|No. 19 Boise St. aims to beat Hawaii|
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin says all his program cares about is winning championships and he doesn't like discussing what-if scenarios.
But there is plenty more on the line for the No. 19 Broncos when they host Hawaii on Saturday in the Mountain West championship game on the blue turf.
A Cotton Bowl bid is up for grabs for the top conference champion of the Group of Five leagues. The Broncos (11-1) are one of four teams in the running, with No. 17 Memphis (11-1) and No. 20 Cincinnati (10-2) of the American Athletic Conference and No. 21 Appalachian State (11-1) of the Sun Belt being the others.
The situation is muddled due to the fact Memphis beat Cincinnati in last weekend's regular-season finale and the two teams play again Saturday in the conference title game.
Basically, Boise State (11-1) needs a win over the Rainbow Warriors and then will have to wait until the following day to see if the CFP selection committee made them the highest-ranked team of the quartet.
A loss to Hawaii would eliminate the Broncos. But even a win might not be enough as Memphis figures to remain higher ranked if it wins and Cincinnati is positioned to possibly leapfrog Boise State if it wins the rematch.
But Harsin figures that is a discussion for Sunday. He is more worried about Hawaii, a club Boise State defeated 59-37 on Oct. 12 in Boise.
"There is an opportunity for a championship, which was the ultimate goal," Harsin said during a press conference. "Then we go from there."
The Rainbow Warriors (9-4) have rattled off four straight victories, including a 14-11 victory over San Diego State on Nov. 23 to claim the West Division crown. The winning streak is the program's longest since claiming six in a row in 2010.
Hawaii last recorded a 10-win season in that same 2010 campaign, and everyone understands there are going to be two chances to get there again, counting a postseason bowl game.
"Big week ahead for us," Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich told reporters of the Mountain West title game. "Big opportunity for the university and the program."
Junior quarterback Cole McDonald has passed for 3,401 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and four receivers have caught more than 50 passes -- senior Cedric Byrd II (91 catches for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns), junior Jared Smart (76 for 915, three scores), senior Jason-Matthew Sharsh (73 for 749, four TDs) and senior JoJo Ward (55 for 906, 11 TDs).
Cold temperatures of around 45 degrees await in Boise but McDonald said he is OK with the weather situation.
"It is nice to get in some little cold sweater weather," McDonald told reporters. "We're really excited. We played them one time. They are a good team. We just need to go in there and execute."
Playing in Boise has traditionally been a difficult chore for the Rainbow Warriors. October's loss dropped them to 0-7 and the average margin of defeat actually lowered to 33.1 points.
Meanwhile, Boise State, which qualified for the game by winning the Mountain Division, has some clarity to its quarterback situation.
Senior Jaylon Henderson will make his fourth straight start and this week he is listed atop the depth chart for the first time.
"That says it all right there, without getting into too much detail," Harsin said of the adjustment of the depth chart. "We made a change. Jaylon's been playing well. Jaylon has proven himself. He's done a really good job."
Henderson has passed for eight touchdowns and has been intercepted once in his three starts. He also rushed for a score during the span in which the Broncos averaged 43 points.
Harsin said true freshman Hank Bachmeier (shoulder) and sophomore Chase Cord (hand) are available. Bachmeier, the initial starter, has played just once since Oct. 12, and Cord last played on Nov. 9.
Harsin doesn't understand the fuss over who plays quarterback.
"We move receivers around or we change DBs or a linebacker and nobody says a word," Harsin said. "You change a quarterback and it's like 'what's happening?' And that's just not how we operate."
--Field Level Media