But an even more important lesson that we took from the P-Bowl defeat is one that we hope will bode well for the future of the Boise State football program. The disparity in the quality and physicality of the players from Boise State and from TCU was noticeable, and it was obvious that the Horned Frogs held the advantage. For Boise State to take the next step in its evolution from Big Sky up-and-comer to BCS regular, the players are going to have to change.
And starting with last year's recruiting class, the change is already happening.
"I call us the last of a dying breed," running back Ian Johnson said. "We're just about all guys who weren't given much of a chance by anyone. There were no all-stars. To be as productive as good of a team as we've been with that lack of respect by others outside this program is what I'll remember."
Of the group of signees in the 2004 class who played any significant amount of time, only one, Marty Tadman, was rated as a three-star recruit by Scout.com. Tadman played as a true freshman and graduated last season.
All of the current seniors were one- or two-star players.
You simply cannot compete at the highest level of college football on a consistent basis with a team of one- and two-star recruits. You can compete in the WAC, obviously, but the Broncos have made it painfully apparent in the past seven years that simply competing in the WAC is no longer a challenge. They are ready to move on to bigger and better things.
And starting next year, they will have the players they need to be able to do so.
According to the Idaho Press-Tribune, Boise State's 2009 class of early commitments has seven three-star recruits. Add those budding stars to a freshman class that included Kellen Moore, Byron Hout, George Iloka, Billy Winn, Nate Potter, Shea McClellin, Thomas Byrd, Doug Martin (the list can go on and on), and you have something special. Boise State's success has afforded them the luxury of recruiting a different class of player. The Broncos will still have the walk-ons and the lightly recruited breakout players, but this next generation of BSU football has already seen a significant rise in Day One quality.
To be sure, the Broncos have everything else in place for an annual run at the BCS. The coaching is there; the preparation is there; the motivation is there. The only thing missing is athletes on par with those at the bigger schools.
It seems like a very well-coached team with a killer instinct and a lot of resiliency. At the very least, they know how to hang around.
Because physically, it's just not there. TCU is hardly the first team to manhandle the Broncos, and hardly the most physically overwhelming in the process. But after taking Boise's initial jab in the first quarter, the Frogs were clearly in control of the line of scrimmage on both sides by the second quarter, and when they were determined to run (which, with Andy Dalton throwing 35 times, probably wasn't as often as it should have been until the fourth quarter), there wasn't much Boise could do about it...
Hand it to the Broncos: They're tough, they're smart, they're gamers. They "know how to win," in coaching parlance. If this game was partially to determine which of these perennial overachievers really deserved a bigger stage, though, there's no doubt: It's the Frogs.
For this year, it was the Frogs. For the future, it looks like it will be the Broncos.