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Another big win by Boise State ensures another season debating about the Broncos
The first college football Saturday of the year was not even a day old and Boise State had already ensured that yet another season would be dominated by bickering about the Broncos.
Championship contender? Or pretender?
Here we go again.
The latest statement by coach Chris Petersen's team had to feel extra special to Broncos fans.
No matter how many times Boise State knocks off big name teams from elite conferences, some fans dismiss the accomplishment because the Broncos play so few games against topflight opponents.
Southeastern Conference fans have been particularly adamant about putting Boise State at the kiddie table.
It is an indisputable fact that Boise State, even now that it has switched from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West, does not play a schedule with as many potential pitfalls as most teams in the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and maybe even the watered-down Big 12.
Mississippi State of the SEC, for example, has a schedule featuring six teams that started the season ranked. Georgia is one of two teams on Boise State's schedule that were in the preseason poll. Which is why so many looked at the Broncos' playing the Bulldogs 70 miles away from their Athens, Ga., campus as Boise State's toughest test of the season.
But it's getting harder and harder to argue this Boise State program is not one of the very best in the country.
This is the third straight season impeccable quarterback Kellen Moore and the Broncos have started by beating a ranked team. Georgia joined Oregon and Virginia Tech as Broncos' conquests.
"I love playing early in the season in games like this. It sets the tone for the rest of the season. It's a taste of what a big bowl game can be like with this type of atmosphere," Boise State Byron Hout told the Idaho Statesmen. "If you can do the right thing you can find yourself in another event like this at the end of the season."
If it were only so simple for Broncos.
Where do they go from here? Well, it seems the move to the MWC will only bump up Boise's degree of difficulty a bit this season.
The next time we'll see the Broncos will be in Toledo, playing an above average Mid-American Conference team.
Boise State then returns to the blue turf to face Tulsa, which opened the season with a 47-14 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, and Nevada. The Wolf Pack handed Boise State its only loss last season, but that was on the road and quarterback Colin Kaepernick is no longer galloping around defenses in Reno.
The last nonconference game is against another old WAC rival, Fresno State, which has been playing nail to Boise State's hammer for years now. The Broncos have won nine of 10.
In the MWC, TCU was supposed to be Boise State's toughest test ' and could still turn out to be. But the Horned Frogs started their season with a 50-48 loss at Baylor on Friday night and their Nov. 12 game will be in Boise.
Boise State is 59-2 at Bronco Stadium since 1999, so good luck with that Frogs.
Fact is, the Broncos might have already peaked ' and that's what ticks off Boise State supporters. They'll be favored ' often huge favorites ' in their remaining 11 games. Their lopsided victories will be greeted with a shrug by most poll voters and those big margins don't even register in the BCS computer rankings, which are programmed more to pay lip service to sportsmanship more than to determine the best teams.
What Boise State needs to reach the BCS title game ' in addition to going unbeaten ' is for Georgia to right itself and reach the SEC title game, TCU to avoid another loss and maybe for Nevada, Fresno State or Air Force to pull off an upset or two ' just not against the Broncos.
Meanwhile, the debate will rage. And thanks to a postseason system that allows only two teams to play for the national championship, it's unlikely anything will get resolved.
BIGGER, YES. BETTER?: Forget Texas and Oklahoma. A few more weekends like this and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott might be putting in calls to the Packers and Patriots to see if they'd like to join his conference.
In addition to the 40-27 thumping two-time defending league champion Oregon took in Dallas to LSU, Oregon State lost 29-28 in OT to FCS member Sacramento State; Washington barely beat Eastern Washington; UCLA lost 38-34 at Houston; Hawaii beat Colorado 34-17; and Southern California squeaked by Minnesota 19-17.
Not a great start
As for the possible looming demise of the Big 12 if the Sooners and Longhorns decide to leave for the Pac-12, a big question seems to be whether the Longhorn Network would preclude Texas from going West.
Texas wanting its own cable network was a deal breaker when university officials and Scott were working to create a 16-team super conference last year.
Blogger and attorney Kristi Dosh, aka SportsBizMiss of businessofcollegesports.com, analyzed Texas' contract with ESPN and came to the conclusion that there's nothing in it that can't be worked out if the Longhorns and Pac-12 want to get hitched.
NOT SO STUNNING: Yet another team with no tradition or pedigree entered the hallowed grounds of Notre Dame Stadium and beat the Fighting Irish.
Just toss the South Florida loss on the pile with recent losses to Tulsa, Connecticut, Navy and Syracuse.
But before Irish fans go into full blown panic mode about that storm-delayed 23-20 defeat, it's worth stressing this: Notre Dame outgained USF 508-254. The Irish committed five turnovers to USF's zero.
The Bulls' victory was flukey and Notre Dame is still a team that can win eight to 10 regular-season games depending on injuries and a few bounces of the ball.
LOOKING AHEAD: It doesn't get any easier for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame goes to Michigan to play the first night game in the history of the Big House.
No. 2 Alabama goes to Happy Valley to face Joe Paterno's Penn State team. The Crimson Tide seemed to take it easy on JoePa last season in Tuscaloosa, beating the Nittany Lions 24-3.
Penn State should put up a better fight this time. Or the Crimson Tide might just show no mercy.
Ralph D. Russo can be followed at http://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP