Dangerous Traps Ahead for Boise State

O.K., so Boise State has gotten off to a good start. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, however, every remaining game presents the Broncos with a considerable challenge.

Whenever the media gets involved, they always oversimplify matters.  Now that Boise State has knocked off Oregon State and Utah, you will hear them say that there is no competition remaining on the Bronco football schedule.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  You will hear the media say that the Western Athletic Conference is weak and that Boise State has a much better chance of winning games than say an Ohio State or a USC.  This is another example of a falsehood.


I maintain that it is just as tough to go through the WAC season undefeated as it is in any other conference.  The reason is that your conference mates know you better than anyone else.  They've all attended the preseason football conferences, talked to the same media members, etc.  The other teams in the conference know you inside out, whereas non-conference foes may be meeting you for the first time.  WAC members are well aware of Boise State, their facilities, their habits, their personnel, their strategy, and many of their offensive plays and defensive schemes.  They know the Broncos inside and out after several years of meeting head to head.


So no matter what the media says about "easy games" don't believe them—they are just trying to sell newspapers.  There is plenty of talent in the WAC to go around and on a given day, any team can beat any other team (See Fresno State vs. Utah State.)  But don't take my word for it.  Reverse to 2004, the last time Boise State was making a serious bid for a BCS Bowl.  Boise State traveled to San Jose State for a game with what the media called "the heavy underdog Spartans".  Odds were even made up in Vegas that reflected this perceived difference between the two teams.  ESPN televised the game before a nationwide audience—plenty of exposure for the Broncos and everything's just peachy right?  It was a trap.


The game was set for bright and early in the morning in San Jose (9 A.M. local time), a highly unusual time for a college football game.  Bronco fans showed up in blue and orange pajamas.  Well, someone forgot to tell the San Jose State team that they were just supposed to roll over so that Boise State could impress the nation and earn a BCS Bowl berth.  Instead, the Spartan players played the game of their lives, staying in the contest throughout.  After 60 minutes of regulation, the two teams were tied and moved into overtime.  When that didn't break the deadlock, they played a second extra period.  Finally, Boise State prevailed 56-49 when Spartan quarterback Adam Tafralis was driven out of bounds by Boise State cornerback Gabe Franklin inside the five-yard line on fourth down.


That scenario is eerily similar to the game set for this weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Looking for television exposure again, the WAC reached agreement to televise the game between New Mexico State and Boise State.  But they want to televise it on a Sunday night, something unheard of in college football until recently.  Again, the opponent is thought by the east coast to be merely a patsy.  New Mexico State did not win one game last season, and this year their only victories have come against a pair of Division I-AA teams.  Las Vegas Oddsmakers have again jumped in on the fun by setting a 25 ½ point spread between the two teams.


What's even scarier is that the Aggies have plenty of talent to pull off the upset.  Quarterback Chase Holbrook has completed 167 of 253 passes for an amazing completion percentage of 66.01% for 2,053 yards and 16 touchdowns.  That would be a decent season for most quarterbacks; Holbrook has achieved those numbers in five games!  He will provide the Boise State secondary with its biggest test since Hawai'i's Colt Brennan.  As we all know, the Broncos passed that test, but with a D- or so. 


If Boise State is fortunate to sidestep that land mine, they have another waiting in Moscow just six days later.  Six days to prepare for a Vandal team that has looked at the Boise State game with eager anticipation.  Moscow players will be soundly asleep in their beds at the exact moment Bronco players touch down at the Boise airport after the red-eye flight from Las Cruces that is expected to get into Boise sometime around 2 A.M. Monday morning.  Idaho is not only loaded with talent and a proven coach but they are beginning to find their rhythm as a team.


After two dangerous road games, Boise State returns home to find who else but the Fresno State Bulldogs, a proud football team that is angry over a good number of things and will be looking to prove themselves to the football world.  This is a Bulldog team that returns 17 starters from last year's team that was nationally-ranked most of the season.  They are headed by a wise football coach that has piloted the school to victories over California, Oregon State, Colorado, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Virginia, Kansas State and Washington and nearly pulled off the shocker of the 2005 season in a game against powerhouse USC.


How do you follow Fresno State, with their mighty impressive credentials?  How about the team that beat Fresno State this season on a touchdown with less than a minute left?  That's right; Utah State is next in line to challenge the Broncos.  People didn't expect much from Utah State this year.  By the way, those are the same people who think Boise State has an easy time the rest of the season—get the connection?  Don't believe one word of it Broncos, the visitors from Logan have plenty of talent and they also have something none of the other opponents have—a former Boise State coach.  Brent Guy is the new sheriff in Logan and he's getting the town in order…much quicker in fact than people expected.


Next up, those San Jose Spartans and just like the near debacle in '04, once again the game is set for San Jose.  The same quarterback who was just a few yards shy of sending the game into a third overtime in that game, by the way, is still there.  This time, he's got two more years of experience under his belt, not to mention a win over Stanford this season and a near miss against surging Washington.  Tafralis is ranked 16th in the nation in passing efficiency, ahead of Boise State's Jared Zabransky.  Another trap down the road.


Should Boise State make its way through the gauntlet of WAC opponents hungry for the national attention that would come with a win over a Top 25 team, they have to go to Reno to play the defending WAC co-champion Nevada Wolf Pack.  They too are led by a veteran coach who knows the Broncos very well.  Chris Ault will have his team ready to play, you can count on that.  Nevada features senior leadership and talent at every position.  Nevada added a feather to their cap when they downed Northwestern of the Big 10 Conference this year.


So although the media types love to try to get the Broncos to look ahead to the Land of Oz, the yellow brick road is fraught with danger at every turn.  The real agenda of the media, of course, is to try to instill overconfidence in the Bronco players so that they will stumble somewhere along the way.  Then, the debate about whether they are good enough for a BCS Bowl becomes a moot point. 


The best advice I could give the Bronco players, then, is to listen to your coaches.  They are some of the brightest minds in college football today.  Don't pay attention to the newspapers, the television (especially what is said on ESPN) and don't even pay attention to what is said on the Blue Turf board.  Don't listen to fellow students who try to get you excited about big prospects ahead.  He who concentrates on the prize at the end of the journey takes a wrong turn.  Keep your eyes on the road at all times, focus, and play every opponent as if they are national champion Texas.  Be alert, be together and above all, have fun.  Carpe diem—seize the day!  



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