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The Idaho Press is counting down the 15 biggest storylines for the Boise State football team ahead of the 2022 season. Next up is No. 14: What would it take for BSU to get back to a NY6 Bowl?

This might be a bit premature. I get it. A New Year’s Six bowl game for a team that went 7-5 last season? Seems a little far-fetched.

No doubt. But this is a program and a fan base that expects big-time bowl games, that hopes to add to the banner that reads: “Three-time Fiesta Bowl Champions,” which is now 7-and-a-half years old.

No offense, but the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl isn’t going to create much buzz in the Treasure Valley.

But a Cotton Bowl appearance might reignite some enthusiasm.

Because the Fiesta Bowl is hosting one of the College Football Playoff semifinal games this year, the highest-ranked Group of 5 team will likely be sent to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Currently, ESPN’s way-too-early Top 25 includes just three non-Power-5 squads: Houston (No. 13), BYU (No. 19) and Cincinnati (No. 23), which became the first Group-of-5 program to make the playoff last season.

Could Boise State upend that trio?

Well the Broncos certainly have a schedule working in their favor. ESPN’s Football Power Index ranked BSU’s slate as the sixth-easiest in the country, much more friendly after athletic director Jeramiah Dickey swapped out a home game versus Michigan State for one against UT-Martin.

The Broncos’ toughest early season, nonconference game is the opener at Oregon State, which is like getting a steak at Sizzler: People will eat it, but they won’t be impressed. The Beavers finished 7-6 last season, finishing third in the Pac-12.

If Boise State can walk out of Corvallis with a win, it should realistically be 4-0, likely cruising to wins over New Mexico, UT-Martin and UTEP. By that point, one would expect the Broncos to be right on the edge of the Top 25, garnering some buzz about a possible Cotton Bowl appearance.

Then comes a three-game gauntlet: vs. San Diego State, vs. Fresno State and at Air Force. Two more challenges come up in November with home games against BYU and defending conference champion Utah State.

It seems unlikely the Broncos get through the season unbeaten. But the real question is: Do they need to have a perfect record to reach their first New Year’s Six bowl under coach Andy Avalos?

Let’s take a look at history. Since the playoff formed, eight non-Power-5 teams have made an NY6 bowl. Here were their records prior to the bowl game.

2014: Boise State (11-2)

2015: Houston (12-1)

2016: Western Michigan (13-0)

2017: UCF (12-0)

2018: UCF (12-0)

2019: Memphis (12-1)

2020: Cincinnati (9-0)

2021: Cincinnati (13-0)

Those that go undefeated are rewarded, history that implies there’s a massive benefit in playing a relaxed schedule. Boise State is in good shape there. But, again, this is still a team that went 7-5 last season and finished third in the Mountain Division.

Still, don’t discount history.

The year before the Broncos’ improbable 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, Boise State went 9-4 and lost its coach. The season prior to the 2014 Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona, the Broncos finished 8-5 and lost their coach.

Is it likely Boise State makes a grand return to a New Year’s Six bowl game? Not at all. Is it impossible? Not at all.

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