Boise State Football: Broncos' 3 Most Likely Bowl Opponents

Martin Sondermann@@GamedayreporterAnalyst IINovember 6, 2013

Boise State Football: Broncos' 3 Most Likely Bowl Opponents

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    Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

    With the win against Colorado State last week, the Boise State Broncos quietly became bowl-eligible. With the high standards the program has set for itself, however, it is no wonder there has been little fanfare concerning the matter.

    Still, with just three regular-season games left on the schedule for Boise State, it seems only appropriate to initiate the bowl game opponent conversations.

    It was quite clear early on in the 2013 season that the Broncos, now 4-1 in the Mountain West Conference and 6-3 overall, would not be making another BCS bowl game appearance.

    So, the big questions remains: Where will Boise State land in the postseason?

    The Mountain West currently has six bowl partnerships. The premier bowl with first choice of a team from the conference is the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. They usually take the conference champion, but they don't have to.

    That game is followed by the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which has the second choice. The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and the Gildan New Mexico Bowl share the third, fourth and fifth selections.

    The team selected for each of these games is determined by those three bowls and the conference depending on overall fit, financial figures, geography and probably several other factors.

    The last bowl on the list is the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and they get the sixth choice.

    While none of these games is a BCS game, there are some potential intriguing and challenging matchups for the Broncos.

    Realistically, unless Boise State falters greatly in its last three games, the most likely bowl locations for the Broncos would be Hawaii, San Diego or Las Vegas.

    With that in mind, let's look at some of the potential opponents in those games in an effort to see what the Broncos might be facing come December.

The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

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    Bowl Game: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

    Date: Tuesday, December 24, 2013

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu

    TV: ESPN

    Payout: $650,000

    Partnership: Hawaii or MWC No. 3 vs. C-USA Nos. 2-5

    Possible Matchup: Boise State vs. Rice or Middle Tennessee

    As it sits now, there are a handful of teams that could get the nod from C-USA in this one.

    Marshall, Rice, Tulane and Middle Tennessee are the front-runners, but Middle Tennessee or Rice seem to be the most likely.

    Middle Tennessee is in the midst of a solid season. The Blue Raiders are currently 5-4 overall and 3-2 in CUSA, but with games against FIU, Southern Miss and UTEP left on the schedule, it is safe to say they are on their way to a bowl game. After all, those three teams have a combined win total of two.

    The Rice Owls are 6-3 overall and 4-1 currently in C-USA. They opened the season with No. 7 Texas A&M, but lost 52-31. They did beat Kansas but have close losses to North Texas and Houston on the season. They finish the regular season with Louisiana Tech, UAB and Tulane.

    If the choice comes down to these two teams, Conference USA would be wise to send the Owls.

    Middle Tennessee is having a fine season, but it probably wouldn't be a nail-biter. Rice, on the other hand, has played some quality opponents, and they are ranked in the top 20 in rushing offense.

    Of course, Boise State fans will remember the last time their Broncos went to the Hawaii Bowl.

    It was in 2007, and they faced an ECU team with an excellent rushing attack. In that game, running back Chris Johnson rolled up 223 yards on the ground, and Boise State lost 41-38.

    Prediction: Boise State vs. Rice 

The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

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    Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Bowl Game: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

    Date: Thursday, December 26, 2013

    Time: 9:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

    TV: ESPN

    Payout: $500,000

    Partnership: MWC No. 2 vs. Army/At-large

    Possible Matchup: Boise State vs. Notre Dame, Ohio or Utah

    Now, before you scoff, yes, it is possible that Notre Dame finds its way into the Poinsettia Bowl. In fact, Phil Steele is projecting it and so is Erick Smith of USA Today.

    A Boise State vs. Notre Dame Poinsettia Bowl would be a great game for the Broncos, but you have to believe the Fighting Irish would be less than happy. Still, it would no doubt be an exciting event, and Qualcomm Stadium would be rocking.

    Boise State fans travel well for big games, and Notre Dame would qualify.

    The other teams that are in position currently to perhaps be there instead of Notre Dame are Ohio and Utah. Some things still have to happen for Utah to make it in, but Ohio is already bowl-eligible.

    Prediction: Boise State vs. Utah

The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Bowl Game: Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

    Date: Saturday, December 21, 2013

    Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

    Location: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

    TV: ABC

    Pay Out: $1.1 million

    Partnership: MWC No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 5

    Possible Match-Up: Boise State vs. USC, Oregon State or Arizona

    Boise State could end up in this game by a couple of different scenarios.

    First, if they win out and win the MWC championship game, they will be playing in Las Vegas for the fourth straight season.

    If, however, they make it to the MWC championship game and lose to an undefeated Fresno State, they will still get the Las Vegas Bowl because the Bulldogs will be BCS-bound.

    Right now, the most likely opponents are USC, Oregon State and Arizona. Any of those teams would be a good game, but the most challenging might be USC simply because of its defense. It is probably the most intriguing matchup as well.

    Prediction: Boise State vs. USC