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Hefferon: Boise State needs tougher schedule

Jack Hefferon | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It’s finally, finally football season again, when kids ages 5 to 45 pad up, line up in the trenches and hit each other as hard as they possibly dare.

Someone pushes the pile, someone gets pushed along. Somebody initiates contact, somebody else takes it. Someone wins, someone loses.

Football leaves no doubt.

Which is why I’ve got a bone to pick with a certain college football team. They have more wins over the past five years than any team in the FBS, and it’s not even close. They’ve finished with a perfect record twice over that span – 13-0 in 2006 and 14-0 in 2009 – and have only lost six games since 2006. Yet they’ve never claimed a BCS National Championship, or even had the opportunity to play for one.

That’s right, Boise State, I’m talking to you.

The Broncos burst into America’s consciousness on New Year’s night in 2007. Previously known only as “that team with the blue turf,” Boise squared off against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, with the Sooners favored by more than a touchdown. The Broncos played like kids in the backyard, running consecutive trick plays before going for two and the win in overtime.

Boise won 43-42, their star running back proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend and one of the greatest fairy tale games in history ended happily ever after.

Boise State made football look easy that year, and to a certain extent, it was. The team hadn’t played a single top-25 team in the regular season, and its strength of schedule was in the bottom third in the FBS. Most argued any elite team could finish undefeated with that schedule, and the team finished fourth in the final AP poll.

In an attempt to boost their reputation and postseason r̩sum̩, Boise State began to schedule one signature game early on in each season. They beat Oregon Рa top-20 squad Рin September in both 2008 and 2009, and ran the table in the regular season both years. But voters were still unimpressed, sending them to the Poinsettia Bowl in 2008 and to another Fiesta Bowl win in 2009.

2010 started with a win at No. 13 Virginia Tech. Last season, they opened with a win over No. 19 Georgia in the Georgia Dome. But the Broncos slipped up with a late loss in each of those seasons, and ended up with nothing but two wins in something called the MAACO Bowl.

This year, Boise State appears to be following the same game plan. The team will begin their campaign in East Lansing against No. 13 Michigan State, but if they can upset the Spartans there, the toughest challenge left on their schedule will be the mostly toothless Cougars of BYU.

But even if the Broncos do run the table – a distinct possibility with 11 cupcakes on their plate – they most likely still won’t have a chance to play for the crystal ball. They need to learn the lesson that the polls have been trying to tell them for years: One game does not a season make.

So my question to Coach Chris Petersen and his team is this: Why do you play the game?

If the answer is to win a big game, coast and backdoor your way into the BCS, then stick to your guns. Your move to the Big East and the transition to a four-team playoff might even give you a fighting chance at a shot starting next year.

But if you play to compete and to dominate, believing in August your team is the best and have the chance to go out to show it to the world, then prove it. Why set up a schedule where perfection is not enough?

Knock down doors in the SEC and Big Ten, offer to play teams at their place and double-dog-dare them to accept. Get Notre Dame or another big-time school to play midseason. Set up a murderer’s row of a schedule that rewards greatness, not one that explains it away. If you’re the elite program that you think you are, come out and prove to the rest of the country that you deserve a shot to be No. 1.

Leave no doubt.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.