The Price was Right

Ole Miss fans won't be treated to the unorthodox, if not popular, blue field of Boise State. But the single-game matchup between the schools agreed upon Thursday fits the bill for primetime television come the fall of 2011.

Make no mistake, the administration dished out some serious coin to bring the Broncos to Oxford.

Boise State gets $900,000 for the top-tier non-conference game it's long coveted. It's the biggest opponent payout in Ole Miss history, and possibly more than anything, a mulligan for the Northern Arizona scheduling blunder.

The game will be Ole Miss' home opener in 2011, set for Sept. 3, with an abundance of storylines sure to be dissected by both national and local media.

Head coach Houston Nutt has ties to Boise. In 1997, the Broncos' second season of Division I-A football, he was called upon to take over a fledgling program coming off a dismal 2-10 record. Nutt engineered a 5-6 record, before embarking on a 10-year coaching stint at Arkansas.

"Boise State is one of the top programs now, and we have an awesome respect for them," Nutt said in a university press release. "It really takes our schedule to another level."

No kidding.

Think about this: Boise State joins an out-of-conference slate featuring Fresno State and Southern Illinois. Also on tap is a conference game at home against Georgia. Of course, the Rebels will have to guide through the usual SEC West opponents of LSU, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Chris Petersen

Tough sledding.

Thursday's move was a bold one.

Ask around and a vast majority of outside pundits would agree: Ole Miss had, by far, the easiest non-conference schedule in the SEC last season. And there's little difference in the 2010 schedule.

Don't believe me? Count ‘em up: Jacksonville State, Tulane, Fresno State (I'll give you that one) and Louisiana-Lafayette. I'm sure Nutt and company are trembling in their collective straw hats.

Boise State has quickly established itself as the top non-BCS team in college football. Actually, it's not even close. Not only were the Broncos unbeaten last season, they're also a sure bet for a top-10 preseason ranking.

And we can't fail to mention the mother ship… err… ESPN. The worldwide leader and its borderline absurd 15-year deal with the SEC certainly played a contributing role. The aforementioned deal is worth more than $2 billion in televised sporting events, with none bigger than football.

Or, shall we say, the cash cow.

"We have been strengthening our non-conference schedule, and we certainly want to thank ESPN for helping make this possible," Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said.

Houston Nutt

"Boise State has a great tradition in football, and Coach Chris Petersen has built the Broncos into a national power. I expect a great deal of anticipation from our fans."

Boone has taken his share of lumps, both fairly and unfairly, over the years. Here, however, there's no debate.

Put simply, he hit a home run.

Yes, John Hartwell, Ole Miss' assistant athletic director, brokered the deal, but the buck stops with Boone, as so many of you will point out on a near daily basis.

Anticipation is already brewing both in Oxford and Boise. The move, deservedly, has been universally praised across the country. On paper, it makes perfect financial sense. On simple intrigue, even more.

This was the play that should have been made last season, but now is forgivable. Ole Miss' deck is stacked in 2011 – shades of the NBA free agent class of 2010.

Ok, so maybe Boise State isn't LeBron James, who, by the way, tanked in a seven-game series against the Celtics.

But, almost out of character, Ole Miss landed the golden egg. And it didn't come cheap.

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