Over the last decade, Boise State has proven to be the best small conference FBS football program in the nation. Here are five schools that could become the next Boise State.
America fell in love with Boise State when the Broncos shocked Oklahoma with a series of trick plays in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Boise capped off the upset with the Statue of Liberty on a 2-point conversion to seal a 43-42 overtime victory, which was followed by an on-field wedding proposal for running back Ian Johnson.
It was the first time Boise – then a member of the WAC – played in a BCS game, and it was the first season for head coach Chris Petersen. The win helped the school to a perfect 13-0 record and a No. 5 ranking in the AP Top 25, both of which the program topped in 2009 when the Broncos finished 14-0 and were ranked fourth in the final poll.
Peterson led Boise State to an incredible 92-12 overall record and a 57-6 mark in conference play, with three WAC titles and a share of one Mountain West championship through 2013, when he accepted the head coaching position at Washington.
Boise State is still the heavyweight in the Mountain West, and among schools that do not compete in a Power Five conference. Last season under new head coach Bryan Harsin, the Broncos were 12-2, won the MWC, earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl and beat Arizona 38-30.
Simply, it will be difficult for another team in the conference to rise up and knock them off the perch.
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Of course, as Ric Flair says, to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best – and schools like Wyoming under Craig Bohl – a three-time FCS national champion at North Dakota State and Fresno State under Tim DeRuyter will have their opportunities to go toe-to-toe with the Broncos.
Plus, the Mountain West has had the greatest history of success when it comes to little guys making a big statement.
A founding member of the league in 1999, Utah earned themselves a spot in the expanded Pac-12 after Urban Meyer jumpstarted the program with back-to-back conference championships in 2003 and 2004. Under Meyer, the Utes went 12-0 in 2004 and ended the season with a 35-7 victory over Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl – the first BCS bowl game (and win) for a non-BCS school. After Meyer left for Florida, Utah turned the trick again with a 13-0 2008 season that ended with a 31-17 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
TCU, another of Boise’s former conference mates in the Mountain West, played in BCS bowls after the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The Horned Frogs lost to the Broncos in the Fiesta Bowl and beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl the following year. TCU used those games in addition to four MWC championships from 2005-11 to appeal to the Big 12 (after a very, very brief stint as a Big East pledge).
Boise State Since 1999 (Final AP Ranking):
- 1999: 10-3 (NR)
- 2000: 10-2 (NR)
- 2001: 8-4 (NR)
- 2002: 12-1 (15th)
- 2003: 1301 (16th)
- 2004: 11-1 (12th)
- 2005: 9-4 (NR)
- 2006: 13-0 (5th)
- 2007: 10-3 (NR)
- 2008: 12-1 (11th)
- 2009: 14-0 (4th)
- 2010: 12-1 (9th)
- 2011: 12-1 (8th)
- 2012: 11-2 (18th)
- 2013: 8-5 (NR)
- 2014: 12-2 (16th)
And the general consensus is that BYU – yet another former MWC member and a regular Boise State opponent – will be the next school to join a Power Five conference. The Cougars are currently an independent in football and have had success scheduling powerhouse programs like Texas, UCLA, USC, Notre Dame Michigan State, Stanford, Mississippi State and Washington for games in Provo (as well as return trips), and is poised to take on others like Nebraska, Michigan, West Virginia, LSU, Wisconsin either on the road or at a neutral site.
It’s a strategy that has risen the national profile of the Cougars, and could work very well for one of the programs on our list.
So, what schools have the ingredients necessary to become the next Boise State? The next small conference school capable of running the table in the regular season and beating traditional powerhouses in premium bowl games? Maybe even crack the College Football Playoff? Here are five schools that could become the next Boise State.