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Boise State vs. UNLV: Broncos Must Keep Their Eyes on the Prize

Boise State must be careful not to look to far ahead, as they face the inspired UNLV

NCAA Football: Boise State at Hawaii Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State enters the final 2 games of the regular season with everything to play for. They have a chance to reach their conference title game, and if they win that, a chance for a New Year's Day bowl game as the top-ranked Group of 5 team. A lot has to break right for that to happen.

The Broncos are 9-1 this season (5-1 in the Mountain West) with 2 games remaining before a possible appearance in the conference title game. They need to win and get help to have any chance of making the conference title game, since their loss was to fellow conference leader Wyoming, who therefore owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. If New Mexico were to defeat Wyoming, it could set up a 3-way tie, which would swing the advantage back to Boise. Boise is #20 in the most recent CFB playoff rankings, 1 spot ahead of undefeated Western Michigan, their closest rival for a berth in a New Year's bowl game. Math and logistics aside, Boise needs to win, and with the Broncos installed as an early 4-touchdown favorite, that outcome seems likely, at least on paper.

Boise comes off a very impressive performance at Hawaii, where they compiled 603 yards of total offense in a 52-16 rout. Quarterback Brett Rypien threw for 338 yards and 4 touchdowns, as the offense built a 35-3 halftime lead and never looked back. In fact, it got so bad for the Rainbows that their coach Nick Rolovich took away the team's benches to try to inspire a better performance (it didn't work). When you beat a team bad enough that their coach doesn't let the players sit down, you know you're doing something right.

Boise would be wise not to overlook UNLV, however. Boise's conference rival Wyoming just suffered its first loss of the season in triple overtime against them last week, which has helped create the tiebreaker chaos in the standings. UNLV put up 69 points (albeit needing 3 overtimes to do so) and 654 total yards. The Runnin' Rebels also forced 4 turnovers to help spark the upset, so Boise has to make sure to take care of the ball.

Trends favoring the Broncos are that UNLV's defense ranks just 110th overall, and Boise has the weapons to take advantage of that, including leading rusher Jeremy McNichols (18 rush TD this season).

Boise is also in the top-20 nationally in red zone offense, scoring on all 4 of their trips inside the 20 against Hawaii. If UNLV is going to stay competitive, the game is probably going to have to be a shootout like the Wyoming upset was. If UNLV is unable to match score for score against Boise, it could be a long day for the Rebel defense against all of the Broncos weapons.