Yes, it is way too early to start talking about a Mountain West Conference title game featuring a rematch between the Boise State Broncos and Fresno State Bulldogs.
No, it won't stop the provocative speculation by those who like saying things out loud that make most people shake their heads while saying, "way too early, too many games left."
Still, with just two regular season games remaining for both of these teams, it might be fun to dive into a day dream produced by imagination and with a working title that reads; "What If."
What if Boise State gets another shot at Fresno State in the MWC title game, and a BCS bowl berth is on the line for the Bulldogs?
How big would that game be for each team and the conference?
A few things still need to happen of course, for this dream to become reality. But, when looking at the pieces of the puzzle that need to fall into place, it seems like level one Tetris.
Taking Care of Business
For both of these teams the bottom line is simply taking care of business on the field. The Broncos face San Diego State and New Mexico in the last two weeks of the season, while Fresno State has New Mexico and San Jose State respectively.
For a potential title game to be truly provocative it must have high stakes.
Those stakes would certainly be high if the Bulldogs beat their last two opponents going into the MWC title game. If that were to happen, the championship game in Bulldog Stadium wouldn't just be for the first ever MWC title game victory for either team, it would also be for the very first BCS bowl game berth for Fresno State.
That should add some tension.
|Mountain West Conference Standings|
|San Diego State||5-1||6-4|
|San Jose State||4-3||5-5|
|Standings Via TheMWC.com|
Of course, Boise State would love to play spoiler, but they have a daunting task ahead of them next Saturday. The Broncos travel to San Diego State to take on the Aztecs. This is by far the biggest challenge left on their regular season schedule.
This is the same Aztecs team that lost to Fresno State in overtime back in late October, but would have won the game if their last-second field goal in regulation wasn't blocked.
This is the same team that played spoiler themselves last season when they upset the Broncos in Bronco Stadium to crush the BCS dreams of last year's Boise State squad.
To even have a shot at busting the BCS dreams of the Bulldogs, the Broncos must find a way over the San Diego hurdle.
Finish Strong and Avoid Distraction
If Boise State does get past the Aztecs, it will face the Lobos of New Mexico on senior day in Bronco Stadium.
Here is where some things start to get dicey.
Senior Joe Southwick, who has been out with a broken ankle, will most likely return for that game. As a senior, Southwick will probably get the start. However, there are many out there in Bronco Land who are dreading the quarterback controversy that might be coming.
If Grant Hedrick continues to play well, and he leads the Broncos past San Diego, there will probably be an outcry of fans who will want him to remain the quarterback finishing the season and potentially heading into the MWC title game.
Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman has already began to discuss this topic in a recent article, and nearly every fan who responded online about that article wants Hedrick to stay.
This could be a huge distraction for the coaching staff and the players. Although highly unlikely that head coach Chris Petersen lets it become a huge issue, it could still cause some waves on "The Blue."
However, if there is a quarterback controversy going into the championship, it could be the kind of distraction that keeps the team from focusing on the Bulldogs.
Another way to look at it however, is that Petersen may have the best of both worlds. If both quarterbacks can be utilized, it might actually throw a dynamic into the mix that the Bulldogs would have a hard time preparing for.
If Boise State, in this scenario, goes into the title game unified, prepared, playing at a high level and with the extra dynamic of two quarterbacks ready to go, it could cause some problems for the Bulldogs as they prepare for the game.
For those still shaking their heads, simply stop so you can focus on the last part of this article.
Let's say the Bulldogs beat New Mexico, and they beat San Jose State, which is their toughest test left in the regular season. If that happens, they will be playing for the MWC title and a BCS bowl berth on December 7.
Let's say the Broncos beat San Diego State and New Mexico to advance to play the Bulldogs once again in Bulldog Stadium, but this time for the title.
How would Boise State be able to do any better against Fresno State than they did the first time when they took it to the wire only to lose 41-40 in a heart breaker?
Simple answer really.
The Broncos just need to play like they have been lately on offense, and like they did against Wyoming on defense.
Yes, it was Wyoming and not Fresno State. However, the way the Boise State defense tackled, played aggressive coverage, did some unpredictable and creative blitzing and pressured the quarterback all game long was impressive.
Against the Bulldogs the first game, the Boise State defense was lit up for 522 yards, but 460 of them were in the air.
Derek Carr went 39-of-60 for 460 yards and four touchdowns against the Broncos. He took advantage of a young defensive secondary that was playing way too soft of coverage, and a defensive line that was only able to force one sack on the night.
Fast forward to late in the season, and it looks like the Boise State defense is beginning to look more like last season's defense rather than the one that started this year.
It did help that the Wyoming game came after a bye week, as the Broncos needed to get some guys healthy. Still, even with a couple of guys out, the young players on the defense are stepping up in a big way.
If they play this kind of defense in the last two games and in the MWC title game, should they make it, the rematch will look nothing like the original.
Offense Without Turnovers
Against Fresno State the first time, Boise rolled up 561 yards of offense and 40 points. However, that effort still fell short.
One of the big reasons was because of the turnovers in that game by the Broncos. Usually, a team can overcome two turnovers. However, not when they are as crucial as the two Boise State had in Fresno.
In the middle of the second quarter the Broncos were driving. The score was 17-16 Fresno. However, it looked like Boise was going to take the lead. Joe Southwick was leading the offense on a six-play, 34-yard drive when it happened.
From 1st-and-10 at the Fresno State 29, Southwick threw a costly pick. The Bulldogs then took over, and proceeded to roll 71 yards on 10 plays to make it a 24-16 game.
The second ill-timed turnover came in the third quarter as Boise State was getting back into the game.
Boise State had a 4th-and-1 at the Fresno 15. Jay Ajayi took the hand off and gained the first down, but then lost the ball.
The Bulldogs picked it up and ran it back to the 21. Derek Carr then took his offense on a 68-yard drive in 10 plays and finished it with a Colin McGuire 28-yard field goal to go up 34-19.
Without these two very costly turnovers, this game would have looked much different.
To have a shot to bust the Bulldogs BCS dreams, Boise State must hang on to the ball and continue to play smart, efficient offense.
If all of the dominoes fall into place, and Fresno State and Boise State meet in the inaugural Mountain West Conference championship game, it will be electric.
If a BCS berth is on the line for the Bulldogs, the game should get some national attention, and the atmosphere will be bowl-like in Fresno.
Boise State will certainly have a load of fans there, as the MWC title game most likely allows for more tickets for visiting fans than a regular Fresno State home game would.
If the Broncos remain consistent on offense, don't turn the ball over, and play defense like they did against Wyoming, the BCS bubble in the Central Valley might be burst in early December.
Boise State has gotten better in many areas over the season, and a rematch might even favor them. It is difficult to beat the same team twice in the same season, and especially if that team has had several games to mature its young lineup.
Still, the Bulldogs are a great team with a potent offense. So, it could be another high-scoring offensive slug fest that comes down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes.
If this scenario does play out, and if Boise State upsets Fresno State and knocks them out of a BCS game on the way to a MWC title, even some of the most loyal fans of the Broncos will no doubt feel for the Bulldogs.
Broncos fans have experienced that pain, and they know it isn't fun.
It would be exciting for those same Boise State fans to see their team rebound from a tough early season to win a title and go into the bowl game and next season with serious momentum.
Of course, none of this happens unless both of these two teams win out. If Fresno loses a game, they will still play for the title, but it won't have the same luster.
And, if Boise State loses one game, they may not play in the title game at all. Instead it might be Utah State.
So, while it's fun to dream, as the pessimists were screaming when they began to read this breakdown, "there is a lot of football still left to play."
Still, the "What If" game would be something to see, and it would be just what the Mountain West Conference needs in its first ever title game.
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