Boise State has its bowl destination set. Where are Broncos heading? Who is opponent?

·6 min read
John Kelly/Boise State Athletics

The Boise State football team will face Central Michigan in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl on Dec. 31.

It will be Boise State’s first appearance in the game, which was founded in 2015 and will stream on barstoolsports.com. The stream will be free.

The Arizona Bowl will be played at Arizona Stadium in Tuscon. Kickoff is scheduled for noon Mountain time. Boise State football coach Andy Avalos said Sunday that the game had the top pick of Mountain West teams outside of conference champion Utah State, which is slated to play in the new LA Bowl.

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and several bowl games operated by ESPN were also possibilities, but Kent State and Wyoming will face off in the Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium on Dec. 21. Avalos said the Broncos are excited about the Arizona Bowl.

“We’re blessed that all along we were their choice,” Avalos told reporters on Sunday. “They want us to be part of this matchup.”

In terms of the game being streamed online instead of broadcast on television, Avalos said he isn’t concerned.

“Everybody streams these days, and it’s the direction things are moving in,” he said. “This is going to be an opportunity for us in a new era to see how these opportunities allow Boise State’s brand to hit the nation.”

The Broncos (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West) are bowl eligible for the 24th straight year, and this season will mark their 19th appearance in a bowl game in the past 20 years. Boise State’s players voted not to play in a bowl game last season. That alone will be motivation for many in the Broncos’ locker room, Avalos said.

“I think that was a learning experience for a lot of the people that were here,” Avalos said. “That goes back to living in grace and being thankful for the opportunity to continue to be around each other.”

Avalos said the date of the game played a big role for Boise State. Because it’s on New Year’s Eve, the Broncos have almost a month of additional practice time, which should pay dividends given the youth on the roster.

The time off also gives injured players additional time to heal, including quarterback Hank Bachmeier, who exited the regular-season finale at San Diego State early, and wide receiver Octavius Evans, who missed the game for undisclosed reasons.

Avalos said the later date also allows players to take time off to focus on things outside of football. He said the team hasn’t held a traditional practice since its loss to San Diego State on Nov. 26 and won’t until Friday. He also said players will get time off to focus on final exams, and they’ll get three full days off for the holidays before returning the day after Christmas to begin preparation for Central Michigan.

“This is our next and our last mission as a team,” Avalos said. “We will make sure everybody gets to go home for Christmas and gets those three full days. That’s what they deserve.”

When they return, the Broncos will prepare for what Avalos expects to be a test. Boise State is 2-3 all-time against the Chippewas, including back-to-back wins in their most recent meetings, way back in 2000 and 2001.

Central Michigan (8-4) ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak, including a 31-10 victory over Eastern Michigan, in the regular-season finale.

The Chippewas are led by one of the top running backs in the country. Lew Nicholls III leads the nation with 1,710 rushing yards, and he has racked up 15 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Daniel Richardson has thrown for 2,424 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Central Michigan also has three wide receivers with at least 600 receiving yards. Kalil Pimpleton leads the team with 58 catches for 929 yards. JaCorey Sullivan has posted 42 catches for 604 yards and a team-high 10 touchdown catches, and Dallas Dixon has hauled in 44 passes for 696 yards and eight touchdowns.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge for our defensive front,” Avalos said. “We’ve made huge strides, but this is going to reveal where we’re at. ... It’s going to require us, if we’re going to be successful, to continue the growth and even find more areas to grow.”

Boise State opened this season with a losing record through seven games for the first time since 1997, but things changed after the bye week. Beginning with a 28-19 win at Colorado State, the Broncos reeled off four straight wins before ending the regular season with a 27-16 loss at Mountain West runner-up San Diego State.

Despite missing out on a chance for a fifth straight appearance in the conference title game, the Broncos head into bowl season with a strong resume. Five of Boise State’s seven wins were against teams that are bowl eligible, and its five losses were against bowl-eligible teams: UCF, Oklahoma State, Nevada, Air Force and San Diego State. The Broncos also beat two ranked opponents: BYU, which was ranked No. 10 at the time, and Fresno State, which was ranked No. 25.

Boise State was an errant whistle on a late fumble recovery away from beating Oklahoma State — which ended the regular season ranked No. 9 in the AP poll — and the Broncos went on the road and throttled Mountain West champion Utah State, 27-3.

Mountain West bowl games

LA Bowl — Utah State vs. Oregon State, 4:30 PT, Dec. 18, ABC

Arizona Bowl — Boise State vs. Central Michigan, noon MT, Dec. 31, Barstoolsports.com stream

New Mexico Bowl — Fresno State vs. UTEP, 12:15 p.m. MT, Dec. 18, ESPN

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl — Wyoming vs. Kent State, Dec. 21, 1:30 p.m. MT, ESPN

Frisco Bowl — San Diego State vs. UTSA, 6:30 p.m., CT, ESPN

Hawaii Bowl — Hawaii vs. Memphis, 3 p.m. HT, Dec. 24, ESPN

Quick Lane Bowl — Nevada vs. Western Michigan, Dec. 27, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN

First Responder Bowl — Air Force vs. Louisville, 2:15 p.m. CT, Dec. 28, ESPN

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