Boise State has faced few challenges in the WAC, one of the biggest arguments against its credentials as a national championship contender.
The dominance has been staggering. Boise State is 74-4 all-time in league play as it heads into its final two games as a WAC member. Their critical game tonight at No. 19 Nevada (10-1, 5-1) is only the fourth time the Broncos have faced a ranked WAC team, and the first time they are the team ranked higher in the matchup.
The last time Boise State (10-0, 6-0) played a ranked WAC team, it lost 39-27 at No. 15 Hawaii to close out the 2007 season. Hawaii ended up in the Sugar Bowl, and that was the last time the Broncos dropped a WAC game. In the 22 consecutive league wins since then, Boise State has beaten its league opponents by an average of 33 points.
So it is no wonder that the general public expects Boise State to win this game without breaking a sweat. Perhaps voters feel that way too. How Boise State plays could end up making a difference in whether the No. 4 Broncos leap No. 3 TCU as the top non-AQ team in the BCS standings.
Boise State is trying not to worry about the “outside noise” as players like to say, but they realize it definitely helps to be on national television with the spotlight on them. It certainly helped last week in a 51-0 win over Fresno State, a win that led Bulldogs coach Pat Hill to start lobbying for Boise State as a title contender.
“We’ve just got to go out and show America what we’re about, and perform like we always do,” Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin said.
Perhaps those who rail against the strength of schedule -- including Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee -- should focus more on the actual Boise State team, one that has several playmakers on offense and defense. Boise State has won 24 straight games for a reason -- that includes wins over Oregon, Virginia Tech and TCU.
There is no question Nevada will provide a challenge. The Wolf Pack are also eager to show what they have to offer in what the Reno Gazette-Journal called “the biggest sporting event in Reno since Jack Johnson defeated Jim Jeffries in 1910.”
The city’s iconic downtown arch was turned blue for the big game. This also is the top-selling contest of the season for Nevada, with an average ticket price of $143. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick realizes this is the biggest game of his career, not only because it is his last one, but because of the implications of taking down the most dominant team in the conference.
“Boise’s the team to beat. They’ve been the WAC champions … they’ve been the powerhouse. It’s our turn to try to knock them off,” Kaepernick said.
If Nevada wins, there is a possibility there would be no outright league champion. Boise State, Hawaii and Nevada could each finish the year with one league loss, and the three would be considered co-champions. The Wolf Pack would take that.
What would help is getting off to a faster start than they have the last three years, when the games have been close in the end. Last season, the Wolf Pack trailed 27-3; in 2008 they were down 24-3; and in 2007 they were down 21-7. They rallied in all three only to lose.
“The players have to be accountable for what you ask them to do,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “Our situation has been twofold: 1. Boise’s executed very well and 2. We've failed to execute early. That can’t happen.”
Not against a team that is poised for a championship shot.