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College Football's Got The Blues

October 1, 2010

Nathan Barnett
College Football's Got The Blues

Boise State just loves them some blue. But making blue one of its main team colors wasn't enough for the Broncos, as they installed blue AstroTurf in 1986--the first and only non-green field ever installed in the division former known as 1A. They won their first game on the "Smurf Turf" 74-0 over the might Humboldt State Lumberjacks. Five different blue fields later (the most recent update--a 2010 summer update to make the field's blue look more constant and continuous), the Broncos carry one of college football's most statistically dominant home-field advantages, winning 57 straight home games, and 72 of 74 since 1999 with their only losses to schools from BCS conferences: Washington St. in 2001 and Boston College in '05.

Speaking of Washington universities, Boise State's success has sparked and inspired Eastern Washington to paint their field blood red, and the Eagles are undefeated on it--albeit only 2-0. LSU, a school hardly devoid of tradition, released word last April that they would have purple "Tiger Turf" this season, yet it was all for naught when people realized that the date was April 1.

The Boise blue has inspired a nation of college football fans, players, and coaches. College football: it loves the blue--or at least it did.

There has not been a time in recent memory in which a college football team has gone from beloved underdog to one of the most polarizing teams in college football so quickly, even to the extent that a respected college football analyst described them now as "like the Yankees: you either love 'em or hate 'em."

Boise State -- like the Yankees? This concept of would have been unheard of in 2007 when Thom Brennaman asked the college football world "Can the little dog play with the big dog?" But the Broncos didn't just play with the big dog, then #8 ranked Oklahoma, they ran right by them for three quarters. After a fourth quarter collapse, one of the gutsiest calls in the history of the game--a "Statue of Liberty" play in overtime to go for two-points--won the game for the Broncos and crowned them America's darling.

So why is Boise State such a polarizing team now--why do people hate them? While years of unchallenged domination of a weak conference is certainly one reason, a strong 2009 finish against a highly-respected TCU team in last year's Fiesta Bowl and the return of 21 of 22 starters put the college football world on notice: they were in it to win it in 2010. The Broncos were considered legitimate national title contenders--the first time a non-BCS conference school has been considered one in the preseason. Ranked as high as #3 in the preseason polls, even the coaches couldn't keep them out of their top five. College football fans everywhere loved Boise State when they were a cute underdog story knocking off a nationally hated college football brand name like Oklahoma, but now those very same Broncos could be taking a spot away from any generic big name school even though "they play no one." People are angry.

Expect Boise State to run the table, and if they do, they will get legitimate national title consideration, especially if the Big 12 and Pac-10 winners have one or more losses and the Broncos can run up the score against most of their opponents. But is it enough to hate them simply because they might take a spot away from your team in the BCS title game?

Yet many fans still side with the "little dog," as the throngs of Boise State supporters from all over believe that a Bronco national championship birth would represent the lovable underdog success story, the non-BCS school that redeems college football from the depths of BCS hell and into a playoff system--deus ex machina style.

Yet I contend that if Boise State makes the national championship game, and I expect this to happen, it will be, in fact, bad for the sport of college football. I've got the blues. The Boise-State-will-ruin-college-football blues. I would sing it, but you surely don't want that, so read on:

  1. It will legitimize bad conferences. There are only a few things worse than watching WAC football, and one of them is watching Sun Belt football. If Boise State were to make the title, especially if they win it or it's a close game, it will destroy the argument that bad conferences don't have good teams and that those conferences don't prepare them for big games late in the season and in the bowls. Worse yet, it's a major cause for the next two reasons for the Boise Blues--

  2. It will decrease the likelihood of exciting non-conference games. If Boise can make it playing "no one" all year, why do you need to make a tough schedule? Especially if you are  a big time program in a BCS conference. If the WAC was tough enough to produce a BCS title contending team, certainly even the Big East and ACC are plenty tough. Why increase the likelihood of losing by playing a tough non-conference game? Worse yet, it will be even harder for teams like Boise State to schedule tough opponents because other programs will respect and fear them even more. Big schools have little to gain from scheduling them. Then again, the Broncos haven't attempted to schedule Alabama yet...

  3. It will make the conferences worse. You're Texas. You're Florida. You're Ohio State. If Boise State can make the title game and their toughest conference opponent is Nevada, why do you remain in a big conference? Well the money, prestige, recruiting base are certainly all answers, but if the move makes sense financially (like if you got rights to your own TV network cough Texas cough), doesn't it make sense to go to a conference where you can just beat up on everyone every year make more sense? Texas was rumored to be going to the Pac-10 in the off-season, but if Boise State wins, and the money makes sense, wouldn't Texas rather be in the ACC? More realistically, wouldn't Miami like to go back to the Big East where it would clearly be the best team? It also makes the pressing need for the smaller conferences to get better (Bravo Mountain West!) seem less important. In fact, would a title run mean that Boise State regrets the move out of the WAC?

  4. It would reinforce the BCS system. Full disclosure, I like the BCS system (another debate for another day), but I seem to be as rare in the world as a tough road game is on Boise State's schedule--occasionally you find one, but often it turns out to not really be what it was billed as. If you really want a playoff, Boise State's title chances are the scariest thing to happen to football since Stafon Johnson forgot to have a spotter. How will the cries for a playoff make any sense when Boise State does have a chance to play for it all and all of this in a season where their best win might have come against a team who lost to a 1AA school (I refuse to acknowledge the term "FCS").

  5. College Football Faux-Pas. Eastern Washington has already followed suit with their red field, imagine if the Boise Blue actually wins a title. We will see a rash of colored fields all over the college football landscape. Maybe LSU will actually be crazy enough to paint their field purple, as the need to find some new tactic--their 115th ranked passing game isn't helping them win games. What's next? Does Florida go blue too? Or even worse--Orange. Texas wouldn't have to paint; they would just have to not water the field and the grass will go burnt orange in no time down in the Austin heat. Does Texas Tech paint the field black? I don't even want to image what Oregon could come up with. Speaking of bad uniforms, a Boise State title run might only make their hideous new uniforms more accepted--gross. And worst of all, think: there will be a crystal ball. In Boise, Idaho.

So please football gods, I know that Nevada doesn't need that much help in upsetting the #3 team in the land, but any assistance would be greatly appreciated, for your sake and mine. I love the blues, but these Boise Blues are just too much to handle.

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