Being in the Mountain West Conference, the Aztecs often find themselves with late start times. It’s not uncommon for them to kick off at 7:30 p.m., which doesn’t do them any favors with national voters who probably aren’t going to stay up on the East Coast to watch a game that ends well after midnight and see just how good this team really is (and it really is good).
But, in their final two regular-season games, things went to the extreme. Last Friday night they kicked off at 8:30 p.m. against UNLV. This Friday they kick off at 9 a.m. against Boise State.
The main reason for the brunch date against the Broncos? It’s a national TV game on CBS, so this will be their best chance to get the eyes of the country … including the College Football Playoff … on them. A win against the Broncos puts the Aztecs into the conference title game and keeps alive their hopes of playing in a lucrative New Year’s Six Bowl game.
Yes, that’s something that could actually happen thanks to two things: Utah and the transitive property of college football. This will take a second to explain so take a little ride with me.
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On Saturday the Utes destroyed 3rd-ranked Oregon 38-7, giving the Ducks a 2nd loss and killing any chance for the Pac 12 to get into the Playoff. Oregon will drop out of the top 4 and almost certainly move #5 and undefeated Cincinnati into the top 4, which is a massive development.
Cincinnati is in the Group of 5, one of the conferences that’s not the SEC, ACC, Pac 12, Big 12 or Big 10. The Committee gives a spot in one of the NY6 bowls (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, Peach) to the highest-ranked Group of 5 school. However, if the Bearcats are able to stay in the top 4 they’ll be in the Playoff, potentially opening up the at-large bid for another Group of 5 school, and that brings us back to Utah.
The Aztecs beat the Utes and all of a sudden that win looks a whole lot more impressive in the eyes of voters who currently have SDSU at #19. The only other non-Power 5 school ahead of the Aztecs is #14 BYU, who has two losses, including one at home to Boise State. But, the Cougars also beat Utah so the same rationale about that win also applies to them.
BYU’s final game is at USC. The Trojans are not a good football team but they’re a talented football team so a Cougars loss is certainly possible. Short of that, San Diego State beating Boise State would give them a better record over common opponents, which always helps.
If the Aztecs get all the breaks, winning two more games while BYU loses, how high do they need to reach in the rankings to get into the New Year’s Six? The SEC and Big 10 champs will likely be in the Playoff, which take place this year in the Cotton and Orange Bowls. The ACC, Pac 12, and Big 12 champs along with Notre Dame will eat up four of the remaining eight spots, leaving four at-large bids.
Since this format started no team ranked outside the top 10 has failed to receive a spot in the CFP. So, as of this writing the Aztecs need to make up nine spots. That means they’ll need some teams like Wake Forest or Pittsburgh or Mississippi or Michigan State or Oregon or Oklahoma or probably a combination of all of them to lose while they win out.
It’s a longshot but stranger things have certainly happened in college football. If SDSU can somehow make up nine spots in the next two weeks, they’ll go from something like the Jimmy Kimmel Los Angeles Bowl and a likely $1 million payout to something like the Fiesta bowl with a $4 million payout.
The next rankings are released on Tuesday night, which is when we get to see just how realistic this truly is.