The Boise State Broncos have climbed into the New Year's Six/College Football Playoff conversation the hard way: by winning. It may be cliche, but there is truth in the phrase "winning takes care of everything." Win the games on your schedule and eventually the nation has no choice but to take you seriously. That's been the story for the Broncos in 2016. They win games in blowout fashion. They win the close ones. But they win.
Craig Bohl's Wyoming Cowboys have been winning games this year as well. Their five have come by way of a 13.4 average margin of victory, while their only two losses have come at the hands of two teams with a combined record of 12-3 — one of them being the 7-0 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The Broncos have their eyes on a New Year's prize, but the Cowboys have their eyes on bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. They and their fans would love to secure a spot in the postseason with a win over Boise State at home.
Boise State at Wyoming
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBSSN
Spread: Boise State -14
Three Things to Watch
1. A couple of future NFL running backs
This battle for supremacy in the Mountain Division features two running backs that will likely take plenty of snaps on Sundays. Boise State's Jeremy McNichols and Wyoming's Brian Hill are quite simply two of the best backs in the nation. It's also no coincidence that they are the key cogs in their respective offensive attacks. Both defenses will be challenged with keying on these elite runners while also being cognizant of the capable signal-callers under center and the damage they can do. This game could very well go to the team whose back has the better day statistically.
2. Can Wyoming protect Josh Allen?
If Boise is going to focus on shutting down Hill, that'll put a lot of the pressure to win on Allen, the Cowboys' quarterback. Allen has proven to be a capable passer this season, but the pressure to win will be matched by the pressure the Broncos are going to bring on passing downs. Boise State has one of the best pass rushes in the nation — led by nose tackle David Moa. Allen has been sacked nearly twice per game against defensive fronts that pale in comparison to what Boise State brings to the table. Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl may need to get creative in his pass protection.
3. Can Boise State pull away?
The Broncos have watched double-digit leads vanish quickly in consecutive weeks. Should they get the lead against Wyoming, it is absolutely imperative that they figure out a way to keep their foot on the gas and not give Wyoming a chance late — especially in front of what will be a fired-up Cowboy crowd in Laramie. Wyoming has the personnel to hang around, get a lead and milk the clock late for an upset. Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien needs to be firing shots into the end zone well into the second half — regardless of the score — to keep Wyoming on its heels and snuff out any chance the Cowboys might have of winning a close game.
My gut tells me that the Broncos got the wakeup call they needed last week. Boise State is more talented than every team it will face in 2016 — the Broncos just have had a hard time playing like it for four quarters. Luckily for head coach Brian Harsin and Co., the individual matchups in this one appear heavily stacked in Boise State's favor. Everything outside of the location lends itself to a Bronco blowout in this one. With all that is on the line for both teams, however, look for the crowd to play enough of a factor to keep this game from getting too far out of hand. Boise State will win the game, but could be in for another uncomfortable finish.
Prediction: Boise State 31, Wyoming 23
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.