At Boise State game, Mountain West commissioner predicts playoff expansion will ‘be at 12’

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Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson was in Albertsons Stadium on Saturday night for the first time since 2019, and he spoke with the media about a variety of topics before kickoff between Air Force and Boise State.

Thompson said the league remains focused on potential conference expansion, with Mountain West athletic directors meeting twice a week and the league’s board as often as weekly.

“Some of it’s out of our control,” Thompson said. “There may be some movement that is made before we make a decision. We’re just in a position right now of looking at what our options are. The board asked me to come back with options, not option.”

Thompson said he’s met with “four to six” university presidents regarding realignment, including some who do not have football programs. He also said expiring TV contracts for leagues such as the Big 12 and Mountain West will help provide more clarity in the coming years.

The Big 12’s deal with ESPN and Fox expires after the 2024-25 academic year. The Mountain West’s contract with Fox Sports and CBS Sports expires after the 2025-26 school year.

“Usually you start (negotiating) about a year out,” Thompson said. “That’s when we need to know who’s in the league. I’m not speaking for anybody else, but the Big 12 is in the exact same situation. (Big 12 Commissioner) Bob (Bowlsby) is gonna have to be able to tell his current partners — ESPN and Fox — who is in the Big 12 in 2024 as he’s negotiating a new TV deal.”

Even with the possibility that the Big 12 comes calling for Boise State after adding BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston, Thompson said the Mountain West doesn’t intend to offer incentives to stay.

“I’m proud that TCU and Utah and BYU were part of the Mountain West. They built their platforms on, in part, the foundation that was laid in the Mountain West Conference,” Thompson said. “And I say that for all 12 institutions ... I want them to be the best they can, the best national program. And if they’re with us, that’s unbelievable. If they have an opportunity to improve themselves or their lot changes, I’m happy with that, too, because they left us in a better place.”

Thompson also talked about the potential expansion of the College Football Playoff, which would help Group of Five conferences like the Mountain West break into the CFP.

“I’m absolutely committed to believing it’s going to expand,” Thompson said. “We’re still wrestling a little bit. A couple of commissioners are kind of in that eight-team mode, but I think it was a great plan. And I’m biased, having worked on it with other folks.

“I think we’re going to be at 12. It’s a good deal, and there’s so much additional exposure. I think the number was something like 30 or 35 teams that would have additionally been in a 12-team playoff over the last seven years versus the four. And that’s what college football is all about.”

Thompson also stopped by the FS1 broadcast booth at the start of the second quarter to talk about the Mountain West. While he was on the air, Boise State receiver Khalil Shakir made a big play, hauling in a 13-yard reception and allowing Thompson to join those praising the wideout this season.

“He’s really something, and they’ve had some good receivers up here the last couple years,” Thompson said. “He’s had a phenomenal career in a very short period of time here.”

Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier gets tackled on the 2-yard line on fourth down during the second half of the Broncos’ Mountain West game against Air Force.
Boise State quarterback Hank Bachmeier gets tackled on the 2-yard line on fourth down during the second half of the Broncos’ Mountain West game against Air Force.

Two Broncos hit milestones in loss

  • Quarterback Hank Bachmeier completed 23 passes in the loss to Air Force and now has 394 in his career, passing Jim McMillan (382, 1971-74) for ninth all-time at Boise State. Bachmeier also recorded his 16th career game with at least 200 yards passing (259), breaking a tie for seventh place with Grant Hedrick (2011-14).

  • Shakir caught four passes to leapfrog Jeremy Childs (168, 2006-08) for seventh all-time at Boise State, with 171 receptions in his career. Shakir’s 75 yards receiving raised his career total to 2,420, ninth all-time at Boise State. He passed Mike Holton (1972, 1974-76) and Terry Hutt (1973-74, 1976-77), who each had 2,354.

Military flyover follows national anthem

The 34,446 fans at Albertsons Stadium were treated to a military flyover at the conclusion of the national anthem just before kickoff.

The joint operation featured F-15E Strike Eagles flown by the 391st Fighter Squadron from Mountain Home Air Force Base and A-10 Thunderbolt II planes flown by the 190th Fighter Squadron from the Idaho Air National Guard at Boise’s own Gowen Field.

The fighter jets rumbled over Albertsons Stadium, flying north to south.

Mountain Home Air Force Base F-15 jets join A-10s from the Idaho Air Guard based at Gown Field for a flyover at Albertsons Stadium before the Boise State vs. Air Force football game Saturday.
Mountain Home Air Force Base F-15 jets join A-10s from the Idaho Air Guard based at Gown Field for a flyover at Albertsons Stadium before the Boise State vs. Air Force football game Saturday.

BSU misses seven players

Boise State was without seven players — one more than last week — when the Broncos took the field against Air Force, a spokesperson for the program announced about 45 minutes before kickoff.

The Broncos faced the Falcons without their top two running backs, George Holani and Cyrus Habibi-Likio.

Holani missed his third game of the season. He was sidelined for Boise State’s season opener at UCF because of a leg injury and didn’t play last week at BYU after aggravating the same injury in the Broncos’ loss to Nevada.

Habibi-Likio led Boise State with 75 yards at BYU last Saturday, but he left the game early in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return.

Senior Andrew Van Buren carried the load Saturday, totaling 58 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. It was the 18th touchdown of Van Buren’s career.

“Not having George and Cyrus is a big deal. Andrew’s done a tremendous job for us,” Boise State coach Andy Avalos said. “But those guys are able to do more within the offense in the pass game and things like that.”

Cornerback Tyric LeBeauf missed his second straight game, and guard Garrett Curran was sidelined for the third week in a row.

Backup cornerback Damon Cole was also out, which opened the door for redshirt freshman Kaonohi Kaniho to make his first career start. Kaniho finished with two total tackles.

Sixth-year senior Jake Stetz replaced Curran at left guard again, and Ben Dooley filled in at right guard after beginning the season at right tackle.

Nose tackle Jackson Cravens was also out for undisclosed reasons, and center Kekaniokoa Holomalia-Gonzalez missed his seventh straight game.

The Broncos also remain without nose tackle Scale Igiehon, who took a leave of absence in September for personal reasons, and defensive end Aisa Kelemete, who medically retired.

Boise State did not have any players out because of COVID-19.

Quick hits

Team captains Shakir and Kekaula Kaniho were joined by linebacker Riley Whimpey and Van Buren as game captains. ... Boise State won the coin toss and elected to receive. ... Boise State was led onto the field by safety Alexander Teubner, who carried the Dan Paul Hammer. ... Center Will Farrar carried the American flag and defensive tackle Scott Matlock carried the Bleed Blue flag. ... Air Force had one pass completion, which tied for the second fewest in a game against Boise State. It went for 59 yards, though. ... Boise State redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Michael Callahan made his first career start. ... Fifth-year senior Kekaula Kaniho made his 55th career appearance as a Bronco, a Boise State record.

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