By Chadd Cripe
It’s two days to college football’s version of Selection Sunday and it still looks like Boise State has about five bowl options.
It’s fun reading all of the Bowl Championship Series projections out there and hearing people discuss their theories. Somebody might know something, but how would you know in the flood of conflicting predictions?
The most common line of thought is that the Fiesta Bowl takes Iowa and Boise State. The Fiesta is on record saying that fan travel is the most important element this year and Iowa is a sure bet in that department.
Others think the Fiesta will line up a rival to the BCS National Championship Game with two undefeated teams. That game likely would feature Boise State and TCU but also could pit TCU against Cincinnati.
And if the Fiesta goes for TCU-Cincinnati, that would push the Broncos to the Sugar Bowl and a date with the Florida-Alabama loser.
There are even rumblings that the Orange Bowl will stage a TCU-Clemson rematch rather than take Boise State or Cincinnati. BCS executive director Bill Hancock was asked about that Thursday and he said nothing would prohibit a rematch. Boise State also could end up in the Orange against Clemson.
All of that is assuming Texas beats Nebraska as expected.
If the Cornhuskers pull the upset, the Broncos could be in trouble. In that scenario, the Orange Bowl grabs Texas and Boise State would need to beat out Iowa (or Penn State) for the last at-large spot. Boise State would be helped there if TCU reaches the BCS National Championship Game. The Fiesta might take Boise State over Iowa if it already has Nebraska. If TCU is available, the Fiesta could stage a TCU-Nebraska showdown and the Sugar would have a difficult time taking Boise State over Iowa. What would help the Broncos in this scenario is if Cincinnati loses and the SEC championship game is a blowout. That could push the Broncos up to No. 3 and make it almost impossible for the BCS to justify leaving them out.
Perhaps the most intriguing scenario is Cincinnati jumping TCU to get into the championship game and Boise State getting snubbed again this year. How fast do you think the posturing would begin in Congress if the BCS shrugged off its complaints only to do essentially the same thing that brought the Mountain West and Boise State to Congress in the first place?
And then there’s the question of what happens to the Broncos if they don’t get into the BCS. The most logical answer is to send them to the Texas Bowl in Houston to face Navy. The Midshipmen won’t be ranked because of last week’s loss to Hawaii, but they have a national name and Houston is a key recruiting area for the Broncos. The only other realistic option is probably the Hawaii Bowl against SMU. The New Mexico Bowl isn’t going to get the Broncos excited and they probably don’t want to stay home even if the Humanitarian Bowl is able to draw UCLA. The GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala., also is an option, but I doubt the Broncos want to hang around for an extra week to play in a second-tier bowl game. My guess: Boise State-Navy on Dec. 31 at Reliant Stadium.
For my projections this week, I’m sticking with Iowa-Boise State. However, if Cincinnati loses and the Horned Frogs and Broncos end up 3-4 in the BCS standings, I could see the Fiesta pulling the trigger on Boise State-TCU.
BCS National Championship Game (No. 1 vs. No. 2): Florida vs. Texas
Rose Bowl (Pac-10 vs. Big Ten): Oregon vs. Ohio State
Sugar Bowl (1st pick vs. 5th pick): Alabama vs. Cincinnati
Fiesta Bowl (2nd pick vs. 4th pick): Iowa vs. Boise State
Orange Bowl (ACC vs. 3rd pick): Georgia Tech vs. TCU
Humanitarian: Idaho vs. UCLA
New Mexico: Nevada vs. Wyoming
Hawaii: Fresno State vs. SMU
Hawaii could throw a monkey wrench into the WAC bowls by beating Wisconsin on Saturday. That would put the Warriors in the Hawaii Bowl against former coach June Jones. Fresno State likely would go to New Mexico and Nevada could end up in the GMAC Bowl against Central Michigan. A Hawaii win also would eliminate UCLA from bowl consideration.
If Hawaii loses, it appears likely that UCLA will land in Boise. Humanitarian Bowl executive director Kevin McDonald said Friday he will wait until Dec. 12 for the Bruins if he has to. There’s a chance the deal could get messed up if Army beats Navy on that date.
“They are the team we want,” McDonald said of the Bruins.
Boise State defensive end Ryan Winterswyk has elevated his game in recent weeks, defensive line coach Pete Kwiatkowski said. Winterswyk, already an All-WAC performer, has been menacing opposing quarterbacks.
“Ryan’s taken it to another level,” Kwiatkowski said. “He’s just so consistent and physical and he’s playing smart. He’s just been nails.”
Winterswyk has eight sacks — the most in the WAC, but he ranks second on per-game average. With one sack this week, he would take over the lead. He also is second in tackles for loss with 15.
Winterswyk has accumulated those numbers while only playing 60-65 percent of the snaps in the Broncos’ line rotation.
Freshman defensive tackle Michael Atkinson has started to become a factor, Kwiatkowski said. Atkinson, whose first two-thirds of the season was spoiled by a suspension and ankle injury, has played on the second-team line the past three games.
He has lost some weight and is close to being fully healthy.
“There are flashes here and there of what he can do,” Kwiatkowski said.
Sophomore middle linebacker Hunter White is among the players who must produce as the Broncos deal with their growing injury list.
Daron Mackey is out for the year and Derrell Acrey is questionable this week. They were the co-starters at middle linebacker before getting hurt last week.
Freshman weak-side linebacker J.C. Percy might get some time in the middle, too, and freshman weak-side linebacker Tommy Smith could see extensive action behind Aaron Tevis.
On offense, the Broncos have lost two of their top four tailbacks, two of their top three wide receivers and their fullback.
“It seems like guys have been dropping like flies every couple of weeks,” White said. “That’s the whole thing about depth and guys stepping up and playing hard in practice because you never know when you’re going to get your shot.”