Thu Sep 03 06:18pm EDT
Holding two ideas at once. Programming note: Thursday Night Live Blog tonight, live for 7 p.m. ET kickoff between South Carolina and N.C. State.
Point: Oregon has too much talent for Boise State. Obviously. It's not really even fair to compare Pac-10 and WAC schools in terms of recruiting: By Rivals' count, Boise State has signed exactly one four-star prospect since 2005; Oregon has signed 27, the vast majority of them (24) since Chip Kelly's arrival in 2007. The Ducks just signed their third straight top-30 class; the Broncos have not brought in a haul ranked in the top 60. The record reflects the disparity better than BSU's reputations suggests: Boise is 5-10 against "Big Six" conference schools this decade, and has dropped games over the last two years to East Carolina and hopeless Washington.
Of course, if that's true, then what happened last year? Boise put up 37 points in Eugene by scoring on seven of eight possessions in the second and third quarters, while Oregon flopped around like a dead fish in every phase. But that run came after the Ducks lost quarterback Jeremiah Masoli -- himself a first-time starter replacing Nate Costa, who went down in the preseason, and Justin Roper, who was injured the previous week at Purdue -- and ill-advisedly turned to true freshman Chris Harper, who served up two interceptions on just three attempts and was relegated to receiver for the rest of the season before deciding to transfer; another freshman, Derron Thomas, entered the game and lit the Broncos up for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. And it was before the Ducks found their offensive rhythm with Masoli at the helm over the second half of the season, when they won six of their last seven while averaging almost 500 yards and 43 points per game.
The way these two teams ended the season is telling: Oregon wore out Oklahoma State and finished with 307 yards on 7.7 per carry in a surprisingly physical win in the Holiday Bowl; days earlier, Boise was physically pounded by TCU in the same stadium. Against a more talented team committed to the run, the Broncos are just outmanned.
Counterpoint: Boise does not lose in Boise. Ever. I'm not typically much of a believer in "home field advantage," but at some point, it moves of the realm of pure intangibles and into the realm of pseudo-science. Boise passed that threshold ages ago: The Broncos are 50-2 on the blue turf this decade, and perfect there since dropping the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl to Boston College.
Yes, most of those wins are over Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico State and other vaguely cavern-dwelling schools set amidst mountainous backdrops. Consistency counts for something here, especially when you consider that the streak includes a pair of wins over the only "Big Six" conference team that's dared to come into Boise, Oregon State, including a 42-14 rout in 2006 over a Beaver outfit that went on to beat USC, win 10 games and finish in the final polls. Oregon is the stiffest test ever in Bronco Stadium -- literally: no other ranked team has ever visited before tonight -- but if the notoriously raucous Autzen Stadium didn't rattle BSU last year, the Broncos are a lock to play well in their element.
On a related note, I've never bought the idea of the blue-on-blue "optical illusion," but that won't be a problem tonight with the Ducks: "Uniform coordinator" Casey Martin -- yeah, the ailing golf pro -- has decked his alma mater in all-white. So you'll be able to spot one team, at least.