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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 6, 2010

CFB: Unbeaten Boise State out of the mix — for now

AP College Football Writer

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — The second 14-0 team in modern college football history is back in Idaho, ready to watch Texas and Alabama play for the national title.

In the BCS universe, the Boise State Broncos might as well be on Mars. If you’re not in the Rose Bowl on Thursday night, forget about the national championship.
But while the Broncos were left out of the mix this time, they might not be all that far from a shot at the national title.
“Nothing happens overnight,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said after the Broncos wrapped up their perfect season Monday with a 17-10 Fiesta Bowl victory over Texas Christian.
Indeed, it could happen within the confines of the oft-vilified BCS, even as congressmen call for change and playoff advocates launch a televised ad campaign.
The Broncos return 21 of 22 starters next season. And with Virginia Tech and Oregon State on their schedule, the Broncos will have a chance to parry any strength-of-schedule questions presented by the feeble Western Athletic Conference.
“If we could beat the teams on our schedule, we would jump dramatically,” Petersen said.
Playoff advocates argue that the Broncos shouldn’t have to wait to play for No. 1. Their resume, which includes a win over Pac-10 champion Oregon, is as spotless as those sported by top-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Texas.
But not even the Broncos were demanding a shot at the championship after they beat TCU with a workmanlike, somewhat uninspiring, performance. Asked if he thought Boise State should be No. 1, Broncos tight end Kyle Efaw replied, “Probably not. But I mean, maybe next year.”
That’s a step up from “never,” which would have described Boise State’s chances when the BCS opened in the 1998 season.
The Broncos have even made progress from January 2007, when some regarded Boise State as a colorful novelty act after its exhilarating Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma. It was symbolic that the Broncos had to check out of their resort hotel the next day to make room for the Florida Gators, who had arrived to face Ohio State in the title game.
Now that the Broncos are 2-0 in the BCS — matching the combined victory total for Penn State, Michigan and Notre Dame — they no longer have to beg to play with the big boys.
The only question is whether they’ll have a chance to play for the big prize.
A playoff might make that possible — assuming the WAC and its ilk would be guaranteed a slot.
“I know a lot of people think they have the perfect answer, but when you put it down on the paper and try to figure out how to get those things done, there’s problems with it,” Petersen said.
By dodging the playoff debate, Petersen took a sharply contrasting approach from the previous Fiesta Bowl winner. After Texas beat Ohio State last January, Mack Brown said he would vote his one-loss team No. 1.
One year later, Brown doesn’t have to stump, having earned a berth in this year’s title game, however narrowly. But Brown still wants see a different system, even if he hasn’t offered a foolproof alternative.
“When I voice my opinion, usually someone has an opinion of my opinion and then it goes away the next day and we go back to the system,” Brown said this week.
“I don’t think what we’ve got is best for college football,” he said. “I’d like to keep working and tweaking and see if we can get the best teams to play at the end.”
The BCS is all about tweaking. Perhaps the most important tweak came when it bowed to congressional pressure and added a fifth game, improving access for Boise State and others who don’t have an automatic bid.
The Broncos have made the most of that access, as has Mountain West Conference power Utah, also 2-0 in the BCS.
Anyone remember whom the Utes beat by 14 points in the Sugar Bowl a year ago?
Oh, yeah: Alabama, which is in the title game one year later.
With every victory by a BCS buster, the possibility of one of them playing for a national title seems a little less remote.
Consider the company Boise State joined when it became the second 14-0 team in modern history.
The first was Ohio State, the 2002 national champion. The third will be either the Crimson Tide or the Longhorns.
Ohio State, Alabama, Texas and ... Boise State?
Petersen was asked if this was a dream season for the Broncos or if there was still “one more thing” out there for the Broncos.
“It is a dream season because we can only beat the teams on our schedule,” Petersen said. “And so we don’t even think about anything other than that.”
This time next year, they may have to.