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Four big questions for Boise State-Oregon hype

Brian Murphy from the Idaho Statesman is ready to start looking forward to the Boise State - Oregon game. Thank goodness we all waited for him.

Murphy opined in the Statesman how he and the Statesman sports staff have already had a 30-minute conversation about the topic of UO-BSU. Thirty minutes? That's nothing. I had a 30-minute conversation with myself this morning about what I would be wearing on September 3, and I'm planning on having the same conversation again every morning until September 2.

But in Murphy's impetuous joy, he brings up some interesting, albeit obvious questions. Namely:

  • What are Boise State's odds of beating the Ducks?
  • Is this the biggest game ever played in Bronco Stadium?
  • How will Oregon's coaching change affect the game?
  • Is the 2009 season essentially a one-game season for the Broncos?

He has questions, I have answers. Like Radio Shack, except hopefully more relevant.

For the record, Murphy says Boise State's odds are "pretty good," the game is the biggest in the Division I era, Chip Kelly won't matter on September 3, and Boise State's season will hinge "largely" on the outcome of this one game.

Fair enough. Here's what I think.

What are Boise State's odds of beating the Ducks?

If the game were to be played tomorrow (yikes, I just got a chill) and if I were somehow put in charge of setting a Vegas line for the game (yikes, I just got a mental image of someone breaking my knee caps), I would put the Broncos at four-point favorites.

Now, home teams start off as three-point favorites anyway in order to compensate for home-field advantage (oddly enough, NMSU only gets 1.5 points for their home games), so all I'm really saying is that the Broncos are one point better than a wash.

And that could very well be true. I believe that Boise State will go into the Oregon game as the favorite, if only by the slimmest of margins. Here's why: The Broncos beat the Ducks last year in Eugene (yes, Oregon fans, it happened; look it up), they could very well be ranked higher in the preseason if the early magazine polls are any indication, and the game is in Boise where the Broncos are 64-2 at home in the past decade.

If you want straight odds, I would put them at 2:1. And I'd give Oregon similar odds. The game looks awfully close on paper, which is Fresno State's favorite way to play. Boise State has the edge in a lot of categories, and I believe those edges will lead to the Broncos being favorites on game week.

Is this the biggest game ever played in Bronco Stadium?

Until UC Davis comes to town in October, yes.

But in all seriousness, I'm not ready to say this is the biggest game ever in Bronco Stadium history. I might be ready come late-August, but I'm not sold yet. Agree or disagree, that's just how I feel.

Some people will judge whether or not this is the biggest game by looking at the other BCS-conference opponents who have visited the blue in its history. That list would look like this:

  • Washington State, 2001
  • Oregon State, 2004
  • Oregon State, 2006

And that's it.

In that regard, it is easy to see why people would jump to the conclusion that Oregon is Bronco Stadium's one shining moment. But it takes more than a potentially meaningless Game One of a 13-game season to qualify for "biggest game" notoriety.

Boise State won conference championships on the blue. They took back the momentum in the Idaho series, they won and lost Humanitarian Bowls, they put their mark on the national scene with big performances in big games.

And every time they did, I guarantee that there was someone out there declaring the game the "biggest" in Bronco Stadium history. The problem with that argument is that you can't compare history with an event that has yet to happen, unless you are in the business of comparing apples to oranges and Boise State to other WAC teams. It's just not the same.

Is the Oregon game the most anticipated game in Bronco Stadium history? Now you're on the right track.

How will Oregon's coaching change affect the game?

I'll say this much: It won't help.

There's a very good possibility that Chip Kelly replacing Mike Bellotti will have zero effect on the outcome of the game. Kelly's been around the team plenty, so it is not like this is his first big game with the Ducks.

But at the same time, Kelly has never been in a big game at Oregon as the head coach. He may have jitters; he may have anxiety; he may have me waving an articulate, cynical sign in his face all game long. But he won't have the head coaching experience that Chris Petersen has or that Bellotti would have had.

Depending on what variables come Kelly's way, Oregon may be at a disadvantage.

Is the 2009 season essentially a one-game season for the Broncos?

Absolutely not.

Allow me a moment to vent in the general direction of hyperbole. I love that we're talking about the Oregon game in May. I love that we've been talking about it since April, March, and even into February. It's a huge opportunity for the Broncos and a great reward for the fans. But it is only one game in a 13-game season. There's no need to make it more than it is.

If being a college football fan for the past 25 years has taught me anything, it is that I know nothing. I might think I know that Boise State's entire season hinges on knocking off Oregon on the opening week of college football. And I would probably be completely wrong.

There is no way of knowing how the Oregon outcome will affect the rest of the season for the Broncos, so there is no sense in declaring it the be-all, end-all of Boise State's 2009 football team.

If the Broncos win, will the other 12 teams on the sched simply give up and let BSU waltz to a BCS game? Of course not. After Oregon, there are tough games against Fresno, LaTech, Tulsa, Nevada, and any other number of schools who would love to knock off the big bully of the non-BCS.

If Boise State loses, will the Broncos pack it in and call it a season? Of course not. As TCU proved last year, losing to a BCS-conference team early in the season does not end your shot at a BCS bowl. The Horned Frogs could have very well been the top non-BCS school had they found a way to beat Utah. Boise State could run the table after an Oregon loss, doing so in convincing fashion, and still be at or near the top when all is said and done.

There is too much football left to be played after the Oregon game to declare Boise State's season a win or a loss based on one result. I seem to remember Fresno State having a pretty good start to their season a few years back. And I seem to remember it not really ending well.

Bottom line: It's May. It's early. There's a lot to be decided, discussed, and discovered between now and September 3rd. And with Brian Murphy's blessing, let the debate begin.

Or, in the case of many in Bronco Nation, let the debate continue.