BOISE — Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson doesn’t quite get why everyone is comparing Boise State and Cincinnati ahead of this weekend’s conference championship games.
He thinks the bigger debate should be Boise State and Memphis.
Tuesday’s updated rankings had Memphis at No. 17, Boise State at No. 19 and Cincinnati at No. 20. The top-ranked Group of 5 conference champion earns a spot to the Cotton Bowl this season.
Most were surprised to see Cincinnati sit just one spot behind Boise State after the Bearcats dropped to 10-2 with a loss to Memphis. Keeping them that close to the Broncos meant, at least to most, that the possibility was high that Cincinnati would jump back in front of Boise State should it beat Memphis in the AAC title game on Saturday.
Thompson didn’t seem to agree with that thought.
“I’m not worried about Cincinnati. They are behind them,” Thompson told the Idaho Press. “My concern is with Memphis. … I mean, Cincinnati lost by six touchdowns (42-0 to No. 1 Ohio State). It might be to the No. 1 team in the country, but you lose by six touchdowns, and then they had a second loss at Memphis.”
Thompson noted that Boise State’s lone loss was on the road to BYU in a rainy, cold game in which the Broncos were without their starting quarterback and had their top running back go down with an injury in the first half.
Asked if he was confident Boise State would remain ahead of Cincinnati and earn the Cotton Bowl bid should both the Broncos and Bearcats win on Saturday, Thompson said, “Yes, but I don’t have a vote.”
Thompson said he spoke Wednesday with the two Mountain West reps on the CFP committee, and did more than just stump for Boise State. He has an issue with Air Force not being included in the Top 25 despite having a 10-2 record.
Getting Air Force into the rankings would help the Broncos by giving them a top 25 win.
“That’s also really confusing from the Air Force perspective because they have two losses to top 25 teams, Boise State and Navy,” Thompson said. “How come they aren’t in the top 25? I’m not blasting Virginia or Oklahoma State or USC, but they all have three and four losses. And that ties back into Boise State because they beat a 10-win, very solid Air Force team to win the league undefeated.”
Boise State made athletic director Curt Apsey available to the media Wednesday and he was also unhappy with where the Broncos sit in this week’s rankings.
Apsey feels the Broncos should be further ahead of Cincinnati than one spot, which would have made it more unlikely the Bearcats would jump in front of Boise State should they beat Memphis and pick up a top-20 win.
“Our body of work means something to me and I’m proud of it and I think it needs to be considered so when I saw the rankings on Tuesday night it was disappointing,” Apsey said. “I think there’s a lack of respect for the conference that we’re in right now.”
Apsey also pointed to the unusual circumstances surrounding Boise State’s only loss of the season, and said he felt the Broncos were being penalized more than they should for a three-point loss on the road to a 7-5 BYU team.
“If there’s such thing as a quality loss I think that’s one, and I think that should be taken into consideration,” Apsey said. “When I saw the rankings of us really not moving and some of those schools maybe not moving down in the rankings as much as I thought they should have, it was disappointing.”
Asked about the committee seemingly throwing out Cincinnati’s 42-0 loss because it was to Ohio State, Apsey said, “Ohio State is obviously a very good football team, (but) 42-0 is a very, very lopsided result. I don’t know what happened in that game. I don’t know how Cincinnati played. Is it a quality loss? I don’t know if it or not. I don’t know if 42-0 is ever a quality loss.”
Memphis would likely stay ahead of the Broncos and head to the Cotton Bowl should it beat Cincinnati. But Thompson is not so sure why. He noted that Boise State has more wins against bowl eligible teams and that the combined wins of the opponents that each team beat also favors the Broncos.
“Memphis was (No.) 17 and Minnesota was in there at No. 18 and Boise State was No. 19, but in my perspective it’s 17A and 17B,” Thompson said. “You can dice it, chew it up however you want. Memphis lost by two points at Temple, Boise State lost by three points at BYU under the conditions we described.
“I don’t vote but my input is simply, stick a piece of paper between them (the margin is that close).”
Thompson also feels Boise State’s history and tradition should count for something. The Broncos are the winningest team in college football history and not enjoying some rare good season.
“I know this is for the 2019 season, but Boise State has played in the conference championship four times in seven years, they have three Fiesta Bowl wins under their belt, and the national brand recognition is hugely in Boise State’s favor,” Thompson said.
Boise State’s best nonconference win was at a 6-6 Florida State team, while Cincinnati’s is a home win over a 4-8 UCLA squad.
A Boise State win Saturday against Hawaii in the Mountain West championship would guarantee it no worse than the Las Vegas Bowl. But the difference between that and playing on the national stage of the Cotton Bowl against a top team like Florida or Alabama is nearly too hard to quantify.
And that’s why Apsey spoke up Wednesday in defense of Boise State and the Mountain West, which had eight different teams combine for nine wins against Power 5 teams compared to just six from the American.
“I’m really hoping that this committee takes a very, very close look at the entire body of work, not just with Boise State but everyone that’s in there maybe from 15-25 and I’m not sure that’s happening as much as it should,” Apsey said.
“I’m holding my hand up and raising it for Boise State, I think we deserve better. And no one’s going to convince me differently. Boise State deserves a shot. The first thing we have to do is win on Saturday and hopefully the chips fall where they’re supposed to fall.”
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has been campaigning and politicking for several days in the media that a 11-2 Cincinnati team should get the Cotton Bowl bid over a 12-1 Boise State. Tuesday’s rankings made it look like, to some, that his strategy was working.
Thompson sees it differently.
“That’s if you buy into the thought that if Cincinnati wins they’ll jump Boise State,” Thompson said. “I still think it’s down to Memphis and Boise State (if they both win) and it should be an extremely difficult decision for the committee.”