LARAMIE — The Wyoming Cowboys close out their divisional schedule Saturday with a game at Air Force, and the result holds much more importance than just Front Range pride.
Wyoming currently trails Boise State in the Mountain Division Standings with a 4-1 conference record to the Broncos’ spotless 5-0. The Broncos also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Wyoming, thanks to their 24-14 win over the Cowboys on Oct. 21.
Even if the Cowboys win out, they will need two losses from Boise State in order to return to the Mountain West Football Championship Game. Every team in the Mountain Division behind Boise State and Wyoming has two or more conference losses, so there’s no possibility of a three-way tie between one-loss teams, which could have helped Wyoming overcome its head-to-head disadvantage to the Broncos.
If Boise State loses two or more conference games and Wyoming wins every game the rest of the season, the Cowboys are division champs, easy as that. But if Boise State does lose two games, Wyoming could lose one of its remaining games and still win the division.
Enter Colorado State. The Rams are 4-2 in conference play and play Boise State on Saturday in Fort Collins, Colorado. Colorado State then closes out the year against San Jose State, a team without a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision team. Air Force is 3-2 in conference play, so it’s also in the mix.
Boise State ends the year with games against Colorado State; Air Force, which has beaten the Broncos in three straight years; and Fresno State, which currently leads the West Division with a 4-1 conference record. Wyoming closes its season at Air Force, against Fresno State and at San Jose State.
A three-way tie between two-loss Wyoming, Boise State and Colorado State could still send Wyoming to the title game. The first tiebreaker is the teams’ record against members of the tie. For those three teams to tie at 6-2, Colorado State would need to beat Boise State, so each team would be 1-1 against one another. The next tiebreaker would be divisional record. Colorado State already has two divisional losses. If Wyoming’s second conference loss were to come against a West team and Boise State’s two losses came to Colorado State and Air Force, Wyoming would win the division with a 4-1 divisional record, the same way it won last year.
If Wyoming’s second conference loss came to Air Force, and Boise State lost to Fresno State and a Mountain team, the Broncos would win the tiebreaker with a 4-1 divisional mark. If Wyoming and Boise State both finished 4-1 in the division, Colorado State would be eliminated and Boise State and Wyoming would revert to the two-team tiebreaker, giving the head-to-head edge to the Broncos.
That is why Wyoming needs a win over Air Force so badly. In fact, if Wyoming loses Saturday, there are only two ways it can win the division.
One: Colorado State wins out, Boise State loses out, and Air Force loses to Utah State. Wyoming would have the head-to-head tiebreaker with Colorado State. Two: A three-way tie where Wyoming, Boise State and Colorado State are all 6-2 in conference play and 3-2 in divisional play. That tiebreaker ultimately would be determined by selected computer rankings, assuming none of the three are ranked in the College Football Playoff poll. In other words, if Wyoming loses Saturday and Boise State wins, Wyoming cannot win the division.
The Falcons have something to play for, too. If Air Force wins out, it can win the division if every other Mountain team loses at least three conference games. The Falcons could also win with a three-way tiebreaker with Wyoming and Boise State, a four-way tiebreaker with Wyoming, Boise State and Colorado State or a five-way tiebreaker with every team in the division except New Mexico.