With three games remaining in the season, Air Force still has a chance to play in — and host — the Mountain West championship game.
But it needs help in specific ways.
Two things can’t happen for the Falcons (7-2, 4-1 Mountain West) to win the Mountain Division. 1. Boise State (8-1, 5-0) finishes unbeaten in league. 2. Boise State and Air Force finish in a two-way tie.
Other scenarios keep the door open, however.
The most probable path for the Falcons would be to win their final three games — at Colorado State on Saturday (the Falcons are 10.5-point favorites), at New Mexico on Nov. 23 (the Falcons were favored by three touchdowns before the game was postponed for two weeks after a Lobos’ player’s death) and then close with a home victory over Wyoming on Nov. 30 (the Falcons are 29-6 at home since 2014).
They would need Utah State (5-4, 4-1) to win out, which would require Aggies victories over Wyoming and Boise State at home and New Mexico on the road.
Boise State finishes at home against New Mexico this week, then faces consecutive road games at Utah State and Colorado State to finish.
If Air Force, Boise State and Utah State complete the season in a three-way tie under that scenario, their losses would be against each other — Air Force’s to Boise State, Boise State’s to Utah State and Utah State’s to Air Force. That would push them through the conference’s tiebreakers until landing on the fifth, which awards the division to the team ranked highest in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Boise State is the only Mountain West team ranked by the College Football Playoff committee, checking in at No. 21.
But a look at some of computer rankings shows the Falcons are not far behind the Broncos.
In the Colley, Massey and Sagarin rankings, Boise State averages a ranking of 21.6. Air Force is at 28.3. It’s possible that three more Falcons wins, and a Broncos’ loss could be enough to close that gap. Further, the committee adds a human element that could view a season-ending seven-game winning streak for an Air Force team whose only losses came in close road games at Boise State and Navy (also ranked by the committee at No. 23) as constituting a stronger case than that of the Broncos, who lost to BYU (5-4) and would have, under these circumstances, lost to a four-loss Utah State team. Also, Boise State has faced challenges in the past two weeks from San Jose State and Wyoming, perhaps leaving the impression with the committee that this shouldn’t be viewed like one of the dominant Broncos teams of the past.
If all that happened, Air Force would win the Mountain Division and host the championship game Dec. 7. The site of the game is determined by the division champion with the better conference record. Since all West Division teams already have at least two losses, the host would be from the Mountain.
“We have goals that we want to accomplish as a team, but we’re not going to do that unless we win the next opponent ahead of us,” Air Force senior safety Jeremy Fejedelem said. “We’re kind of watching how Boise State’s doing, watching that radar to see if we could possibly go to the Mountain West championship. That’s definitely a goal of ours, but if we overlook this next opponent, that’s going to disappear.”
A goal for the Falcons that won’t require as much specific help would be to climb into the national rankings. This week they received votes in the Associated Press (ranking 37th overall) and the Coaches’ Poll (No. 32).
“One of our goals is to get into the Top 25,” Air Force receiver Geraud Sanders said. “I feel like if we keep going down the path we’re going down, that will happen.”