The 2010 and 2011 Boise State Broncos won huge non-conference games in the Eastern time zone, far away from friendly soil. They won the kinds of games a team in Boise State’s region, conference, and overall position should have to win in order to play in a top-tier bowl. Consider for a moment what it would have looked like for Marshall to have made a New Year’s Day bowl this season, despite playing a schedule rated near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Teams should have to do something to earn a plane flight to the Fiesta Bowl or another premium postseason destination.
To that extent, the fact that Marshall is not the Gang Of Five’s “New Year’s Six” bowl representative is a good and fair thing. Therefore, it’s better and more appropriate that Boise State will head to the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.
However, anyone — from Boise, from the state of Idaho, and across the nation — should be able to acknowledge this: The 2010 and 2011 Boise State teams deserved a big bowl stage far more than the 2014 Broncos have. Kellen Moore deserved to showcase his talents on the biggest stages, especially in 2011, when the Broncos were a far better candidate than Virginia Tech for the Sugar Bowl. Boise State and Kansas State should have played in that game, not the Hokies and the Michigan Wolverines.
The 2014 Broncos? They didn’t get that big non-conference scalp against Ole Miss. They lost two games, as many as the 2008 through 2010 Boise State teams combined. They didn’t play consistently well on the road, wobbling on offense at Connecticut and Air Force, then on defense against New Mexico. This team would find it hard to stay on the same field with the 2010 Broncos, but that’s not a comparison college football’s bowl system needed to make.
Boise State merely had to win back the Mountain West Conference title against Fresno State on Saturday night in order to be eligible for the Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos had to earn a conference title and finish higher in the rankings than the other Gang Of Five conference champs. Since the other G-5 leagues didn’t feature particularly strong champions in 2014, Boise State will happily accept its big prize.
Say what you want about the Broncos on the raw merits; what can’t be shaken in the wake of Boise State’s win over Fresno State is that after the injustices of 2010 and 2011, the folks in Boise have received an overdue dose of good luck. That’s the best point of emphasis to make in a year when the Bowl Championship Series — which hurt the Broncos so severely — has given way to the Gang Of Five.
You can debate whether this team belongs, yes. What you can’t debate is that Boise State deserved this reward more than Marshall or any other Gang Of Five team. What you also can’t debate is that fans of the Broncos were due this gift from the football heavens. It doesn’t fully compensate for both 2010 and 2011, but it at least makes up for one of those years.
All that’s left is to see if Boise State can make this upcoming Fiesta Bowl half as memorable as the 2007 and 2010 editions. If the Broncos succeed in that task, the Fiesta Bowl will be a very fun football fight.
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