The path has become clear for No. 15 Boise State.
Simply win out the rest of the way, and Boise State will have a chance to find a spot in one of the major New Year's bowl games and cash a rather large check.Sounds easy, but it's far from it as the Broncos entertain Colorado State on Saturday night, the first of two home games in five days for Boise State that stand as one of the remaining speedbumps between now and January.
The Broncos (5-0, 2-0 Mountain West) face the Rams then turn around and host BYU next Thursday. If Boise State can get through this two-game stretch unscathed, the remaining regular-season challenges will all come on the road — Oct. 29 at Wyoming, Nov. 12 at Hawaii and Nov. 25 at Air Force.
"Nobody has really stopped these guys," Colorado State coach Mike Bobo said. "They're very, very successful, and they're very successful early in games. They jump on people."
The reason there is so much looking forward now when it comes to the Broncos is because Houston lost at Navy last week. Houston seemed destined to be the Group of Five member to land in one of the New Year's Six bowl games, but the loss to Navy cleared the path for Boise State to step in should the Broncos stay unbeaten through the regular season and win the Mountain West title game.
Boise State's ranking is its highest since finishing the 2011 season ranked No. 8.
"Our opponents didn't rank us so we're focused on them," Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. "How it's all been laid out up to this point it really doesn't matter. What matters is we go out each week and play each and every week like we have been."
Colorado State (3-3, 1-1) may have turned around its season with a comeback victory over Utah State last Saturday despite the loss of freshman quarterback Collin Hill to a torn ACL that ended his year. With three of the next four on the road, the Rams needed the win over Utah State to keep their hopes for a fourth straight bowl game on track.
"This football team has improved from last season," Harsin said. "They're tougher. They're physical. They play four quarters and that showed up against Utah State."
Other things to watch as Boise State looks to remain unbeaten against Colorado State:
Quarterback change for Colorado State
The loss of Hill for the season means Nick Stevens moves back under center as the Rams' starting quarterback. A year ago, Stevens was a second-team All-Mountain West selection after leading the Rams to a 7-6 season and throwing for 2,679 yards and 21 touchdowns.
But he lost the starting job this season after a poor performance in the opener against Colorado and has played sparingly since.
"I think he hit the reset when he went from first team to second team," Bobo said. "He went back to work on some things we wanted him to improve on."
Multiple targets emerging around Boise State's Sperbeck
Thomas Sperbeck remains the favored pass-catching target for Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien.
Cedrick Wilson is quickly becoming a favorite of Rypien's as well.
After a quiet few weeks, Wilson broke out with nine catches for 167 yards and three touchdowns last week against New Mexico.
Rypien threw for 391 yards and five touchdowns against the Lobos on just 21 completions.
Turnover margin favoring Colorado State
Turnovers have helped define Colorado State's season thus far. In two of their three victories, the Rams avoided turning the ball over. In their three losses, Colorado State has eight combined turnovers.
Forcing turnovers is one aspect lacking from Boise State's defense. Through five games, the Broncos have forced just three turnovers.
Throwback Saturday: Broncos honoring 10th anniversary of Fiesta Bowl win
"Who's the 'next Boise State?'". Well, THIS Boise State hasn't gone anywhere. Hear why the Bronco culture keeps Boise State among the elite. pic.twitter.com/qGfs1nRPfo— Boise State Football (@BroncoSportsFB) October 14, 2016
Boise State is honoring the 10th anniversary of its Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma on Saturday night with a reunion of players from that team. The Broncos will also wear the same uniform combination from that famous victory — white jerseys, orange pants and blue helmets. It's the first time Boise State has worn white jerseys at home since the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl against Boston College.
This article was written by Tim Booth from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.