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Boisestateophobia (aka Fear And Loathing Of The Plucky Underdog)

A couple of weeks ago, when dissecting the AP preseason rankings, my assertion that an undefeated Boise State team would have an excellent chance of playing in Glendale for all the marbles wasn't particularly well-received. 

In sum, many of you don't believe that Boise will run the table, and many of you believe that, even if they do, there's little chance they'd take the place of a traditional power like Texas in the game.  Reasonable minds, of course, can disagree.  There are also those who will insist on simply arguing that Boise couldn't possibly go undefeated in a power conference, but I would simply note that I believe such an argument has little impact on Boise's chances of playing in Glendale in January.

Tonight, in the marquee match-up of the opening weekend, Boise State travels to FedEx Flied in suburban Washington DC to take on Virginia Tech in a de facto road game, a game I would argue is the toughest OOC game scheduled by any preseason Top 10 team.  If Boise wins tonight, the table is set for another undefeated regular season, and I guarantee that the biggest national story we'll be subjected to, week in and week out, is whether Boise State deserves the chance to play for the championship.  And I guarantee as well that a majority of the national media covering this story will be sympathetic to the Broncos.

(And, yes, I know I'll have considerable egg on my face if Boise loses tonight.  But I'll cross that bridge when I get there.)

Since we're on our way to BSU overkill this season if victorious tonight, I thought it might be a good idea to start to get to know those lovable little underdogs a bit better, given the impact they'll have on the national scene and, quite possibly, Texas' chances of playing for the championship.  I recently had an email exchange with Kevan Lee, the editor of SB Nation's Boise State blog, One Bronco Nation Under God, to discuss Boise State's chances this year as well as his take on the particular level of vitriol the idea of Boise State playing for the national championship inspires in many followers of college football.

Hopkins Horn: Thanks for speaking with us, Kevan.  If Boise State manages to defeat Virginia Tech next week — and that’s a might big "if" -- the Broncos might very well be on the fast track to the BCS Championship Game.  If the comments of last season on BON were any indication, such Bronco success will lead to much angry gnashing of teeth.  Let me ask you, from a completely unbiased perspective, are those who would be angered at the possibility of Boise State playing for all the marbles merely irrational, or are they dangerously mentally unstable?


Kevan Lee: If it's a comment flame war you're looking for, let me start off by saying that Vince Young was terribly overrated in college. That should do the trick.Boise State playing for a national championship is a very divisive issue, not necessarily in the greater Boise area in which I exclusively spend all of my time, but across the country in general.

Are Boise State title haters irrational people? Yes. Are they mentally unstable? Also yes. But do they sometimes make some valid points? Out of context, yes.

I will concede you these points.

The Broncos do not play a schedule that is week-after-week as difficult as that of a BCS conference team. Even at their Iowa State-Baylor-Colorado worst, the Big XII outdoes a San Jose State-New Mexico State-Idaho trifecta of suck by miles.

A great number of BCS teams would likely go no worse than 10-2 against Boise State's schedule of VaTech, Wyoming, Oregon State, New Mexico State, Toledo, Hawaii, San Jose State, LaTech, Idaho, Fresno State, Nevada, and Utah State.

However, you have to realize that Boise State cannot control three-fourths of its schedule, and the one-fourth that it can control includes two Top 25 teams. What more can you ask of the team, besides not playing in the WAC?

As far as I'm concerned, any argument about whether or not Boise State deserves to play for a national championship comes down to this: Are the Broncos a Division I-A football team? If so, then they should have a shot at a Division I-A football championship.

If you don't want Boise State playing for a national championship, then why put them in the same NCAA classification as the rest of the teams? That's like excluding the NFC West from Super Bowl contention. If a team does everything that is asked of it, why should they be any less eligible for their sport's ultimate prize?

I understand the frustration of seeing a team play for a national title after beating a schedule that is subpar. But let's get honest with ourselves. Boise State is an NCAA Division I-A team, and an excellent one at that. If they can go undefeated against a potential ACC champion, a potential Pac-10 champion, and a conference that has been due to break through against them for a decade, they deserve to be in the national championship game.

HH: I wanted to like you.  I really did.  But then you go off like a drunken Aggie about VY.  Not good my friend.  I’m going to retaliate by mocking that famous Boise player of a few years back: you know, old, um, what’s his name.  That guy.

Disregarding that transgression, I want to pin you down on what you just said, namely, "If they can go undefeated against a potential ACC champion, a potential Pac-10 champion, and a conference that has been due to break through against them for a decade, they deserve to be in the national championship game."  Would you stand by that assertion even if, at the end of the season, any two of the following three teams (Alabama [undefeated SEC Champion], Ohio State [undefeated Big 10 Champion] and/or Texas [undefeated Big 12 Champion]) are also undefeated?  Especially since all three of those teams start ahead of the Broncos in the Coaches’ Poll and will play schedules more difficult than the Broncos’.

KL: I'll have you know that famous Boise player has had a very journeyman CFL career, thankyouverymuch.

I think that any Division I-A college football team that goes undefeated during its regular season - be it Boise State, Alabama, or even Directional Michigan - deserves a shot at the national title. This is why getting a playoff is so important. It is impossible to declare a consensus national champion if there are two or more teams undefeated at the end of the year. College football crowns a BCS champion, but it lacks the equity and infrastructure to support a true national champion.

And maybe that's what this discussion really boils down to. Does Boise State deserve a shot at a national championship if there are three undefeated teams at season's end? I would say yes. Does Boise State deserve a berth in the BCS championship game if two teams out of the Texas-Florida-Alabama-Ohio State collective go undefeated? Probably not. I am a homer, but I am not a homer to the degree that I demand Boise State jump any of those four teams in the coaches poll based on my feelings about the Broncos' greatness. I'd be upset. But I wouldn't be delirious.

HH: So let me get back to the issue of boisestateaphobia.  I have a theory that much of the disdain thrown in the direction of the Broncos comes from the infamous blue turf.  I believe that the blue turf gives those who dislike challengers to the old money teams an easy excuse to say "Look!  Blue turf!  Gimmicky team!  Not worthy of respect!"  Is that a crazy theory, or am I on to something?

KL: I don't think you're crazy (oh wait, that wasn't an option, was it). Anything that detracts from the football being played on the field will always lessen the perception of that team. You could look at it like this: You have 50 brain cells devoted to any given football team. If five of your brain cells are focused on blue turf, that leaves 45 brain cells to focus on Boise State's greatness. Other great teams would get the full 50 brain cells, or even more in the case of Tim Tebow's Florida Gators (brain cells are like loaves and fish).

That being said, I wouldn't trade Boise State's blue turf for the world. The blue turf put the team on the map, and it provides a connection to casual sports fans who otherwise wouldn't know Boise State from ITT Tech.

It's not fair that people discredit Boise State football because of blue turf, but then again, unfairness seems to be a theme of this discussion, doesn't it?

HH: In addition to earning respect with a serious championship run this season, Boise State also sought to answer critics' cries of "go join a better conference" -- because the Pac-Whatever's invite has been lost in the mai, right? -- by accepting an invite this offseason to join the Mountain West Conference beginning in 2011. Since that acceptance, though, Utah has accepted an invite to the Pac-Whatever and BYU (presumably as I type this) has announced its intentions to go the independent route in football.  How serious a blow do you see these defections being to BSU's move towards sustained respectability?

And as a related question, do you see any indications that Boise will continue to seek out Virginia Tech-type out-of-conference foes in future years? (Bonus points if you name specific names as to schools Boise has approached and been rebuffed by for future OOC games, even for one-and-done road trips for BSU.)

KL: First off, let me state on the record that BYU sucks wind. I kind of hope their football program ceases to exist in five years.

The Mountain West move was still the right decision for the Broncos even now that neither Salt Lake school is in the mix. Boise State gets more money, plays slightly tougher competition (even without BYU and Utah), and has a much easier travel schedule. And really, the Mountain West is about as good as it could get. Boise State is on an amazing trajectory, but even with that, no school can go from junior college to BCS conference in 50 years' time. It's kind of bittersweet to see conference realignment happening all around the Broncos because now that BSU is in the Mountain West, it is hard to see any other place they could go from there in the immediate future.

Absolutely Boise State will continue to seek VT-type games in the non-conference schedule. They have one next year against Ole Miss. As the Broncos get better, the administration has found that they need money, and lots of it. And guess who has money. Teams bigger than Boise State, that's who. I can't see Boise State taking an easy out against a Division I-AA school any time soon, especially not when there is a big money payday waiting for them somewhere.

HH: So no games against Stephen F. Austin in your future?  That’s refreshing.

So thanks for your time helping us understand a little bit better that Boise State isn’t something to be scared of.  Or mocked.  Or whatever.  But I can’t let you go without getting your thoughts about what you expect to happen tonight at FedEx Field.

KL: There are so many interesting angles to this game. I think Brent Musburger's head might explode before kickoff trying to get in a mention of all the storylines to watch.

The biggest one for me is how well the Boise State defense makes adjustments in-game to what Virginia Tech is doing. We'll be breaking in a new D-coordinator tonight, and while I don't doubt his gameplanning ability, I am curious to see how he handles on-the-fly coaching.

For a prediction, I'll say 28-21 Boise State with each team picking up a non-offensive TD. Let it be written, let it be done. I'll get started on that Texas-Boise State national championship game preview.

HH: Thanks again for your time, Kevan.  Good luck tonight.  But don't worry about writing that Boise State-Texas championship game preview.  One of us isn't going to be there.