Why Boise State May Secretly Still be the Best Nonpower 5 Football Team
It has flown by, and the college football season is already halfway over. One full month remains in the regular season, and now is when games seem to mean more and you find out what teams are made of as the season begins to approach rivalry games, championship Saturday, and bowl games begin in over a month. Early in the year fans were fed up with the Boise State Broncos and their lack of offense and direction as a team, but things have changed, and the Broncos may quietly be the best nonpower 5 football team in America, that nobody is talking about. How did this team turn around this season and what makes them potentially better than even the polls realize?
Boise State Bronco Football Bad Start
The Boise State Broncos started the season with high hopes of returning to their standards and glory days, and despite an early loss to the Oregon State Beavers, the fanbase remained hopeful that the season would be a success. The first half of the Oregon State game couldn't have started worse, but there was hope and promise shown by a freshman quarterback, Taylen Green, in the second half, rushing for over 100 yards and throwing for 155 yards.
Green did not start the next game, as the Broncos went back to their original game one starter, senior Hank Bachmeier, who won the next two games, before struggling terribly to UTEP in a shocking loss, 27 to 10. The Broncos sat at 2-2 on the season, and fans began to feel frustrated watching the offense struggle for a month. Changes needed to be made, and after the loss, those changes finally came.
The Turning Point for Boise State Football
On Saturday, September 24, head coach Andy Avalos made a decision that may have changed the trajectory of Boise State football not only for this season but going forward. Avalos fired offensive coordinator Tim Plough and hired offensive analyst and former Boise State head coach, Dirk Koetter to replace Plough. Koetter was the man that started the Boise State run as a powerhouse back in 1998 when he took the team from 6-5 to 10-3 the following season, and the Broncos have not had a losing season since. Bachmeier was benched and ultimately transferred from Boise, and the team has now won four straight since that loss in September.
Boise State's Case for Best Nonpower 5 School
While many across the country may disagree, Boise State has a case to be made for the best nonpower 5 program in the country right now, and its case will continue to strengthen if they keep playing the way they are. While the loss to Oregon State to start the season was rough to swallow at the time, almost two months later it doesn't look nearly as bad, with the Beavers entering the top 25 this week. Had the Broncos played the first half like the second half of that game, and started Green, it may have had a different outcome.
The Broncos have not lost since Green took over as the starter, and the defense is one of the most experienced and best in the country. The run game struggled early on, but over the four-game winning streak, starting running back George Holani has rushed for 396 yards scored 5 rushing touchdowns, has one receiving touchdown, and only played in three of those four games. The offense is hitting its stride, averaging just shy of 36 points per game during the winning streak. The schedule sets up nicely with Utah State and Nevada seeming like potential wins, with BYU and Wyoming seeming like good matchups, but the Broncos should be favored in both.
How Boise State Compares to Other Nonpower 5 Schools
There are currently two teams in nonpower 5 conferences that are ranked, and that is Tulane which is 7-1 and ranked 19, and UCF which is 6-2 and ranked 24. The highest-ranked nonpower 5 team gets an automatic bid into a New Year's 6 bowl game, and Boise State may be that team. Tulane, while having some impressive wins over Kansas State, Houston, and Memphis, has a tough end to its season, against UCF, Cincinnati, and SMU. One of the ranked teams has to lose when they play, but Tulane could lose two of those three games. UCF could easily lose to Tulane but also could trip up against Memphis or the triple option of Navy. Both of these teams could likely play again in the American Athletic Conference championship game and if they split their two games, would open the door for Boise to slide ahead of them in the standings.
Some non-ranked teams could still make a case for the automatic bid, such as Coastal Carolina at 7-1 and Cincinnati at 6-2, but unless Cincinnati can find a way to win the American Athletic Conference, it is hard to consider them the best nonpower 5 team. Coastal Carolina may have one less loss than Boise State, but their conference doesn't appear as strong, and they have a tough road ahead on the back end of their schedule, with potentially all four games being ones they could lose.
There is still a decent amount of football left to be played, and a lot can happen in November. It seemed like a long shot a month ago, but looking ahead, the Boise State Broncos may have a shot to crash the New Year's 6 bowl games and reclaim their throne as the best nonpower 5 school in the country. Buckle up, it's going to be a fun, wild ride to end the season. Go Broncos.