BOISE - The Boise State football team hits the road for its regular season finale on Friday afternoon against a surging Air Force team that has had the Broncos number the past two years.
The 20th-ranked Broncos (10-1, 6-1 MWC) have been playing some of their best football of the season the last couple weeks, including a 42-25 clubbing of UNLV on the Blue last Friday. Though the score may indicate a closer game, the Broncos' victory was never really in doubt, as Jeremy McNichols tore up the Rebels defense for 206 yards and four touchdowns. The performance earned him his fourth Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honor this season.
Air Force has also found its groove late in the season. After dropping three straight games in October, the Falcons (8-3, 4-3 MWC) have rattled off four wins in a row, including a 49-46 tilt at home against in-state rival Colorado State two weeks ago, and a 41-38 road victory at San Jose State last week.
Boise State coaches and players know all-too-well how dangerous the Falcons can be. The cadets upset the Broncos each of the past two season, including a 37-30 shocker at Alberstons Stadium last year.
At his weekly press conference on Monday, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said this game has been on their radar all season.
"As a football team, we've haven't shied away from looking at this game being at the end of the year," Harsin said. "This is a big game for us, there's no doubt about it. It's the last game of the year and it's against a team we haven't beat the last two seasons. And make no bones about it... we want to win this game."
- Boise State at Air Force
- Friday, Nov. 25
- 1:30 p.m. MT
- Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, Colorado
The game will air on CBS Sports Network, which can be found on the following television providers:
- Cable One: Channel 139 / 1139 (HD)
- DirecTV: Channel 221
- Dish Network: Channel 158
ON THE RADIO
In the Boise area, you can listen to the game on the Bronco Radio Network, which can be found on the following stations:
- KBOI 670 AM
- KTIK 93.1 FM
For a list of Bronco Radio Network stations outside the Boise area, click here.
BRONCO ROUNDUP GAME DAY
KTVB's Bronco Roundup Game Day show will be live from Falcon Stadium from 12 - 1 p.m. on Idaho's Very Own 24/7 (Digital channel 7.2), KTVB.COM, and in the Bronco Roundup app. Join Will Hall as he broadcasts live from Colorado Springs with a look at all the major storylines leading up to the game.
Boise State and Air Force are 2-2 all-time, with the Broncos winning the first two matchups and the Falcons winning the two most recent games.
The Broncos dropped a 28-14 contest in 2014, the only previous game played at Falcon Stadium. Then Air Force shocked the Broncos with a 37-30 win at Albertsons Stadium last year.
ABOUT LAST WEEK
Jeremy McNichols rolled up 206 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 42-25 Broncos victory over UNLV on Friday night. After UNLV converted a fumble into a field goal on Boise State's opening possession, the Broncos marched down the field with their longest drive of the season, scoring on a 1-yard run by quarterback Brett Rypien. The home team followed that drive up with their shortest after a 73-yard punt return by Cedrick Wilson, and a six-yard run by McNichols.
WATCH | Supercut of Jeremy McNichols 4 TDs last night?
Supercut of Jeremy McNichols' 4 TDs last night.
31/206/4. Not too bad at all! pic.twitter.com/lJBzGMj9bm— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) November 19, 2016
That early lead helped set the tone for Boise State as UNLV never really threatened to make the game competitive.
UNLV's Kurt Palandech passed for 113 yards, completing 10 of 20 passes. He also led the team in rushing with 64 yards.
Boise State Broncos vs. UNLV Rebels
Air Force, meanwhile, found itself in a tight road game against San Jose State on Saturday night. In just his third start, Falcons quarterback Arion Worthman threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Robinette with 32 seconds left to nab a 41-38 come-from-behind win.
The Spartans very nearly won the game after they recovered a fumble on their own one-yard line with 1:39 left. But they only managed to run just 12 seconds off the clock on three plays before punting it back to Air Force, which took it in for the game-winning pass.
Falcons safety Weston Steelhammer had two interceptions, bringing his season total to six. He is also the active leader nationally with 17.
Worthman worked well in the Falcons' triple-option offense, rushing for 215 yards with two touchdowns. He completed just three passes, one of them for the game-winning touchdown.
Spartans quarterback Kenny Potter threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, while running for another three.
Air Force vs. San Jose State
The Broncos jumped four spots to No. 19 in the Amway Coaches Poll and moved up two spots to No. 20 in the AP Top 25 on Sunday.
The team is sitting at No. 19 in the most recent College Football Playoff Rankings, which were released on Tuesday. In those all-important rankings, the Broncos are now two spots ahead of Western Michigan (10-0) and one spot ahead of Houston - the only other Group of Five conference teams represented.
The highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion gets an automatic bid to a New Year's Six bowl game. This year that game is the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 in Arlington, Texas.
Boise State is far from a lock in that big-money bowl, and will need some help in the form of a Wyoming loss just to get to the conference championship game.
Friday night's win over UNLV kept the Boise State in contention to play in the Mountain West title game, but Wyoming (8-3, 6-1 MWC) is in the driver's seat in the Mountain Division, holding the tie-breaker over the Broncos. The Cowboys play on Saturday at New Mexico (7-4, 5-2). Boise State will need to win at Air Force, and hope for a Lobos victory. If those pieces fall into place, the Broncos will play in the Mountain West championship game on Dec. 3 against San Diego State.
Boise State would need to win the championship game to be eligible for the automatic bid to the Cotton Bowl (assuming they stay ranked ahead of Western Michigan in the CFP Rankings).
McNICHOLS FOR HEISMAN
Jeremy McNichols is the nation's leader in rushing touchdowns (22) and all-purpose touchdowns (26), and is ranked third in rushing yards with 1,575. Yet, for some reason, he has been largely ignored in the national comparison of Heisman Trophy candidates.
McNichols' numbers are comparable to (or better than) many of the other backs on the list, including San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey, who is No. 2 in total yards (1,855), but does not crack the top-10 in touchdowns.
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said on Monday that his star running back should be in the conversation for award, given annually to the most outstanding player in college football.
"I don't know what else he has to do," Harsin said. "I mean, look at his stats, right? If anybody is watching and following college football, how is this guy not in the conversation with everybody else? I don't get it.
"He's one of the best backs in the country," Harsin added. "To boot, he's on a pretty good football team that has a pretty good record right now."
RB Jeremy McNichols in '16. (FBS Ranks)— Jay Tust (@KTVBSportsGuy) November 20, 2016
Total TD: 26 (1st)
Rush TD: 22 (T1st)
Total YDS: 2025 (2nd)
Touches: 305 (2nd)
Rush YDS: 1575 (3rd) pic.twitter.com/0OvQYuAayB