Everyone is wanting to know. With the Broncos changing conferences, will that be too much for the little team from Boise, Idaho to deal with? Will the Boise State Broncos continue to be a mid-major college powerhouse looking for a fight with the BCS bad boys? You ask five people, you get five answers. But the answer for this year, at least, is a little more clear for some college football-savy pundits as the Broncos begin their first season in the Mountain West Conference.
Sorry TCU. With 14 starters and 58 lettermen returning, Boise State is the clear favorite to win the Mountain West in their first season with the new league according to most, Phil Steele included. And if Boise State gets past Georgia, they are favored to go all the way to a BCS game. That would be huge for the MWC and BCS AQ numbers.
Boise State has played MWC teams 14 times since the Mountain West was created. Since 1999, the Brocnos have amassed a 13-1 record against the MWC conference. Three of those wins were when Boise State was still in the Big West, and eleven have been since the Broncos were in the WAC. Five of those 13 wins came against Wyoming, three wins against Utah and two against BYU. To date, the Broncos are 2-1 against TCU. A more important thing to mention, however, is that Boise State has not yet played San Diego State, Air Force, Colorado State, or UNLV.
All that is about to change.
So just what could happen with Boise State's first year in the Mountain West Conference?
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: 12-0 and looking for a National Championship shot. And why not with HC Chris Petersen at the helm of his herd of Broncos and his Heisman candidate QB, Kellen Moore, still in the saddle? If you need reminding, Moore is the guy who has thrown 99 touchdowns and only 19 interceptions in his stellar career. This is the same undersized quarterback from Prosser, Washington that other teams didn't want and who now has a career record of 38-2 and a Fiesta Bowl championship under his belt.
Sure, the Broncos lost their two best receivers to the NFL last season. But those fading stars have made way for other gutsy receivers on the offense to step up---like WR Tyler Shoemaker, 6-1, 213 lbs; WR Chris Potter, 5-9, 185 lbs; WR Geraldo Hiwat, 6-4, 200 lbs; and TE Kyle Efaw, 6-4, 242 lbs. All of them have proven they can catch the ball, and RB Doug Martin, 5-9, 215 lbs can grab the pigskin and run with it.
Throw in one of the top ranked defenses in the country loaded up front with a couple of All-Americans and you have the makings of an undefeated Mountain West Conference champion. BCS-bound. And in that scenario, if the wins are impressive and the stars were to line up, the Boise State Broncos could find themselves in New Orleans, Louisiana come January, battling it out for the national title. And me up for a Pulitzer.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: 9-3
There is always a lot of worry when a program loses some of its best players: wide receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis, and DE Ryan Winterswyk are but three. Then there is the question of a new offensive coordinator for the first time since 2006, and a defensive coordinator who is only in his second year in that position. And especially facing a top-25 Georgia team in the confines of the SEC stronghold that last time gave the Broncos a severe pounding . That's not even considering the unsettled question of facing a bunch of new opponents in a brand new conference---wow! To think about all that is almost overwhelming if you are a Boise State fan.
The Broncos could drop up to 3 of 5 games against Georgia, Air Force, TCU, Tulsa, or San Diego State. They are all tough, well coached, and are all studying BSU game tapes. TCU is looking to settle a score, anyway, after losing to Boise State in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Did I mention the Rose Bowl champs are only 1-1 against the Broncos? But even if the Broncos struggle for some reason, they should still be able to get by Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Fresno State, Toledo, UNLV and Colorado State. Barring an upset, of course. Otherwise, the worst case scenario drops the Broncos to an 8-4 team.
Worst-case scenario. Just don't count on it.