By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
WHERE WILL BRONCOS GO BOWLING?
I talked to several bowl directors this week and the consensus is this: Nobody knows who’s going where in the Mountain West. There are so many scenarios tied to this week’s games — plus Fresno State’s possible BCS bid — that it’s impossible to sort it out. That said, I’m going to try.
First of all, there’s the Fresno State question. Northern Illinois jumped to No. 14 this week to get ahead of No. 16 Fresno State in the BCS standings.
Will it last? BCS analyst Jerry Palm wrote this week that he thinks Fresno State eventually will get back in front of Northern Illinois if it wins out — as long as the voters stick with the Bulldogs.
Fresno State plays at 5-6 San Jose State on Friday and will get Utah State or Boise State in the Mountain West championship game. That team likely will be 8-4.
Northern Illinois beat 1-11 Western Michigan this week. The Huskies will play Buffalo or Bowling Green in the MAC championship game. That team will be 9-3.
Then there’s the question of who will be bowl eligible in the Mountain West. Here’s where it stands:
Fresno State (10-0)
San Diego State (7-4)
Utah State (7-4)
Boise State (7-4)
Win and in:
San Jose State (5-6 vs. Fresno State)
Wyoming (5-6 at Utah State)
Colorado State (6-6 vs. Air Force)
If the week goes according to the odds, Colorado State will get eligible and San Jose State and Wyoming will fall short. That would add another complication — if Fresno State goes to the BCS, the Mountain West will not fill all six of its bowl tie-ins. It’s unclear which game would be left open.
So here’s what I think would happen if Fresno State makes the BCS and if Fresno State does not:
Fresno State in BCS
Fiesta Bowl (vs. Oklahoma State): Fresno State.
Las Vegas Bowl (vs. UCLA): Utah State. (I could see San Diego State factoring in here if the Aggies get blown out in the MW championship game. And if the Vegas Bowl can get USC, they won’t take Utah State because they met during the regular season — that could open the door for Boise State. Imagine that TV rating.)
Poinsettia Bowl (vs. Bowling Green): Boise State. (The Poinsettia Bowl would be torn here — it doesn’t like to take teams in consecutive years (San Diego State) but it also prefers to take the team that earned a higher standing on the field. Could be San Diego State, but I’m guessing Boise State.)
Hawaii Bowl (vs. Marshall): UNLV. (The Rebels aren’t likely to take fans anywhere, which makes them a good fit in Hawaii. This also could be the game vacated if the Mountain West can get another conference — the Pac-12, perhaps — to foot the bill for a trip to Hawaii.)
New Mexico Bowl (vs. Washington State): San Diego State. (It will be interesting to see if the Aztecs lobby to stay home for their fans or go on the road for a different experience. New Mexico provides a Pac-12 opponent and it’s coach Rocky Long’s former home.)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (vs. Ball State): Colorado State. (The Rams are a good regional fit and they’re known to produce good crowds for bowl games.)
Armed Forces Bowl (vs. Navy): Vacated. (It should be easy to find a team to fill a spot in a Texas bowl. UNLV could go here instead of Hawaii).
Fresno State not in BCS
Las Vegas Bowl (vs. UCLA): Fresno State. (This is a no-brainer.)
Poinsettia Bowl (vs. Buffalo): Utah State. (Fits Poinsettia Bowl’s history of taking the team with the highest finish.)
Hawaii Bowl (vs. Marshall): San Diego State. (Can’t imagine there’s a cheaper air bill to Hawaii than from San Diego.)
New Mexico Bowl (vs. Washington State): Boise State. (This would be an interesting debate — Colorado State might bring the most fans, Boise State would bring the most notoriety and San Diego State earned some preference in the bowl selections on the field. But the New Mexico Bowl isn’t likely to get many cracks at Boise State.)
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (vs. Bowling Green): Colorado State. (Same reasons as above.)
Armed Forces Bowl (vs. Navy): UNLV. (The least attractive bowl team gets the date with Navy.)
Note: After the Las Vegas and Poinsettia bowls, the Mountain West does not have a bowl pecking order.
Note II: The Pac-12, if it does not get a second team into the BCS, will have three teams available to the New Mexico Bowl. The choices likely would include Washington State (6-5), Oregon State (6-5) and either Arizona (7-4) or Washington (7-4).
TRIPLE OPTION TO STAY AT NEW MEXICO
New Mexico coach Bob Davie’s triple-option offense has helped the Lobos compete while he rebuilds the roster. But he said it’s not a short-term fix.
“We’re always going to be a triple-option based offense,” he said. “I just think, on the short term, it gives us a chance to just stabilize the program until we get these (scholarship) numbers back up. Even long term, if you look at the history of New Mexico football, you need some kind of niche to be successful. … You have to have something that makes you a little bit different and something unique and we’ve been able to do that on offense. We’re still trying to find it and build it on defense.”
The Lobos come to Boise beat up. Leading rushers Kasey Carrier (1,122 yards at tailback) and Cole Gautsche (777 yards at quarterback) are out with concussions. Tailback Crusoe Gongbay (515 yards) and quarterback Clayton Mitchem (more thrower than runner) are expected to start.
The Lobos played seven true freshmen on defense last week against Fresno State.
Still, Davie says he likes the attitude of his team going into the season finale.
“That part of it has been amazing,” he said. “Since the day I stepped in here these kids have been just incredible. For us, it’s a chance to play another game. … The Fresno thing was tough (69-28 loss). That was really tough. Every other game, other than Utah State, we’ve been in. And that game just really left a bad taste in our mouth. Hopefully we can go up to Boise, even though the odds are against us, and finish the season on a positive.”
NOTES & QUOTES
— Boise State starting tailback Jay Ajayi received 22 of the team’s 24 carries last week at San Diego State. That was partly by design and partly because of the lower-than-usual play count of 70. “We knew we wanted him to go,” coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s a physical player. That’s a physical defense. We liked the matchup. He did a good job of pounding it in there. He didn’t have a lot of holes.” Ajayi rushed for 103 yards and a TD. He also gained 55 yards on two receptions.
— Petersen on the idea of pulling quarterback Grant Hedrick against San Diego State: “It’s always kind of a feel thing. One of the first reactions when somebody struggles is to pull them out. Sometimes that’s not the best. They have to work through it. … (Benching the quarterback) is painful and you just don’t want to do that.”
— Wide receiver Aaron Burks on some players not knowing the ramifications of the loss to San Diego State: “For the most part, for us, we just play. We kind of handle things on our end. We try not to look on the other side. One thing I’m horrible about is knowing another team’s record. If we lose the game, we don’t really look at ‘how can we still … .’ It’s more, it’s how the cards are dealt. If we handled it on our end, we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”
— Boise State is running several ticket deals this week. You can get $10 tickets in the student section, a $29 Thanksgiving pack that includes admission to the men’s and women’s basketball games and a volleyball match in addition to the football game or the $25 reserved tickets that were announced earlier this season. The $10 end-zone tickets are sold out. More info here.
Monday blog: Southwick likely to start; Petersen press conference video
Tuesday story: Weekly notes
Tuesday blog: Mountain West Football Report
Wednesday story: Scouting New Mexico
Wednesday blog: Improved run defense will be tested
Thursday story: Gabe Linehan completes family’s college football odyssey
NEW MEXICO COVERAGE
Albuquerque Journal coverage can be found here.
You can follow beat writer Rick Wright on Twitter at @burquerick.