’t look as bad by the end of the year, and the Broncos survived an early conference loss to Air Force to move on to hosting the MWC Championship Game.
It only seems fitting that, in the first year where even two losses are not a death sentence for the big-game dreams of a mid-major, the Broncos would manage to put themselves in position to make the cut. The irony is that, had this guaranteed access point existed during the BCS era, Boise State probably still would have only reached two Fiesta Bowls.
After all, when they were passed up by the BCS for a bowl berth despite undefeated seasons in 2004 and 2008, it was because they were still in the Western Athletic Conference and had been passed up by undefeated seasons by a Utah team that was then still in the Mountain West. The same thing happened in 2010, when it was TCU that made the grade instead of the Broncos. The same would have happened in 2011, when the Horned Frogs beat Boise head-to-head for the league title in the latter’s first MWC season.
No team won more games during the first decade of the 21st century in college football. Since making the transition from I-AA football in 1996, the Broncos have had 12 different seasons with 10 or more victories. Boise has claimed at least a share of 11 conference titles between their stints in the Big West, WAC, and MWC — and could make it an even dozen in less than two decades of top-flight football. They have succeeded through a slew of coaching changes, with guys like Houston Nutt, Dirk Koetter, and Dan Hawkins cycling through Idaho’s capital city prior to the Petersen era. And now Bryan Harsin continues the tradition.
All it is going to take is a win over San Diego State for the Broncos to return to one of the major bowl games. But if they stumble against the Aztecs next Saturday, where do the other contenders fit in the pecking order? Click ahead to read more about where the top teams rank in the race for the Access Bowl bid that will be handed out in nine days as we break down this week’s CFP Mid-Major Power Rankings…
(CORRECTION: The original posting of this article listed San Diego State as Boise State’s opponent in the MWC Championship Game. The rankings have been corrected to reflect this error.)