November 28, 2014

Ranked, playing for a shot at a conference crown and potentially headed for a New Year's Day bowl game, Boise State is back in familiar territory.

Not too shabby for Bryan Harsin's first season in charge of the Broncos.

''The rankings mean something, and that's good for us. That's why guys come to Boise State,'' Harsin said. ''You want to win and be part of a program that can continue to do those things. We want to get guys in this program that understand the culture of winning so we can have a chance to do those things.''

Having returned to the rankings, the No. 25 Broncos (8-2, 6-1 Mountain West, No. 23 CFP) host Utah State on Saturday night, with the winner claiming the Mountain Division and a spot in the conference title game.

But an upset by Utah State (9-3, 6-1) would put the Aggies in the championship game for a second straight season.

''It all boils down to one game and quite honestly, that's the next game for us, ever since the loss at Colorado State. When you take yourself out of the driver's seat, you have to live with the consequences,'' Utah State coach Matt Wells said. ''We've lived with it and found a way to get up off the mat every single week. We've put ourselves in the same position we did last year.''

Boise State can't afford a loss at this point if it wants to keep alive chances of playing in a New Year's bowl game - most likely the Fiesta - as the highest ranked team outside the power five conferences in the College Football Playoff. The Broncos were ranked one spot ahead of Marshall - a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky on Friday - in the CFP poll.

''Most coaches are just trying to finish up their seasons and let you guys figure (the playoffs and bowls) out. We're going to keep playing. Nobody feels like it's set and everybody is still playing,'' Harsin said. ''We've got one more regular season game left, hopefully two and then we've got a bowl game. But we've got to go out there and take care of business.''

Here's what else to watch as the Broncos seek their 12th straight win over the Aggies:

AJAYI'S ROLL: Boise State running back Jay Ajayi is on quite the roll as his junior - and possibly final - season winds down. Ajayi has already rushed for 1,390 yards and 19 touchdowns with likely two and possibly three games remaining. He's topped 100 yards in six straight games and has at least two touchdowns rushing in all six.

NEXT QB UP: Freshman Kent Myers will be under center for the Aggies on Saturday for his third college start. He's the fourth quarterback the Aggies have used after the previous three suffered season-ending injuries. Chuckie Keaton (knee), Darrell Garretson (wrist) and Craig Harrison (knee) all were lost earlier in the season due to their injuries.

''It amazes me, but it definitely doesn't surprise me because of the makeup of that locker room and these kids,'' Wells said. ''They continue to persevere and face adversity head-on.''

TACKLING MACHINE: Utah State linebacker Zach Vigil is one of the top tacklers in the country, Vigil leads the Mountain West in tackles for loss and is second in tackles per game. Vigil had 19 tackles in last week's win over San Jose State but that wasn't even his best performance of the season. He had 22 tackles against Air Force.

''He's the most dominant defensive player in the league, and I don't think it's even close. That's a bias, but no knock on any other linebacker,'' Wells said.

IMPROVED HEDRICK: Helped by such a strong run game, Grant Hedrick is the latest Boise State QB to be among the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. Hedrick is 10th in the country in total offense (320.4 yards per game) and ninth in passing efficiency (157.9).

LUCKY 13: By returning to the rankings this week at No. 25, the Broncos ensured they would spend at least one week in the AP Top 25 for the 13th straight season. This season was the first time since 2008 the Broncos didn't start the season ranked, but their success when in the Top 25 can't be questioned. The Broncos are 88-11 when ranked in one of the two major polls.

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