Boise State is sitting in as good as spot as can be expected with the BCS rankings. At #4, they're first in line, should Oklahoma State lose, to get a crack at the LSU-Alabama winner come January 9 in New Orleans. The move to the Mountain West Conference should help Boise's strength of schedule this time around, and it remains to be seen how good that September win over Georgia will appear to the computers and pollsters by season's end. The Dawgs could win the SEC East or they could fall apart, so Saturday's Georgia-Florida game should grab a lot of interest in the state of Idaho.
Let's not forget that last year we debated the merits of Boise right up to the end, but the Broncos did not uphold their end of the bargain. A Black Friday game at Nevada in the finale turned into a special teams fiasco, as the Broncos coughed up a 17-0 lead and lost in overtime. As Boise comes off a less-than-impressive 37-26 win over Air Force on the blue turf, and with some of the better conference teams still to come, could a similar fate await them this time?
I don't think so, but we can't ignore some telltale warning signs, namely a failure to dominate through the ground game. Air Force does almost nothing but run the ball, so that's not the greatest example, but it bears noting that Fresno State rushed for 144 yards against the Broncos, even when they were getting blasted by fifty points. It was turnovers that turned the game into a laugher. Nor did Boise's rush defense really put the clamps on Georgia. Future opponents like San Diego State, with Ronnie Hillman, or TCU and Ed Wesley could exploit this deficiency and both teams have the offensive firepower to make it count for enough points.
That's the scenario for a Boise State loss and it's a realistic one. But realistic does not mean likely, and I don't want to overstate the possiblity. Boise still runs the ball very well themselves with Doug Martin and Kellen Moore does a fabulous job producing in the passing game and going to a wide variety of receivers, with Tyler Shoemaker being the main target. I expect Boise to run the table and if it comes down to them and a one-loss team from a BCS conference, I would choose to put the Broncos in the national title game. Now that my own team in Wisconsin is out, I'll cop to rooting for Boise to do it. But Wisconsin learned that if you aren't great defensively, a surprise can jump up and bite you. Boise needs to tighten up its own defense at the line of scrimmage before it learns the same lesson.
Looking around the rest of the Mountain West, there are five bowl bids overall that this conference must fill and right now TCU, San Diego State and Wyoming are the only ones beyond Boise to have a winning record. One would assume that 3-4 Air Force, with the Boise, TCU and SD State games all behind them will also become eligible. One would assume that 3-4 Colorado State probably won't, which would lock the five teams in. The league's premier slot is the Las Vegas Bowl, where the fifth-place team in the Pac-12 awaits. The prospect of playing someone like Washington should be plenty of motivation for Boise to get themselves into the BCS, but a date with an opponent like that would be a good match for TCU or San Diego State. One of those teams might also pair up with the WAC champ (let's say Hawaii) in the Poinsettia Bowl, another decent December game. Unless the midlevel of the Mountain West shows some increased strength though, it looks ugly beyond that. a