NEW YORK For the Western Athletic Conference, the day after Thanksgiving might as well be a holiday, too.
No. 17 Boise State plays at No. 14 Hawaii on Friday at 7 p.m., putting the WAC's best on display for the whole country to watch. The league hopes what poll voters and bowl organizers see is at least one team worthy of a Bowl Championship Series bid. Maybe even two.
The Warriors are undefeated and 15th in the latest BCS standings. Boise State (10-1), last season's BCS busters, are 19th in the standings and haven't given up hope of making it to the big stage for a second consecutive year.
The magic BCS number for the WAC champion is 12. Either Boise State or Hawaii needs to finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings on Dec. 2 to earn an automatic bid. For Boise State it's probably a long shot to get to 12th place. For Hawaii, chances are good, but it's no slam dunk.
"I remain confident that the (BCS) process will reward a 12-0 Hawaii team," WAC commissioner Karl Benson told the Honolulu Advertiser this week.
Boise State was unbeaten when it earned an automatic BCS bid to the Fiesta Bowl last season, and that worked OK for everyone involved except Oklahoma. The Sooners lost 43-42 in overtime to the Broncos, who became everybody's favorite underdog with their trick plays and proposing tailback.
Boise State's BCS run not only provided great publicity for the Broncos and the WAC, but it also brought about $9 million into the league. The WAC allowed Boise State to keep about 70 percent of its BCS windfall, and the other eight members split the rest.
Hawaii has been touted as the most likely team from outside the automatic qualifying conferences to break into the BCS since before this season started. With record-breaking quarterback Colt Brennan directing the nation's highest scoring offense, the Warriors have mostly lived up to their advance billing.
Brennan has dealt with an ankle injury and missed last week's 28-26 victory at Nevada with a concussion. He's been cleared to play against Boise State. His numbers are down from last season, but still he's thrown for 3,237 yards and 28 TDs and is the fourth-rated passer in the nation. Hawaii leads the country in scoring at 48 points per game.
A couple of close calls against middle of the pack WAC rivals and a weak nonconference schedule, brought on in part by other teams' reluctance to play the Warriors, have combined to snarl Hawaii's trip up the rankings.
Boise State represents the Warriors' only chance for a marquee victory. They finish the season next week at home against Washington (4-8) of the Pac-10.
The Boise boost and a Washington win should be enough to get Hawaii a top-12 finish and an automatic BCS bid. The Sugar Bowl has been the most talked about landing spot for the Warriors. But they've been creeping so slowly toward No. 12, it's fair to wonder if they'll ever get there.
If the Warriors fall just short 13th or 14th they'd still be eligible for an at-large BCS berth. Same goes for Boise State if it wins.
How likely is Hawaii to get picked as an at-large? It's hard to say. BCS bowls want marketable teams. Teams that draw fans to games, but more importantly draw viewers to television sets.
Hawaii might not travel as many fans as, say, Georgia or Oklahoma, but the novelty of the Warriors, with their flashy quarterback and high-octane offense, could make them a desirable choice for bowl organizers.
Many football fans who have only seen highlights of coach June Jones' team might like to see what it could do against big-time competition, especially after what Boise State did to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
A team from outside the BCS automatic qualifying conferences has never received an at-large bid.
"(Athletic directors from) non-BCS schools think people don't want us to be in that position," Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin this week. "They say, 'Herm, there's guys at some of those schools that don't want you there. Look and see who's won nine games and is on the BCS bubble.' That's OK, that's why you play the game, that's part of the business. For 21 years I worked at one of the haves (Arizona State). The last eight years I have not. I've seen both sides of it."