Boise State's 33-30 victory over Virginia Tech on Monday night puts the Broncos in legitimate contention due to their relatively easy regular season schedule. Home matchups against Oregon State and Fresno State present the biggest road blocks to Boise going undefeated for the second consecutive year, but the Broncos have only lost two conference games since 2005 and this is their strongest team yet.
The debate will rage on among fan bases over whether or not Boise State should go to the BCS National Championship game, if indeed the table is run again. Playing teams like Utah State and Idaho will inevitably give a team its doubters.
But when Utah State loses at Oklahoma by just seven points and Idaho dismantles an opponent, albeit a IAA opponent, 45-0, you can't exactly look at the Broncos' schedule as quite a cake-walk anymore.
While Boise's detractors will discount their legitimacy because of their perceived weakness of schedule, let's look at eight BCS-conference teams whose schedules are easier than the Broncos'.
The Wisconsin Badgers will host title-contender Ohio State on October 16th, and will travel to Iowa and...Michigan? Michigan State?
After the Buckeye and Hawkeye matchups, it's hard to choose exactly what the Badgers' third-hardest game is.
Out of conference, Wisconsin is challenging itself with the likes of San Jose St., Austin Peay, and a not-that-good Arizona State team.
The Badgers have what it takes to possibly run the table in the last year of the 11-team Big Ten, just not a schedule that is conclusively harder than Boise State's.
Having beaten UCLA this weekend, the WIldcats have completed their toughest out-of-conference game. Missouri State, Central Florida, and a season-closer at North Texas are none too intimidating.
The most difficult games on Kansas State's schedule are meetings with Nebraska and Texas. However, these two games will be played in Manhattan, giving the Wildcats a leg-up on two programs that are a year away from being championship contenders.
The Fighting Illini have one of the toughest schedules on this list, but their slate is one Boise would have a legitimate shot at going undefeated against.
The Broncos would have beaten Missouri this weekend in St. Louis, and Illinois gets its toughest game, Ohio State, at home.
Road games at Penn State and Michigan State will be challenging for Zook's squad, but are comparable to Boise's matchups with Oregon State and Hawaii.
Meanwhile, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois are not opponents the Illini should be gloating over after beating them in Champaign.
Boston College benefits from playing in the Atlantic Division of the ACC, where foes such as NC State and Maryland are not exactly elite teams.
The Eagles will face Florida State on the road, but will host Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Notre Dame in their other most difficult games of the season. Boston College will be glad to not face Miami, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech this year.
Other than the matchup with the rebuilding Fighting Irish, out-of-conference games against Weber State, Kent State, and Syracuse give the Eagles perhaps the easiest schedule in the ACC.
A few weeks back I picked Michigan State as a dark horse team to win the Big Ten.
Their schedule was one of the main factors.
A home game against Notre Dame highlights an otherwise unimpressive out-of-conference slate featuring Northern Colorado and Western Michigan.
Meanwhile, the Spartans can rest easy in not having to face Terrell Pryor and the Buckeyes during his Heisman-hopeful season.
Traveling to Penn State and Iowa will be tough tests for Michigan State.
Home games against Minnesota and Purdue? Not as tough.
Another of my dark horse picks (aren't you glad you've been following that series?), the Connecticut Huskies have an easy schedule low-lighted by four out-of-conference scrubs.
Though the Huskies lost to Michigan in the Big House this weekend, the next four weeks present the following opponents: Texas Southern, Temple, Buffalo, and Vanderbilt. Most certainly easier than Boise State's out-of-conference slate, even with the Michigan game factored in.
Meanwhile, in the not-much-to-brag-about Big East, UConn will host its three toughest games against West Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.
Road trips to Louisville and Syracuse should pose little threat to UConn, and would pose even less of a threat to Boise State.
Another Big Ten team benefiting from not having to play Ohio State, the Wildcats also have an easy out-of-conference schedule.
While Vanderbilt posed an unexpectedly tough test in the opening week, Illinois State, Central Michigan, and Rice should be much easier opponents for Pat Fitzgerald's young squad.
A home game against Iowa and a season finale at Wisconsin are the two toughest games on Northwestern's slate.
While the inexperience on the offensive side of the ball could lead to a handful (or more) of losses for Northwestern, Boise State's 10 returning starters on each side of the ball would likely fare much better.
In their final season in the Big 12, Nebraska has a relatively easy conference schedule paired with a very manageable out-of-conference slate.
The 'Huskers will host a Texas team with a lot of firepower missing from last season, and do not have to face the Oklahoma Sooners. Road trips to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M highlight the rest of an overall non-intimidating conference schedule.
Western Kentucky played tough against Nebraska in the opening week, but are not going to be making a bowl game any time soon.
A trip to Washington in week three is Nebraska's hardest non-Big 12 game, as South Dakota State is a I-AA cup cake and Idaho faces both Nebraska and Boise State, making that a wash.
While Boise State will not receive as much credit for winning the conference again, which would be their ninth time in 10 years, the Broncos have the talent, experience and coaching to win several other conferences this year. The Big 12 is one of those conferences.