Boise State Football: Power Ranking the Broncos' 5 Best Classes of the BCS Era
The BCS era was one of the most controversial time periods in college football—it was also one of the most entertaining.
For Boise State and its fans, the system that existed from 1998 to 2013 could be described as an unforgettable roller-coaster ride. Of course, it could also be described as a love-hate relationship.
On one hand, the Broncos rose to prominence under the system, but they also seemed to be kept just out of reach of its grand prize.
Still, there is not much to complain about for the BSU faithful. It was a collection of memorable seasons that lifted Boise State into the national spotlight and brought the blue turf to television sets around the world.
In a way the Boise State football program came of age with the BCS. The team became an FBS member in 1996, and the system would arrive just two seasons later.
However, it wasn't until 2002 that the Broncos would begin to knock on the door of the BCS palace, and it wouldn't be until the 2006 season that they would finally kick in the door.
Let's look at the greatest teams that Boise State had during this era in an effort to recognize the best.
No. 5: 2003
At No. 5 on this list, we start with a bit of a controversial pick. Quite appropriate when you think about it.
The 2003 Boise State football team is sometimes forgotten in history. In fact, some would say that the 2008 team led by Kellen Moore would deserve to hold this spot.
Those who would say such things might point out that Kellen Moore and his teammates rolled to a perfect 12-0 record in the regular season of 2008, and one of those wins was against Oregon, 37-32, in Autzen Stadium.
However, the Broncos did fall to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl that same year, 17-16, and in a way it seemed like a bit of a let down for Bronco Nation.
The 2003 team also had just one loss. However, that loss came on a controversial call against Oregon State in Corvallis.
It was late in the game, and the Broncos trailed 24-26. The Beavers were trying to run out the clock and decided to go for it on fourth down. Quarterback Derek Anderson tried to stretch for a first down on the play, but he fumbled the ball and the Broncos recovered in great field position.
However, the referee said that Oregon State had reached the line to gain just before he fumbled, so they gave the ball back to OSU. Many in the stands and those watching on television scratched their heads on that one.
It was extremely disappointing, but the 2003 team didn't let the loss slow it down. The Broncos rolled to 11 straight wins to finish the season 13-1 overall.
Along the way, Boise State had victories over BYU, Fresno State, SMU and Nevada. The Broncos also beat No. 19 TCU in its own backyard at the Fort Worth Bowl in a very exciting 34-31 contest.
The 2003 team was led by quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie and running backs David Mikell, Donny Heck and Lee Marks. Wide receivers Tim Gilligan, Jerry Smith and T.J. Acree all did their part, as did defensive players Cam Hall, Gerald Alexander, Julius Brown and Wes Nurse.
No. 4: 2004
The 2004 season was one that many Boise State fans remember.
The Broncos went undefeated in the regular season, finishing a perfect 11-0. Along the way, they beat BYU, SMU, Fresno State and Nevada once again, but they also got revenge against Oregon State.
The Broncos handled the Beavers 53-34 in Bronco Stadium, and the game made quite the statement.
However, it was the loss at the end of the season that got the biggest buzz.
Boise State played No. 8 Louisville in the Liberty Bowl in 2004, and what a game it was. Many in the college football world at the time thought the Cardinals would roll the over-ranked Broncos who had climbed to No. 10 in the polls.
What transpired in Memphis was an epic see-saw battle that Louisville pulled off 40-44. The Broncos were in it until the end but came up a few yards short.
What happened after the game was amazing. Many of the same people claiming the Broncos didn't belong had changed their minds.
The 2004 class consisted of players like quarterback Jared Zabransky, backup quarterback Mike Sanford and running backs Lee Marks, Jeff Carpenter and Jon Helmandollar. At wide receiver, Boise State had T.J. Acree, Lawrence Bady, Legedu Naanee and Drisan James. Another pair of familiar names are punt returner Chris Carr and tight end Derek Schouman.
On defense the Broncos had Andy Avalos, Gerald Alexander, Colt Brooks, Andrew Browning and Gabe Franklin, just to name a few.
Overall, this class did an amazing job. The respect earned in Memphis in 2004 helped to elevate the program to a new level, and it carried the Broncos into the future.
No. 3: 2010
The 2010 Boise State football season is most remembered by fans because of one play—or rather, one kick.
The Broncos were rolling. It was an incredible season, and it looked like they might have a legitimate chance at playing for the BCS title if things continued to roll their way.
However, on a cold November night in Reno, Nev., all of those hopes came crashing down under the weight of one missed 26-yard field goal.
Boise State fans will probably never forget the wide-right kick in Mackay Stadium. In fact, to this day you can find a handful of fans who swear that kick was good.
The Broncos started the 2010 season off with an incredible win against Virginia Tech 33-30 at FedExField in front of over 86,000 fans.
They would then beat several teams including Oregon State and Fresno State before facing the No. 19-ranked Wolf Pack.
Going into the game the Broncos were ranked No. 4 in the nation and poised to continue to rise. But when Kyle Brotzman did something he rarely ever did and missed a field goal that could have won the game, fans deflated.
It seemed to have a resounding effect on the team as well, and overtime came with unimpressive results. Brotzman missed another field goal, this time from 29 yards, and the Wolf Pack were able to capitalize.
Nevada beat Boise State with a 34-yard field goal of its own, and the 34-31 loss went down as the most painful in blue and orange history.
Still, the effort of the 2010 team was outstanding, led by quarterback Kellen Moore, running back Doug Martin, wide receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis and defensive stars J.C. Percy, Winston Venable, Tyrone Crawford, Billy Winn, Chase Baker and Byron Hout.
The destruction of Utah in the Maaco Bowl, 26-3, and the Virginia Tech win to start the season are all things Bronco Nation remembers fondly, and overall it was a great season.
But, oh what might have been.
No. 2: 2009
All players dream of it, and every team strives for it. However, very few teams in the college football world ever achieve a perfect season.
Boise State did it twice in the BCS era.
In 2009, the Broncos had their second perfect season in three years. They started the year off with a win at home against Oregon and proceeded to roll off 12 more wins before the regular season had ended.
The 2009 roster was much the same as the previously mentioned 2010 roster. However, in 2009 it was Jeremy Avery who led the Broncos in rushing.
The potent rushing attack of Boise State along with its extremely accurate passing attack led by Kellen Moore brought the Broncos back to a BCS bowl game. This time the opponent would be TCU, but the game would be a defensive battle.
However, it was one of the Broncos' "trick plays" that gave the momentum and eventually the game to BSU.
With just over 12 minutes left in the game and on 4th-and-9 from their own 33-yard line, the Broncos pulled out of the playbook something called the "Riddler."
The "Riddler" was a fake punt in which punter Kyle Brotzman completed a pass to Kyle Efaw for a gain of 29 yards and a big first down. The game was tied at 10 when Boise State pulled off this play, and it led them to an eventual Doug Martin rushing touchdown.
At that point the score was 17-10 in favor of the Broncos, and that is how the game would end after a big defensive stand by Boise State.
It was an incredible season and a second Fiesta Bowl trophy for BSU.
No. 1: 2006
Anyone who has paid attention to college football has probably heard of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl game between Oklahoma and Boise State.
It was a true David versus Goliath matchup when little Boise State of the WAC faced off with mighty Oklahoma of the Big 12.
There weren't many outside of Idaho who gave the Broncos a chance in the game, but that only seemed to add fuel to their fire.
It was the entire 2006 season that led up to that moment, and it is a season that Bronco Nation will never forget.
Jared Zabransky was quarterback, and Ian Johnson led the Broncos ground attack. Legedu Naanee, Drisan James, Jerard Rabb, Derek Schouman and Vinny Perretta were the bulk of the receiving corps that season. Ryan Clady led the offensive line, and Quinton Jones was the leading returner.
On defense, the Broncos were led by Andrew Browning, Kyle Gingg, Dennis Ellis, Nick Schlekeway and Marty Tadman among so many other amazing players.
After going 12-0 in the regular season, it was time to face mighty Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
There was talk before the game that Boise State would get blown out, and there was even speculation that the Broncos couldn't supply the fans for the game.
However, in both cases those who wondered such things were proven dead wrong.
Bronco Nation fans showed up in force, and so did their team. Boise State won in thrilling overtime fashion, 43-42.
It was a game that lives on in the halls of college football history as one of the greatest ever played in the BCS era.
In fact, it may be one of the best games in any era.