Here we go again. Boise State. Another opponent from an automatic qualifying conference. Another nationally televised game. Another chance to prove the Broncos belong in the national championship conversation.
For the second time in three weeks, all eyes will be on No. 3 Boise State (2-0) in prime time. This time, the Broncos host Oregon State in a Saturday night game. They answered a few skeptics with their season-opening win against Virginia Tech, only to turn those skeptics into non-believers again when Virginia Tech lost to James Madison the following week.
Nonetheless, Boise State is only interested in what it can control. And it can control the way it plays against the Beavers.
The only problem is this – to many, the matchup represents the final game of the season for Boise State. There are not many people who take its remaining schedule seriously, even though Nevada and Fresno State have looked much improved this season. Hawaii and Utah State, too.
Those scheduling questions are fair to be sure. But this game against Oregon State is not the final game on the schedule. It is just the third. And Boise State knows it must continue to win, and go undefeated, if it has any shot at all at playing in the national championship game.
“I’m sure we’re going to have many more challenges down the road,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “The thing we think about is what we’ve got going this week.”
That would be Oregon State (1-1), a team that already has lost to the other top non-AQ school in the country, TCU. The Beavers had a tough time getting Jacquizz Rodgers going in that game, gaining 75 yards, and the Horned Frogs got good pressure on quarterback Ryan Katz in the 30-21 win.
The vastly underrated Boise State defensive line has been outstanding in two games this season, though the Broncos could be without Shea McClellin, who suffered a concussion last week and is listed as day to day.
That would be a huge blow, considering he leads the team with 2.5 sacks. The other defensive end, Ryan Winterswyk, who led the team with nine sacks last season, has yet to get one as he has been double-teamed often.
Boise State ranks No. 2 in the country in rushing defense and No. 5 in total defense, and has no problems playing a physical game. If the nation learned anything from the Virginia Tech game, it was that this defense is not about finesse.
Meanwhile, Kellen Moore picked up where he left off in the final two minutes of that Virginia Tech game. Moore went 20-of-30 for 370 yards last week in a 51-6 win against Wyoming, with two touchdowns and an interception.
He is even better in the red zone. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Moore has a 209.1 pass efficiency rating inside the 20 since the 2009 season, which ranks him second among active quarterbacks in that time frame. His favorite receiver in the red zone – Austin Pettis, who has been targeted 32 times. Remember, Pettis had two red-zone touchdowns against Virginia Tech, including the game-winner.
There is no question this is a big game for both teams. Oregon State has painted its practice field blue in order to prepare for the turf at Bronco Stadium. But it is much bigger for the Broncos. They have won five of their past six games against AQ opponents.
This is the first game of the season at home for the Broncos, and the atmosphere should be raucous. "College GameDay" will be in Boise for the first time, and anticipation has grown throughout the week.
“It’s going to be a great environment,” Petersen said. “It seems to always be when we play at home. It’s such a great place. It’s not the biggest stadium, but it has as good an energy as any stadium we’ve been around. We’re real excited to get back here.”