My thought: Very good. But we will know more after this game.
For what it's worth, Fresno State will likely show four- and five-wide receiver sets, meaning that a fourth corner will need to cover a dangerous Bulldog wideout. Who will that fourth corner be? Per the depth chart, it's Ebo Makinde. Per Boise State's season-to-date M.O., it might be starting safety Lee Hightower (with backup Darian Thompson coming in at safety). For all I know, it could be nobody and the Broncos play zone all game. There is a lot of defensive back chess to be played outside the normal viewing area of our TV screens.
Thought No. 2: Who will be Boise State's playmaker this week?
Through five games, the Broncos have shown that they are capable of making plays when plays need made. It's just not always the same guy.
- vs. Michigan State: Jeremy Ioane
- vs. Miami (OH): D.J. Harper
- vs. BYU: Mike Atkinson
- vs. New Mexico: Tommy Smith
- vs. Southern Miss: USM quarterback Ricky Lloyd
I believe it is Joe Southwick or Matt Miller's turn.
(For the record, one could argue that Southwick and Miller have been playmakers in previous games - Southwick with touchdown passes and Miller with big catches and steamrolling DBs. Playmaking is an inexact science.)
Thought No. 3: Derek Carr, on a scale of Boise State opposing quarterbacks
Boise State has traditionally defended spread offenses very well, but tradition may have all got drafted by the NFL last spring. How will this year's team do against a quality spread?
Well, one way to determine quality is to look at the quarterback, and Derek Carr, despite his grating bro nature, will be one of the best passers Boise State faces this year. For reference, here is my ranking of the previous starting QBs to take on the 2012 Broncos.
- Derek Carr - Fresno State
- Zac Dysert - Miami (OH) - 176 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
- Andrew Maxwell - Michigan State - 248 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs
- Riley Nelson - BYU - 19 yards, 3 INTs
- Ricky Lloyd - Southern Miss - 143 yards, 2 INTs
- B.R. Holbrook - New Mexico - 44 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
Dysert is, for all intents and purposes, a good quarterback. Just how much better is Carr than Dysert? And what kind of talent multiplier should we account for with the Fresno State backs and receivers? I say it is safe to assume that Boise State has not seen anything near the caliber of this Bulldog offense to this point in the season (HT: Riley Nelson).
Thought No. 4: Is Bronco Nation getting back on the BCS bus?
The first official BCS standings come out this weekend, and depending on how things go tomorrow versus Fresno, Boise State figures to be somewhere on the BCS's crib sheet. But who needs to wait until tomorrow to get geeked up for a BCS spot? Check out this excerpt from a Brian Murphy column after last week's Southern Miss game.
End the short-lived Mountain West era with a conference title. Add some more hardware to the trophy cases. Perhaps pick up some Bowl Championship Series steam along the way.
That's not laughable. Not anymore, at least, because the Broncos keep getting better. Keep fixing the things that need fixing. Keep looking more like the team they want to become and less like the unfinished product they started as.
(Emphasis added by me. Imperative statements and fragments added by Murphy.)
The BCS has never not been a possibility for me since the beginning of the year, even in the searing moments following the Michigan State. Can it happen for BSU? Absolutely. Will it be a much different ride than in previous seasons? You betcha. Am I prepared for the vitriol from BCS Conference Fan when they realize a Boise State team that failed to score an offensive touchdown in two of its first three games is under serious consideration for the Orange Bowl? No, I am not prepared. Let me go read some of the Oregon comments from a couple years back and then I will be.
Thought No. 5: History's role in today's football
Why do I believe that Boise State can run the table and make a BCS bowl? Because the Broncos have run the same table before.
Why do I believe that Boise State will beat Fresno State soundly on Saturday? Because the Broncos have beaten the Bulldogs soundly (and then some) 10 out of the last 11 times they've played.
And my point?
I'm not sure how much value past precedent has for predicting the outcome of anything that happens today. This is obviously not the same Boise State team as in years past, and yet I have very similar expectations and feelings about my fan experience. I am confident because I have been conditioned to be confident. I am not confident because I believe Joe Southwick can do no wrong or the Bronco defense will eviscerate Carr and Friends. Those would be good reasons to be confident, not the Vegas Bowl t-shirts hanging in my closet.
The one common theme between the past and the present is Chris Petersen. He has found a way to win 77 times in six-plus years. Why would I think Saturday would be any different?