The Group of Five’s entry into one of the New Year’s Six bowls is really a matter of compromise by the playoff selection committee, and sometimes even an afterthought until that game is actually played.
Since no team has really gotten serious discussion in the four years of the playoff, the likelihood of an outsider earning a top-four spot is a moot point until expansion becomes a more realistic option.
For the more than 60 teams battling for one spot in the New Year's Six, just making it through the season can be an arduous task, as just one loss to a fellow Group of Five school can crater a team's chances.
Week 1's version of The Hunger Games features Troy and Boise State, and it shapes up to be one of the better non-Power 5 matchups all season.
The Broncos are considered the class of the Group of Five and the team with the best chance this season to bust the playoff status quo. They won the Mountain West last season despite being young across the board and having erratic quarterback play. Brett Rypien, who split time under center with Montell Cozart last season, is back, along with four returning starters along the offensive line and running back Alexander Mattison, who ran for more than 1,000 yards.
Even without conference Defensive Player of the Year and first-round NFL draft pick Leighton Vander Esch, the Boise defense returns a lot of production, including its entire starting secondary.
Troy is no slouch either, having won seven in a row dating back to last season. Remember, this is the same Troy that went on the road and beat LSU in Baton Rouge. But the Trojans' path to a potential program-changing bowl game rests with beating Boise and going up to Lincoln two weeks later and defeating what is expected to be a vastly improved Cornhuskers team led by first year head coach Scott Frost.
The Broncos won last year’s meeting with the Trojans 24–13 behind stellar special teams play, three forced turnovers and only 215 total yards allowed.
Troy comes into this year's game as a 10.5-point underdog and with some serious questions as it replaces its quarterback and top two running backs. But there is a reason that Neal Brown is the next hot coaching candidate. The Trojans' coach's way of getting the most out of his players is why he’ll head for greener pastures if his team notches double-digit wins again in 2018.
Boise State-Troy has the potential to be an offensive shootout, and mistakes by either team could be the difference between playing in the Fiesta Bowl or playing in the first week of bowl season.