Many Boise State fans thought that their opening week victory in Landover, MD against the then-No. 10 Virginia Tech Hokies would become a signature win for the 2010 season and possibly propel the Broncos' strength of schedule to the level necessary for consideration for the national championship game should they remain undefeated.
With Virginia Tech’s subsequent loss to FCS team James Madison in Blacksburg on Saturday, many pundits will now say that the Boise State win was something less than impressive, and once again the Broncos will fall victim to a notoriously week strength of schedule.
Some Bronco football fans searching for a way to repair that now seemingly tainted win at FedEx Field will look to next week and reason that if Boise State can travel to Laramie and defeat the Wyoming Cowboys on their home field by more than 27 points, (the margin of victory that No. 5-ranked Texas beat Wyoming by last Saturday in Austin), the win would somehow show that the Broncos can perform better than the Longhorns against a common opponent, therefore justifying their No. 3 ranking despite the performance of Virginia Tech.
Those same fans may look down the road two weeks to the Boise State matchup with Oregon State on the blue turf and argue that if the Broncos can defeat the Beavers by more than nine points (the margin by which TCU won their game against Oregon State in the season opener at Texas Stadium), they again would have the opportunity to show that they can perform better than No. 4-ranked TCU against a common opponent.
The problem with using this “common opponent” method of comparison to justify the legitimacy of Boise State in the big picture is that the same flawed logic could be used to say that since James Madison University beat Virginia Tech by a greater margin than the Broncos did, JMU must therefore be better than Boise State. Maybe they are...and then again, maybe not.
The simple point is that whenever this comparative logic is used to judge football teams, as it has been to diminish the victory against Virginia Tech, it is used in error. What one team does against any other team has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of either of those teams against a common opponent.
Differences in schemes, attitude, location, injuries, and countless other factors come into play when judging a team's performance against any other on any given day or its potential performance in future games.
Oklahoma squeaked by Utah State in their opening game and then soundly defeated Florida State the following week by a much greater margin. Does that mean that Utah State is better than Florida State? We can’t possibly know unless they play the game on the field.
After Boise State beat Virginia Tech, they gained seven first place votes in the AP poll. However, last week, when the Broncos remained idle, they lost seven first place votes, most likely due to the Virginia Tech loss to James Madison.
If the comparison of common opponents logic in the paragraphs above is flawed and commonly used in error, then the logic that diminishes the Boise State win against the Hokies due to their loss to JMU is also seriously flawed. You just can’t have it both ways—at least not in a logical world.
Because Boise State is in an uphill battle for respect and rankings, the illogical comparisons will most likely prevail. However, those who use that kind of reasoning should beware of how that same reasoning will most likely support many more flawed conclusions for many more teams in the Top 10 this season, including their favorite teams.