Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 9:20 AM
We continue our series on BCS contenders today with a look at Boise State. Over the past few weeks, we've used game previews of marquee matchups to get caught up with all the national championship contenders. Boise State doesn't have any of those on the back end of their schedule...so we're just going to give them a day all of their own.
If you want a "preview" of Boise State at UNLV...well, here's a quick one. Boise State is going to kill UNLV! If they don't, than they're not a serious national contender.
We had thought earlier in the season that Boise State at TCU was going to be a national blockbuster. TCU has lost several steps from last year's Rose Bowl winner...losing games to Baylor and SMU (which look worse now than they did at the time), and really not impressing much last week vs. a BYU team having a down season once you adjust for strength of schedule.
This is it! This is our look at Boise State unless there comes a time a month from now where there's a logjam at the top and the Broncos are in that logjam.
Heading into today's action, Boise State is sitting comfortably in the #5 slot in the BCS standings.
3...Oklahoma State .9310
5...Boise State .8522
We used the word 'comfortably' because Boise State is well ahead of that group in the 6-7-8 range. They just got leapfrogged last week by Stanford. But, it's unlikely that Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Oregon would do the same this week. Unfortunately, an interesting set of circumstances may keep Boise State PERMANENTLY on the bubble the way this season is shaping up.
The factors in play:
Boise State's strength of schedule is awful the rest of the way. They will get credit for beating TCU of course. But, that's a home game...and it's on Versus rather than ABC or part of the ESPN family. They'll need to crush TCU to get a lot of credit. They couldn't crush the Air Force team that lost badly to Notre Dame. The other opponents besides TCU are UNLV, San Diego State, Wyoming, and New Mexico.
Because Boise's strength of schedule is going to be so bad, they have no chance to catch anybody ahead of them who stays undefeated. All are already ahead of Boise, and will be playing tougher schedules. The winner of tonight's LSU-Alabama game is a lock if they stay undefeated (see yesterday's NOTEBOOK entry for a stat breakdown of that game). Oklahoma State will have to beat Oklahoma to run the table...that would put them in at #2 were it to happen. Stanford would have to beat Oregon, Notre Dame, and then win the Pac 10 Championship to run the table. A fantastic finish like that would keep the Cardinal well ahead of Boise State. BOISE NEEDS HELP!
Let's throw in a quick note here that Boise may have trouble catching the LOSER of LSU-Alabama in the math! Should the loser finish 11-1, they may have a more impressive resume than Boise State at the end of the season.
Now...the really juicy problem. The teams that Boise State needs help from ARE RIGHT BEHIND THEM IN THE BCS STANDINGS! Would Oklahoma leapfrog Boise if the Sooners take out Oklahoma State while running the table for the Big 12 Championship? Would Arkansas leapfrog Boise State were they able to knock off LSU down the road? Would Oregon come all the way back to jump ahead of Boise State if they win at Stanford on the way to a Pac 12 championship? Remember, Oregon's only loss thus far is to LSU (and the only Arkansas loss so far is to Alabama!).
So, our term 'comfortably' is a temporary numerical illusion. Boise State isn't just on the bubble. They may be GLUED to the edge of the bubble while other teams can surge past them with strong finishes. If the Broncos don't get help...they're not going anywhere. If they DO get help, they may have to stand helplessly on the sidelines anyway.
Oddly, what Boise State really needs is help from non-obvious teams. They need Oklahoma State to lose to somebody besides Oklahoma...and it wouldn't hurt if OU stubbed its toe again somewhere else too. They need Notre Dame to upset Stanford, or Arizona State to pull a shocker in the Pac 12 championship game. They may be rooting for Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl regular season finale against Alabama.
Crazy things have happened in the BCS in recent years. It might take a lot of crazy to get Boise State into the top two.
Frankly, we're okay with that. It's very hard to make the case that Boise State is one of the two best teams in the country. They're certainly a top quality college team. Given their season opening win over Georgia, they might be good enough to win the SEC East were they in that division. But, this is a down year in the East...and being the best in that division doesn't mean you're one of the best two teams in the nation.
Boise State is much bigger than they used to be, and really can go toe-to-toe with big name programs. But...Virginia Tech and Georgia haven't been national championship material the past few seasons. That's Boise's new level. Were they to play in a major conference, with the wear and tear that suggests, we could see them as a team legitimately ranked on the 10-20 range. When they first hit the radar, they were maybe a 25-35 team with a very soft schedule that could get sky high once or twice a season when needed. They caught arrogant Oklahoma coasting through a Fiesta Bowl, the way Texas Tech caught arrogant Oklahoma asleep at the wheel two weeks ago. This new-look Boise program would certainly be a threat in the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, or Pac 10. Maybe we'll get a chance in a BCS bowl game this year to see if they can match up with an SEC or Big 12 power.
We'd feel more optimistic about Boise truly making a big splash if this didn't happen:
BOISE STATE 37, AIR FORCE 26
Total Yardage: Boise State 423, Air Force 408
Turnovers: Boise State 2, Air Force 2
Boise State had a fumble return TD in the second quarter, or this would have been a nailbiter. This is the Air Force team that lost to Notre Dame 59-33, lost to San Diego State 41-27, lost to TCU 35-19, and barely beat a poor Navy squad in overtime. Maybe it was just an off-week. Maybe it was a red flag that means Boise should be happy with their current ranking, and their likely fast track to an at-large berth in a BCS bowl. Maybe they'll get to play an SEC team in the Sugar Bowl, or a Big 12 team in the Fiesta Bowl, or at least have a showcase game against somebody like Clemson or West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
For now, the Boise State story is a 'probably not' for the BCS Championship, but a very strong 'maybe' for a chance to make a statement around New Year's anyway. Nothing wrong with that.
We probably won't be touching Boise State-UNLV on today's card here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK....but LSU-Alabama is a very strong possibility for a Conference Game of the Month or a TV Triple Crown appearance. You can purchase our very strong Saturday slate right here at the website with your credit card. Details on full season rates are available in our office at 1-800-323-4453.
The BIG, JUICY WINNERS continue Sunday with a very strong release in the NFL. Be sure to check the home page of this website for details in the morning...as the magnitude of that play is in flux as we speak. We'll be here for you in the NOTEBOOK with a preview of the big Sunday Night game matching Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Boise State may not like being on the bubble. When JIM HURLEY thinks of bubbles...he thinks of champagne. The kind you'll be drinking after celebrating another SUPER SATURDAY here at NETWORK!