No. 13 Broncos eye New Year's bowl
Boise State finds itself in the favorite's role when it comes to landing the coveted New Year's Six bowl bid that goes to the top team that isn't associated with a power conference.
The No. 13 Broncos (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) only have two bona fide hurdles left to clear and one of them is when they visit Wyoming (5-2, 3-0) on Saturday in the 7,220-foot altitude of Laramie (7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).
A loss to the Cowboys would be painful and could even prevent Boise State from playing in the conference title game.
But Broncos coach Bryan Harsin is worried about more than that aspect. He is fixated on getting his offense to avoid miscues as Boise State committed five turnovers while surviving against BYU and pulling out a 28-27 victory on a blocked field goal last Thursday.
"You could say we were lucky, or you could say we persevered," Harsin said at a press conference. "Nobody folded. They all worked hard and found a way to win. We are 7-0. We found the way to win."
A big factor in Boise State's undefeated season has been the play of junior running back Jeremy McNichols, who has carried the ball a whopping 70 times over the past two games.
McNichols has rushed for 915 yards -- sixth nationally -- and 12 touchdowns. He also has four receiving scores, including a 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown against BYU.
McNichols' production has been so superb that Harsin sees no reason to lessen his workload.
"Jeremy has shown that he wants the ball in his hands," Harsin said. "He wants a chance to win the game. He continues to improve. He's versatile, and a guy like him, you want the ball in his hands."
McNichols is on pace to top the 1,337 rushing yards -- sixth-most in Boise State history -- that he put up last season. The school record is 1,823 in 2014 by Jay Ajayi, who is fresh off posting back-to-back 200-yard rushing games for the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
Wyoming features its own stellar running back in junior Brian Hill, who is one of just two players nationally to exceed 1,000 rushing yards. Hill has rushed for 1,010 yards and 11 touchdowns after producing 289 yards and three scores in last Saturday's 42-34 victory over Nevada.
Hill's 289-yard effort was the second-best single-game output in school history. He is Wyoming's all-time leading rusher with 3,437 yards.
"Brian really showed his skill," Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said during a press conference. "He's got some great vision combined with speed. He was elusive, but I think the biggest thing was he was relentless. It was a phenomenal day
"You never want to make it an individual performance, but I think we need to note he was exceptional."
The Cowboys are also receiving solid production from sophomore quarterback Josh Allen and senior receiver Tanner Gentry. Allen has accounted for 15 touchdowns (10 passing, five rushing) and Gentry has 38 receptions for 612 yards and five scores.
Wyoming's suspect defense is allowing 30.3 points per game. Sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard has a team-best 75 tackles while sophomore strong safety Marcus Epps and sophomore cornerback Antonio Hull each have three interceptions.
Boise State should be able to move the ball against the Cowboys but the big issue will be the turnover margin.
The Broncos have forced only three turnovers this season -- fewest in the nation. And those five miscues against BYU included two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
The propensity to turn the ball over greatly irritates Harsin.
"The turnovers have got to stop," Harsin said. "That's one big thing. Even in defeat we talk about turnovers all the time, so we're going to talk about them in victory as well. That doesn't change.
"We have a standard and we've gotten three this year and given up 11. That's not a good ratio for us in the turnover category. We're certainly aware of that and it needs to change."
Sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien passed for 442 yards and three touchdowns versus BYU to raise his season totals to 2,064 passing yards and 15 touchdowns.
Senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck is enjoying a superb campaign with 47 receptions for 810 yards and seven touchdowns. He is the school's record-holder with 3,139 career receiving yards after passing Titus Young (3,063 from 2007-10) during the BYU contest.
Sophomore nose tackle David Moa is excelling on defense and has recorded a team-best 6.5 sacks. He also saved the victory over BYU by blocking a 44-yard field goal with 10 seconds left.