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Boise State head coach Andy Avalos watches as the Broncos play Utah State on Sept. 25.

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While some fans might have been less than thrilled with the Boise State football team’s selection in the Arizona Bowl, coach Andy Avalos said that getting picked in the game was a huge honor. The New Year’s Eve game had the first pick of Mountain West Teams after the Los Angeles Bowl’s selection of conference champion Utah State, the coach said.

Boise State was picked to represent the Mountain West in Tucson, Arizona on Dec. 31, where it will face Central Michigan.

“The way it was structured, the Arizona Bowl had the first pick outside of the conference championship, and that was us,” said Avalos. “That comes with great honor that we were their first choice all along.”

This will be Boise State’s first trip to the game, which is in its seventh-year of existence. It had long been viewed as one of the Mountain West’s lower-tiered bowl games with the matchup being against a Mid-American Conference team and the game not even being televised its first two years of existence, instead being streamed online.

The game will go back to being streamed this year, with the game’s sponsor, Barstool Sports showing it on its website, app and social media platforms. With a noon kickoff, its second half will be going up against the College Football Playoff semifinal game between Alabama and Cincinnati, who are scheduled to kickoff in the Cotton Bowl at 1:30 p.m. MST.

“In terms to the streaming process, as opposed to being on a tradition network, as we’ve all come to find, that’s the way of life,” Avalos said. “My kids watch streaming, I think everybody streams these days. It’s the direction things will move in. A lot of the ESPN stuff is streamed as well, these days. This is going to be a new opportunity for us in a new era, to see how these opportunities allow Boise State’s brand will hit the nation and how many viewers we will have through this streaming process.”

Boise State (7-5) had a shot at making the Mountain West Championship and playing for a trip to the Los Angeles Bowl late into the season, but needed a win against San Diego State and an Air Force loss to UNLV on the final weekend of the regular season. Neither happened.

Instead, Boise State has a New Year’s Eve date in the desert with a Central Michigan team which comes in on a four-game winning streak.

Boise State opted out of playing in a bowl game last season after having its year largely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Avalos — who was hired by the Broncos in January — said that after that experience, the team embraces getting to play in a bowl game in its 24th straight year of eligibility.

“I think that was a learning experience for a lot of people here and how that unfolded,” Avalos said. “That goes back to living in grace and being thankful for our opportunity and the opportunity to be around each other. You have the opportunity to continue to grow to help each other.”

Avalos was also very complementary of the Chippewas (8-4), who feature the nation’s leading rusher, Lew Nichols. Nichols has 1,710 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on the season.

Central Michigan finished the regular season tied with Northern Illinois atop the Mid-American Conference West Division standings. Northern Illinois got into the MAC championship game thanks to a 39-38 win on Oct. 23, the Chippewas’ last loss.

“I went through the lineup, looked at what they’ve done and how they started the year this morning and saw how they finished the year,” Avalos said about the Chippewas. “They’re on a hot streak and they’re doing the things it takes to play successful football, which starts up front on both sides of the ball. They’ve done some impressive things on the special teams game. It’s going to be a huge challenge and as we dive into this more, we’ll have more details on the exact things they’ve done well. But on paper, as we start to look at it, you can see why they’ve been successful down the stretch.”

This will be the fifth all-time meeting between the two schools, with Central Michigan holding a 3-2 advantage in the series. The teams haven’t met since 2001 when the Broncos beat the Chippewas 26-10 in Boise.

John Wustrow is the assistant sports editor of the Idaho Press. He is a Michigan native and a graduate of Indiana University.

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