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Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl Win Proves the AAC Has Much to Gain in Playoff Era By Jacob Thigpen

Boise State did more than secure a third Fiesta Bowl victory in program history when it beat No.10 Arizona 38-30 in Glendale, Arizona – sacking Wildcat quarterback Anu Solomon eight yards from a potential game-tying score as time expired. It did more than give the Group of Five conferences a New Year’s Six bowl victory in year one of the new College Football Playoff system. Boise State did more than grab another Fiesta Bowl trophy; it also grabbed the flaming torch lighting the path to success for every Group of Five conference member in this new era of college football. After Bronco players and coaches embraced in celebration of their season’s storybook ending and the Fiesta Bowl trophy was awarded to the game’s most-winningest program since 2000 (.856), a revelation occurred in the minds of every “little guy” fan who pledge support to programs outside of the so-called Power Five leagues: My team has much to gain in the Playoff era. Winning the Fiesta Bowl didn’t thrust Boise State into the national championship; it wasn’t a playoff game. The Broncos will likely finish somewhere outside the Top-10 in the final polls, despite beating the No.10 team in the country. Boise State’s season ended yesterday, but the respect it gained from its major bowl win will carry over into next season. That respect Boise State gained from knocking off the Wildcats on the national stage transfers over to every Group of Five conference. What’s respect for the Broncos and their home conference, the Mountain West, is now respect for the American Athletic Conference and the other three Group of Five leagues. What exactly is does this new gained “respect” really mean? The answer is quite simple: when you win big games, big teams start to take you seriously. The boys from Boise would have likely accumulated two or three more losses had they played in the Pac-12 conference – considered by most the country’s second-best league – where Arizona holds membership. They don’t play in the Pac-12 or a Power Five league, but they beat a Power Five team when the entire country was watching. If one of the 2014 AAC co-champions (Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF) earns a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl after next season, go ahead and bet your next mortgage that their Power Five opponent won’t take them lightly. The AAC champion will appear as another Power Five team in the eyes of its opponent.


Pro-Power Five supporters questioned Boise State’s validity as a participant in a New Year’s Six bowl game. The 20th ranked Broncos weren’t carbon copies of the BCSbusting teams that won the program’s first two Fiesta Bowls. In fact, in the 16-year history of the BCS era of college football, only once did a team from a conference now considered among the Group of Five finish below No.10 in the BCS rankings and still make a BCS bowl (Northern Illinois played in the Orange Bowl in 2012 because it finished ahead of a BCS conference champion, Louisville). The new Playoff era allows better access to major bowl games for Group of Five teams. Instead of needing a Top-12 finish to earn an elusive major bowl slot, the G5 member with the highest ranking in the final College Football Playoff poll receives a New Year’s Six bid; every season from here on out, no matter if that team finishes No.5 or No.25. Boise State took its No.20 ranking into University of Phoenix Stadium and ignited a performance reminiscent of a Top-5 Bronco squad from the BCS era. Rankings have no bearing once the games starts. If the script was flipped and the Broncos followed national expectations with a loss, this column never gets written. You didn’t need me to write a column to explain why teams outside the Power Five have better access to major bowls in the new system. This column would be meaningless because the Group of Five would have gained nothing from yesterday. But Boise State changed the narrative from what was predicted as another Power Five showcase, to what is now a Fiesta Bowl celebration that drew cheers from Boise, Idaho, to Orlando, Florida. We now have proof that the AAC, Mountain West and the rest of the Group of Five can compete in New Year’s Six bowls in this new era of college football. Winning national championships is the ultimate goal for every team who believes it’s one of the country’s best. But national titles are hard to come by. The second-most winningest college football program of all-time, Notre Dame, hasn’t won it all since 1988. Major bowl victories are the next greatest accomplishment a program can achieve in a season, and Boise State gave hope to every “little guy” who dreams big. The Broncos win yesterday says, “we can do this, and so can you, Memphis, UCF, and Cincinnati.” In 2015, the AAC champ hopes to gain its own New Year’s Six trophy, along with a little more R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Boise state’s fiesta bowl win proves the aac has much to gain in playoff era  

Story explaining how Boise State's win over Arizona in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl positively affected teams in the American Athletic Conference.

Boise state’s fiesta bowl win proves the aac has much to gain in playoff era  

Story explaining how Boise State's win over Arizona in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl positively affected teams in the American Athletic Conference.

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