In hindsight, it was almost poetic that Boise State opened the 2012 campaign against the Michigan State Spartans.
Both programs had enjoyed sustained success over the past few years, but were undergoing seismic roster changes from top to bottom. Most importantly, both had needed to make changes at the quarterback position. On one side, Andrew Maxwell was replacing Spartan legend and current Washington Redskin Kirk Cousins, and on the other, Joe Southwick was replacing NCAA all-time wins leader Kellen Moore.
The game wasn't quite what people expected. After years of excelling on the offensive side of the football, both teams sputtered en route to a 17-13 Michigan State victory. The offenses looked boring under their new leaders, but it was chalked up to inexperience, nerves and good defense.
They were both expected to figure it out.
But now each school stands at a crossroads, sputtering through giant step-back seasons, and wondering if it has found the right guy to play under center. In East Lansing, the consensus seems to be quarreling against the receivers, not the quarterback. But in Boise, the answer isn't quite that simple.
Bleacher Report's own Michael Lafferty said it best after the Broncos fell to San Diego State last weekend: "Joe Southwick is an average college quarterback who has the extreme misfortune of being the successor to a great college quarterback."
Southwick's season, in almost every conceivable way, can be summed up in the word average. Arm strength: Average. Decision-making: Average. Consistency: Average.
The context of following Kellen Moore doesn't help, but it doesn't excuse Southwick's banalities. Chris Petersen's offense is creative, unique and fun. It pushes the boundaries and plays with defensive players' heads.
In short: It's anything but average.
It takes more than a middling quarterback to properly run this offense, because the playbook has so many keystone idiosyncrasies. In 2012, Peterson––much like Mark Dantonio in the aforementioned Michigan State comparison––has had to reel in his imagination, and run a boring, mechanical offense tailored to his quarterback's limitations.
That's not Boise State football.
At certain schools, with certain players, coaches and schemes around him, Southwick's consistent ordinariness would be enough to get by. Boise State, in a different time, may have been one of those schools. But this isn't your granddad's Boise State Broncos. This is the post-2007 Fiesta Bowl Boise State Broncos. This is the 44 wins in 45 regular season games Boise State Broncos. This is Chris Petersen's Boise State Broncos.
And these Boise State Broncos need him to develop into more (Moore?) than an average quarterback. They need him to be something greater.
Because so long as he's average, the offense will be average, too. And so long as the offense is average, the entire team will be average.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but I'll say it one more time....that's not Boise State football.