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Boise State-UNLV set for Mountain West title game after computer breaks three-way tie for first

UNLV will host Boise State in the Mountain West Conference championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday after a computer ranking was used to break a three-way tie for first place.

Boise State, UNLV and San Jose State each finished the regular season 6-2 in conference play. Because all three teams did not face each other and no team was included in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the tie was broken by an average of four computer rankings from Anderson & Hester, Colley Matrix, Massey and Wolfe.

San Jose State beat UNLV 37-31 on the road Saturday for its sixth straight win after a 1-5 start, but the computer rankings listed UNLV first among the three teams tied for first, allowing the Rebels to host the championship game. Boise State was second and San Jose State third.

“It’s unfortunate. I think we were one of the top two teams in the league,” SJSU athletic director Jeff Konya told The Associated Press. “I’m sure the other institutions and athletic directors and administrations would say similar things for their program and advocate there. It’s unfortunate that somebody was going to be the third wheel, and apparently the computer decided it was us.”

The Mountain West said in a statement that when divisional play was eliminated in 2022, the tiebreaker system was reviewed and changed to ensure the two teams with the strongest body of work are in the championship game.

The CFP ranking (or computer rankings if no team is ranked in the CFP) became the third tiebreak after win percentage in conference play and head-to-head matchups.

“That’s the thing about computers,” Konya said. “You sometimes miss context. Computers don’t necessarily know who’s playing, who’s injured, when you’re playing a team, is it a short week, is there rest? And that’s unfortunate because some of that context sometimes gets lost, and I think some of that context could have helped our narrative, not be sitting out.”

Boise State reached the title game after its coach, Andy Avolos, was fired Nov. 12. The Broncos were 5-5 at the time and headed for a third straight four-loss season.

Under interim coach Spencer Danielson, the defensive coordinator, the Broncos beat Utah State and Air Force to end the regular season. Danielson is the second interim head coach to take over midseason and lead his team to its league championship game. The other was Clay Helton with Southern Cal in 2015.

UNLV finished the regular season 9-2 overall for its best record since the 1984 team went 10-1. The Rebels are bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.

Boise State has won eight of 11 all-time meetings with the Rebels.

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