No. 14 Boise State's loss to BYU shakes up New Year's Six race

BYU running back Lopini Katoa (4) celebrates a touchdown during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)
BYU running back Lopini Katoa (4) celebrates a touchdown during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Tyler Tate)

No. 14 Boise State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten late Saturday night in a 28-25 loss to BYU.

The Broncos entered Saturday’s game as the highest-ranked team in a non-Power Five conference and the favorite to be the Group of Five team that makes a New Year’s Six bowl game. That favorite status disappeared in Provo as the Bronco offense was stagnant without starting QB Hank Bachmeier.

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Bachmeier missed the game after he was injured in Week 7. He was replaced by Chase Cord who didn’t get the Boise State offense consistently moving until it was too late in the fourth quarter.

BYU ( 3-4) entered the game without its top two quarterbacks. Baylor Romney, a walk-on redshirt freshman, started for the Cougars after backup QB Jaren Hall was injured against South Florida a week ago. Hall made the first start of his career in Week 7 subbing for Zach Wilson after Wilson suffered a thumb injury.

Romney was more productive than Cord. He threw for two third-quarter touchdowns to break the game open in BYU’s favor. His first gave the Cougars a 21-10 lead when he found Matt Bushman for a 27-yard score. He hit Bushman again for a 39-yard TD and a 28-10 lead off a trick play just a couple minutes later after Cord threw his second interception of the game.

Boise State pulled within three points with 3:17 remaining and things got weird on BYU’s final possession. After taking a fair catch on the kickoff BYU got the ball on the 25, meaning it needed to get to its own 35 for a first down.

The ball was spotted just short of the 35 after third down and, inexplicably, the officials brought out the chains to measure the spot. And gave BYU a first down.

The spot was ultimately reviewed and pushed back toward the 34. And BYU chose not to punt. Coach Kalani Sitake kept his offense on the field and Roman Kafentzis got a push and dove over the line of scrimmage for the game-clinching first down.

Who’s the Group of Five favorite?

Boise State was just one of three undefeated teams outside the Power Five conferences entering Sunday. The Broncos’ loss leaves SMU and Appalachian State as the only undefeated Group of Five teams.

The Mustangs will probably be the highest-ranked Group of Five team in Sunday’s AP poll after a convincing win over Temple. SMU still has one-loss Memphis on the schedule in addition to Houston and Tulane. Appalachian State’s conference schedule is much weaker though the Mountaineers have a non-conference game against South Carolina remaining. An undefeated App State with wins over both North Carolina and South Carolina could end up the highest-ranked Group of Five team at the end of the season if there are no other undefeated teams.

Boise isn’t out of it yet, either. With the AAC being one of the wildest conferences in college football so far — seven of 12 teams have two losses or fewer — there’s a chance that a one-loss Mountain West champion could be the top non-Power Five team if Cincinnati doesn’t end the season with its only loss being to Ohio State. And Boise State has a favorable schedule remaining with Utah State on Nov. 23 looming as the toughest game.

But it’s clear that Boise State’s margin for error is gone. It’s doubtful a two-loss Broncos team would be ranked higher than SMU, App State or any other champions from the other four non-power conferences. Boise needs to win out if it wants to get to a major bowl game for the first time since the 2014 season.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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