COMMENTARY – It’s not quite the Holy War, but BYU vs. Boise State is becoming a very intense rivalry.
The Broncos are 6-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation and will host the Cougars Thursday night on the blue “Smurf Turf” of Albertsons Stadium (8:15 p.m. on ESPN).
I don’t believe the Broncos have truly earned their current national ranking – Unless you call playing teams like Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico, Colorado State and Utah State a top-15 worthy schedule. Boise did beat Washington State and Oregon State, but none of these teams have been in the Top 25 this season and most of them have losing records.
BYU, on the other hand, has faced a much tougher schedule. The Cougars have played ranked programs every week except Toledo, which is still a great team at 5-1 (only losing to BYU this season) and Mississippi State (a really solid SEC program).
That being said, I don’t give BYU an edge, either. In fact, the game should be very, very close.
Boise State is the original BCS buster of 15 years ago, and because of that, the Broncos have gained a certain reputation around the country. If they do well, no matter who they’ve played, voters seem to like to give Boise credit – and votes. Boise State may very well get into the four-team college football playoff if they win out, and the Broncos best win will have been over BYU. That’s what busting the BCS and beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl will do for a program, even if it was more than a decade ago.
Reputations aside, Boise State (favored by seven, according to Las Vegas) will rely heavily on running back Jeremy McNichols. He is the Broncos’ version of Jamaal Williams and this game could come down to which running back has more success.
One advantage Boise State has is that blue field and crazy-loud home fan base. It was, by far, the loudest place I have ever played a college football game.
I still, to this day, can’t stand to think about the Thursday night ESPN game back in 2004. I stood on the ugly Boise State field as a field goal attempt soared over my head – and missed badly.
We had played well that night, amassing more than 400 yards of offense, and took over with 3 1/2 minutes left, down by just a single point, 28-27.
We had a great kicker, Matt Payne, who was in the senior year of a fantastic BYU career in which he made 57 field goals (and only missed 13). So when we got the ball down to the Boise 20-yard line with 23 seconds left, it looked and felt like we were going to pull off the road win and upset the Broncos.
Instead, my Cougars lost a heart-wrenching game due to a missed short field goal. This was a year where the Broncos went undefeated, losing only in a bowl game in the postseason. I know it’s not good for an old memory to mean so much today, but closing my eyes I can still see and feel that moment of crushing disappointment.
So I know what’s at stake for these two programs in this big game and can only hope that BYU plays like it has done against Mississippi State and Michigan State.
Playing at home, I give a slight advantage to Boise State this week. But BYU will have every opportunity to come away big with a victory if the Cougars avoid turnovers and play physical up front on offense and defense.
Each year these games seem to be more meaningful for the programs and their fans bases. Without a doubt, BYU will be the toughest team Boise State faces until bowl season.
Boise State still owns the all time record between the two programs 4-2. Last year, the Cougars beat the Broncos (ranked No. 20 at the time) in Provo on a last-minute Hail Mary from Tanner Mangum to Mitchell Juergens. You can bet that Boise State wants payback at home Thursday night.
One last note: The Big 12 announced that it would hold off expansion in the near future, leaving BYU and 18 other potential members out in the cold. While going to that conference would have ultimately been a real plus for the BYU program, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. BYU needs to continue to compete at a high level with the idea that the right fit may come along at any time.
Blue Blood is a sports column written by former BYU lineman and captain Scott Young. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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