The little Bronco that could

DISCLAIMER: This column was originally published in 2011.

The 2011 regular season was supposed to cure all ills for Boise State — well for Boise State fans at least, because head coach Chris Petersen truly doesn’t seem to worry about anything other than the Broncos’ opponent on any given week.

A new beginning in a new and better league, the Moutain West Conference (MWC), meant an opportunity to level the playing field. The Broncos were joining the MWC, a conference that would pit them against  Texas Christian (i.e. for only one season), Air Force, San Diego State compared to the traditional foes of their previous Western Athletic Conference (WAC) that are the Nevadas, the Fresno States and the Idahos. With this move, Boise State got a boost in schedule strength; it may not be that of an SEC team, but it’s definitely not that of a MAC or even C-USA team either.

What do the Broncos get for that? Same old, same old.

Ranked no. 5, Boise State opened its season with a 35-21 win against the Georgia Bulldogs in the heart of SEC country (i.e. the Georgia Dome). This season was the third in a row that the Broncos opened with a marquee matchup after the Oregon Ducks in 2009 and the Virginia Tech Hokies last season; and for the third season in a row, Boise State was 1-0 after the first weekend of the season.

We all know what happened since the win in Georgia. College football is a sport of tradition, we are told, and tradition includes underestimating non-AQ schools such as Texas Christian and Boise State (i.e. teams that, for Canadian readers, aren’t members of the six BCS conferences). Petersen’s Broncos opened the season ranked fifth, beat Georgia and was ranked fourth, beat Toledo, beat Tulsa, beat Nevada and find themselves back to square one: ranked fifth, after having been jumped by unbeaten Wisconsin. Think what you want of the Badgers, a fine football team, but they shouldn’t be ranked higher than Boise State if the latter hasn’t lost and was ranked higher at the beginning of the season. Of course, this all boils down to whether or not college football needs a playoff and most know the answer to that. Regardless, this isn’t what this blog post is about.

This blog post is about Boise State, the superpower. It’s true, no matter how you spin it. The Broncos went from a junior college to a Division II program to, finally, a Division I team in 1996. They were first seen as a gimmick team notorious for little but playing its home games on “The Blue.” The team joined the WAC in 2001 and hasn’t looked back since, winning the conference title eight times to go along with two other Big West conference titles in 1999 and 2000. Their Bronco Stadium is one of the biggest home field advantages in all of NCAA, with Boise State having never lost a conference game at home and currently sitting at 69-2 in regular season games at Boise, Idaho, since 2000. All things considered, Boise State has been the winningest program in Division since 1997 (i.e. 143-32).

Yet, in many ways Boise State didn’t arrive on the scene until 2006 when Petersen became head coach. He’s gone 65-5 in over five seasons, has recorded two undefeated seasons and two Fiesta Bowl wins, one of which was the memorable 2007 win over the Oklahoma Sooners with the Cinderella ending – despite Chris Myers’s best efforts to ruin it. Of course, the Broncos also have the artist at quarterback, one Kellen Moore. Moore, despite seemingly standing 4’7″ and 74 lbs, is the leader of Boise State and, again this season, a likely Heisman Trophy finalist. Moore doesn’t throw passes as much as he places them. For his career, he’s completed almost 69% of his passes for 113 touchdowns, only 23 interceptions (think about that for a little bit) and a rating of 167.2. He’s just as good this year despite having lost NFL draft picks Titus Young and Austin Pettis from last year’s team. This blogger would be surprised if Moore himself doesn’t join both of them in the NFL next year.

Of course, all is well in Boise if you happen to play in weak conferences. Which, of course, is definitely the case. The naysayers say that anybody could have done what Boise State has done in the past decade, but that’s not true because nobody other than the Broncos have done it. That argument is overrated anyway. You can only play who you play, much like the 1972 Miami Dolphins beat teams with a winning percentage of .396 on their way to a perfect season.

Give Boise State a break: the team is even on probation now much like any self-respecting powerhouse should be at some point. Again this season, the best-case scenario appears to be an undefeated regular season with a place in a BCS bowl, most likely the Fiesta Bowl. Of course, the irony is that this is the same Fiesta Bowl where Boise State has had its two biggest victories and that’s about to go under as being a member of the BCS. The same people who allowed you to put one foot in the door of a system that hates you are now about to cease to exist. Life isn’t fair. But your opponent this week is Fresno State.