By Ken Ables
Boise State comes to town this week for a Friday evening game at Snapdragon Stadium, the third consecutive Friday contest between the Aztecs and Broncos over the years. At least this game is at 7:30 pm and not at 9:00 am like the last time the Aztecs hosted the Broncos.
Boise State was the pre-season pick to win the Mountain West. Sound familiar? There may have been another team picked to win in the past, but I can’t remember when. With all those accolades, the Broncos must dominate the MW, right?
Despite the annual pre-season predictions, the Broncos have won just three Mountain West championship games. Same as Fresno State, and only one more than the Aztecs, who, if not for a COVID outbreak in December 2021, would likely have three as well.
In other words, the Broncos may just be the biggest underachievers in the Mountain West. After all, they have failed 7 out of 10 times they have been the heavy favorites.
Sure, they’ve been able to run roughshod over Mountain Division foes, winning the division six times. But they’ve only managed to win half of their championship game appearances vs. West opponents.
Boise State captured the nation’s imagination with their 43-42 overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Remember that? Just a few seasons ago, right? Try 17.
Yes, that game was played January 1, 2007. A great, program-defining win to be sure, but, again, it was 17 SEASONS AGO. The Broncos returned to the Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 and 2014 seasons. The Broncos won those two as well, as any blue-turf loving fan is quick to tell you.
National sports media, often ignorant about G5 programs, are quick to crown the Broncos “kings of the Mountain West” or some other hyperbole. Well, those first two Fiesta Bowl victories came as members of the WAC during the old BCS days.
The 2014 game was as a member of the MW and the first year of the playoff/New Years Day Six system. With two losses in the regular season, they have the worst record of any G5 team invited to the NY6. And that was nine seasons ago.
So why do so many college football fans and National media continue to prop up the Broncos? Well, they do have a good overall record with no losing seasons the past 10 years (94-33), but so do the Aztecs (87-41).
The Aztecs and Broncos have met eight times, with both teams winning four games – two home and two road – so the programs are pretty even. Big plays have made the difference in all four Aztec wins. Other MW teams may be intimidated; the Aztecs are not.
As a football fan, and a lifelong Aztec fan (this my 62nd season), it annoys me that they continue to ride their success from two decades ago to national recognition.
As someone who has worked in marketing and publicity for 40+ years, I am impressed with how they keep themselves in the national spotlight even though they haven’t been a factor for a decade.
The Boise State athletic department has been able to convince the MW into a sweetheart TV deal that gives them $1.8 million more than every other Conference member (and have the nerve to complain that Aztec basketball skips trips to Wyoming every other year).
The State school in Idaho has also turned their tacky blue field into a college football novelty they promote as often as possible. It’s a part of their identity at this point and as silly as it is, pretty clever.
I was on that field for the 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (one of the Aztecs’ three wins on that ugly rug) and I can vouch that it really isn’t a factor for the players one bit. From their perspective, you’re looking forward, not down.
For us fans in the stands and watching on TV however, it continues to be that eyesore that they celebrate and we have to deal with.
Friday’s game is the conference opener for both teams. The Aztecs enter MW play 2-2. And the “kings of the Mountain West”? They’re 1-2 with zero wins vs. FBS competition.
All in all, this early conference matchup will certainly set the tone for the rest of the year. Waiting next for the Aztecs is a talented & tough Air Force Falcons team in Colorado Springs. Those same Falcons will travel to the blue turf in the season’s final game of the year; just as the Fresno State Bulldogs will head down south to play our Aztecs that same final weekend.
Perhaps these matchups will set the stage for the MW Championship game where we will see just who is the most dominant team in the Mountain West for 2023.