Boise State has another chance to make a lasting impression on voters when it hosts Fresno State on Friday night.
The Broncos are already under a microscope every time they play, with critics parsing their final scores, their final stats, their strength of schedule. They are the only undefeated team playing this weekend, so they have a chance to really set themselves apart from TCU in the race to become the top non-AQ school in the BCS standings.
Or they have a chance to slip back down behind the Horned Frogs in the human polls, which directly impacts the BCS standings. Such is the dynamic when you are a team outside a power conference. You either win impressively or you win not so impressively and are judged accordingly.
So any old win is just not going to be good enough the rest of the way, no matter the level of competition. If No. 4 Boise State (9-0) wants to pass No. 3 TCU (11-0) in the BCS standings, the Broncos are going to have to impress the voters. And nothing impresses the voters more than big, gaudy scores.
Look at TCU. The Horned Frogs jumped ahead of Boise State two weeks ago in the human polls with a 47-7 win over Utah. But after beating San Diego State last week 40-35, the voters dropped them back down from No. 3 to No. 4. (Utah losing to Notre Dame also had an impact).
Look at Boise State. After a 49-20 win over Louisiana Tech on Oct. 26, critics lashed out at the Broncos for giving up so many points. Boise State dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 in the coaches' and Harris polls as well.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen is adamant he will not run up the score to make the final look more impressive, though he refrains from commenting on the jockeying for position between Boise State and TCU as the weeks wind down.
But to say the players are unaware of what is going on is to say they have their heads buried in their famous blue turf.
“It’s unfortunate if people are just looking at the final score,” safety Winston Venable said. “If you’re really watching the game and you see who’s playing and all that … we could leave Kellen Moore in the game until the last play in the fourth quarter and the scores would be different. I don’t think we’re too into style points. If you want style points, you get Kellen Moore and Titus Young throwing fade balls in the fourth quarter.
“That’s not what we’re about. We want to get execution down, the win and develop players for the future. We’re not concerned about the style.”
Those style points do not even enter their minds when they take the field.
“You can’t think about whether we have to go out there and win by this many points for the voters,” Boise State defensive end Ryan Winterswyk said. “If we’re playing great and things are clicking, people are going to be impressed. If we have a letdown, people aren’t going to be impressed.”
As for being judged on the final score alone, Winterswyk said: “I’m sure people do that all the time; that’s the way it is. I’m sure if we played in a BCS conference, it would be a little different if you win a game by eight or nine points. But everyone wants us to win by 39 points. It’s college football so anything can happen every week.”
Boise State has an opportunity to move past TCU in the BCS standings because of its upcoming games: Friday night against the Bulldogs (6-3) and next Friday night at No. 18 Nevada (9-1). The Broncos have won two of their last three over Fresno State by less than 20 points, so you have to wonder whether that will be “impressive” enough. And what qualifies as “impressive enough” if they are able to beat a ranked Wolf Pack team with one of the best 1-2 punches in the country in Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua?
Every week continues to be a guessing game, and it will continue to be that way until the final BCS standings are released Dec. 5. Only then will Boise State comment on exactly where it stands in the eyes of the nation.
“You’ve seen all these changes in the rankings, and you don’t want to get caught up in what you see because you know it can change the next week,” Venable said. “There would be a better time for that question after that final ranking comes out because that’s the only one that matters. Until that point, it doesn’t bother us. It doesn’t matter at all.”