Boise State: Debunking The Myths

Donald FincherAnalyst IAugust 27, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Kellen Moore #11 of the Boise State Broncos under center against the TCU Horned Frogs during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 4, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Much "ink" (both literally and virtually) has been spent discussing Boise State this offseason.

The reason is really simple. Their ranking is providing them with the first ever realistic chance of sneaking into the national title game. For reasons I'll detail later, I don't see this happening.

However, before getting to that, I would like to dispel some myths that Boise fans have been perpetuating as they huff, puff, pant, and salivate at all the attention they are getting. There have been a lot of fallacies being pushed upon us by the small but vocal Boise faithful as well as those who just want to "see the big boys get what's comin' to 'em." But most of these myths don't stand up to the light of day.

So in an effort to correct some widely distributed misconceptions associated with Boise State, here are some of the more common myths that most Boise fans actually believe along with some insightful "cold water" thrown on them. Here goes...


1. Boise is a "great American underdog story" and people love to watch us and/or pull for us.

The Truth?

Boise plays more than half their games on non-Saturdays. That's because they cannot compete head-to-head against other games. When on at isolated times and against network TV that is mostly aimed at women (they're the prime demographic of most network tv show advertisers), of course a college football game is going to draw good ratings in that situation. It doesn't really matter that much who the teams are.

But we know that America would rather see other teams if they had a choice. That's because when they have been given a choice, Americans chose other teams in bigger numbers. Look no further than the ratings for the two Fiesta Bowls that Boise appeared in. The first one was down 35 percent from the year before and the second was down 21 percent against the year before.

In each case, Americans in larger numbers preferred to watch the Fiesta Bowl when teams other than Boise were featured.

For those that would argue that this is because the Fiesta Bowl turned into the "little kid's table" bowl last year, consider that last year's game was more watched than when Boise played Oklahoma. So that explanation just doesn't hold water.

The dirty little secret is that most of America is tired of the yapping and themselves pull for other teams that actually have a tough road to travel to get to a BCS game. And they are tired of seeing Boise have a cakewalk to get to one. The Labor Day game against Virginia Tech will have a lot of viewership.

However, what Boise fans don't understand is that most of those viewers will be pulling against them. Nobody looks at them and sees Cinderella.

ESPN won't care who they pull for...just as long as they watch. But Boise fans should not confuse viewership with either interest or appeal.


2. Boise if fun to watch because it has a prolific offense.

This one is always accompanied by monster stats, but rarely mentions the very weak competition.

The Truth?

Boise doesn't play against teams that have great defenses. They played exactly two teams last year that were ranked in the top 50 defensively. That was Oregon and TCU.

Neither one was an exceptional defense, but they were the only ones ranked in the top half of FBS football of all the teams on Boise's schedule.

In the Oregon game, Boise was spotted two turnovers and still only managed 19 points. Against TCU, Boise needed a fake punt to sustain a late drive just to get to 17 points. So against defenses with a pulse, Boise couldn't score 20 on either. This is hardly prolific.


3. Boise plays a tougher non-conference schedule than Florida (or insert other BCS school with creampuffs in September here).

The Truth?

Boise schedules one tough game per year. This year, they happen to have two. And this includes their conference slate.

The really illuminating and laughable thing about this particular argument is that BCS schools schedule WAC teams AS THEIR CREAMPUFFS. In other words, some of those creampuff games (like Alabama playing San Jose State this year or USC playing Hawaii this year or LSU playing Louisiana Tech a couple of years ago) is that what Boise calls conference brethren.

But even more embarrassing about this argument is that it completely ignores the fact that half of the teams each SEC team plays in conference every year (if not more) will be ranked in the top 25 (and many much higher) at the time the game is played.

Throw this in with the fact that LSU will play a ranked North Carolina squad and West Virginia squad, Alabama will play a ranked Penn State team, Arkansas will play a likely ranked and much improved Texas A&M bunch, Florida State could do well under Jimbo Fisher to where Florida will play them when ranked, etc. and you end up seeing many SEC teams play as many as seven ranked teams.

And even many of the unranked ones will be in the top 50. Just because they aren't top 25 doesn't mean they aren't still good in many cases. It really doesn't matter if it's conference or non-conference games, there just simply isn't any way to even stretch a comparison here.


4. Nobody will play us.

This myth usually comes with bravado about how teams fear playing Boise at their stadium because they are frightened of Boise's home record

The Truth?

The upper half of the schools in each of the BCS conferences (except for perhaps the Big East) have 50,000+ seat stadiums. The upper echelon of the Big Ten (Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Wisconsin) all have stadiums that seat over 90,000. Nine schools in the SEC (the exceptions being Vandy and the Mississippi schools) have stadiums seating 75,000 plus with five (Georgia, Bama, Florida, Tennessee and LSU) all seating over 90,000.

With a highly publicized recent report appearing on ESPN, the AP, and in USA Today showing that only 14 schools actually made money without having to rely on student fees or other university money in their athletic department, why would anyone incur the travel cost to come to a remote outpost of the country and play in a 33,000 seat stadium that rarely even sells out? 

And what about the ancillary money the community makes in hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations, merchandising, parking fees, concessions at the stadium, etc. That's worth millions every year to those communities.

The ignorant, shortsighted fans that think it's because of fear that nobody will come to Boise probably also think the Obama stimulus has worked. In other words, these people apparently know nothing about economics. And worse than that, they don't even realize how absolutely silly they sound when they circulate these ludicrous claims.


5. Boise would win 10 or more games in ________ conference (Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10, etc.)

This whopper usually is said about the Pac-10 because Boise beat Oregon last year, which won the conference.

The Truth?

Boise is a team with good starters. They don't have four and 5-star starters, but they have good starters that are coached up and motivated because of the chip on their shoulder.

The problem is that if the starters are mostly 3-star, the backups are not even that. In other words, there is no depth that can compete with the big boys.

While Boise may be able to beat Oregon in Chip Kelly's first ever game as a head coach and before any of their own starters get injured, that doesn't mean that they'd go through the Pac-10 unscathed.

Stanford beat Oregon too and would probably have beaten every WAC team. Does that mean they were good enough to play a Pac 10 schedule without losing 4 games? Apparently not, because they didn't.

The problem with Boise fans making such brash claims is that any team can get way jacked up for a one game season...especially at the beginning of the season when there are no starters hurt. But football in a tough conference is about attrition and how well a team can continue to play when it's going through the weekly grind of playing good teams consistently.

And it's not just the lack of depth that would hurt them. Emotionally, it's hard to get up every week like it takes to play out of their minds for that one or two games a year that they currently overachieve.

Eventually, during a long season playing quality competition consistently, a team has to win based on talent because emotions can't sustain that level of play all season long. And Boise's talent, even in the starters but especially in the two-deep, just isn't what other top 20 teams have.


6. The BCS is a monopoly and the government will (or needs to) step in and break it up.

This is commonly repeated by those who don't understand the limits of the Constitution and/or the difference between private entities and public ones.

The Truth?

The NCAA is a private organization. Yes, most of the schools are state owned schools which means they are subject to some government control. But the schools aren't the ones putting on the BCS. The entities involved in that are private entities that the schools have agreed to coordinate with but they don't own it and therefore the government doesn't own it.

These entities can make their own rules. Furthermore, even though most of the schools are state owned, there is still a big difference between schools owned by numerous states versus schools owned by the federal government (which none are). Finally, the networks and polling entities that have such influence into the system are also private companies.

As for the issue of access, the access doesn't have to be equal for it to not be a monopoly. Think of it this way. Even if Exxon sells 90 percent of the gas/oil in this country and only had one other competitor, they would still NOT technically be a monopoly because the public still has access to gas/oil from someone other than Exxon.

This issue of access was settled nearly a decade ago when the Tulane president at the time made such a stink about non-BCS schools not being able to play in BCS games AT ALL. The rules were rewritten (with governmental influence) to give non-BCS schools access and there have been multiple appearances by non-BCS schools since (Utah twice, Boise twice, Hawaii once, TCU once).

So access was granted.

And this year, there is even a slight chance that a non-BCS could appear in the title game if all goes a certain way. There was never a promise of identical access nor is there a Constitutional case to be made for that. Affirmative action has no business in sports. Thankfully, no government entity has yet to overstep its Constitutional authority on this one.


7. If Boise was in the SEC (or some other power conference but usually the SEC is mentioned) and had SEC money, exposure, facilities, and proximity to recruits, Boise would be just as good as the best SEC schools.

The best way to refute this myth is to actually use facts.

This one doesn't have to be theorized. You see, there are several schools RIGHT NOW that have SEC money, exposure, facilities, and proximity to recruits that still aren't beating Alabama or Florida or LSU with much regularity and aren't winning the SEC. Those schools are Auburn, South Carolina, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

These schools have consistently pulled in recruiting classes that are in the top 30-40...some in the top 10-20. These schools share SEC TV money evenly as the SEC contract calls for. These schools have palatial facilities.

So if you believe this particular myth, you have to believe that Boise, which has never tried to compete in a league like the SEC, would be able to take all of these structural advantages that these other schools enjoy and do something better with it than these schools have...even though these other schools have had decades of trial and error, experience, and some great coaches at their disposal.

Again, this is one of those arguments that really shows how ignorant a fan base whose team has only been FBS for a little over a decade can be.


8. If Boise wins out, it will be in the National Title game.

The computers (and enough voters) are going to do Boise in.

The computers because they look at strength of schedule and Boise's is terrible, even with Virginia Tech on the slate. And the pollsters because as it gets closer to looking like reality, they will find a reason to move Boise down a slot and make way for a one-loss BCS school from a power conference.

Think about it. Either Texas or Oklahoma will likely be unbeaten out of the Big 12. Ohio State might also go unbeaten, but might not. But even if they don't, let's say an undefeated Big 12 champion and a one-loss SEC champion are in the mix.

The SEC has won the national title with one-loss teams on several occasions. So everybody in the country (including the voters) believes that a one-loss SEC champion is not only worthy of that spot, but a favorite to win even over the undefeated Big 12 or Big Ten champ.

So the pollsters will be looking for that UC Davis or Tulsa game where Boise wins but it's seen as bad as a loss because they should have won by much, much more. And they'll drop them—just like they did last year.

Also, because Boise will drop every week (since they play their highest ranked opponent in week one and get softer as the season goes on), the computers will be dropping them too which will give cover to the pollsters for doing the same thing. 

And the pollsters will be further shielded from too much criticism by the ESPN talking heads staying mum and the fact that there will be a public outcry to remedy this injustice if it starts to really look like Boise is going to get to that game.

Think about it.  The only ballot that the coaches have to publicly show is the last one,not the one that determines the final BCS rankings and who plays in the title game. If the Big Ten can get Ohio State in as a one-loss No. 3 team by having every one of their coaches vote Boise 50th so as to hurt their Coach's poll component enough to leapfrog Ohio State over them, do you not realistically think they would?

There's $25 million dollars on the line for the conference if they can get their champ out of the Rose Bowl and into the national title game because then another one of their schools would likely get a second BCS game bid. You should see a doctor or take some medicine if you don't believe that they would do this.

In the end, all the conference realignment and everything that goes into college football is about TV.

There will be a palpable tune out factor if Boise State appears in the championship game. The bigwigs at ESPN will see to it that it doesn't happen. They'll influence voters behind closed doors and they'll talk Boise down in the late season so as to give voters cover.  After all, they have wrestled the games back from Fox and their biggest broadcast contract is with the SEC, but they also have a really big one with the Big Ten.

Furthermore, the powers that be in college football don't want a playoff but the public outcry if Boise were to get into,much less win, the national title game would be huge. If they can't find a way to keep Boise out of the National Title game in the BCS system, the public will force a playoff. And since they're so demonstrably against a playoff, they'll find a way to keep Boise out of the BCS national title game to prevent this backlash. 

Congress is about to be taken over by Republicans this November, and everyone knows it. And everyone also knows that they are much more likely to listen to "free market" types over the anti-trust types while they're in charge. So any Congressional problems that the BCS boys might otherwise face with a Democrat led Congress will not have to be worried about by the powers that be.

Thus, the only possible way I see Boise in the national title game is if there are absolutely no one-loss teams from the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, or Pac 10. 

If everyone, and I do mean everyone, in those conferences has two losses, then I cannot see a way to keep Boise out.  But short of this, Boise will not play for the national championship.


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