For Boise State, the business of getting back to football begins Saturday at Wyoming. But even then, the Broncos will be judged on more than their performance on the field.
We have seen it already. No. 3 Boise State was off last week after its 33-30 win against Virginia Tech, but might as well have lost for all the hand-wringing that ensued following the Hokies’ loss to James Madison. What Boise State does in its games is no longer good enough.
People will wonder not only whether they did enough to win (i.e. did they win by enough points), but they will look at their opponents to see how they did, too. When you are an outsider playing in a non-AQ conference, hoping to become the first to play for a BCS national championship, the over-scrutiny goes along with your performance.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen has done his best to preach to his team to avoid listening to what everybody else says about his team.
“We just hear so much outside noise, you can never win,” he said. “It just doesn’t matter. We’re past Virginia Tech, and Virginia Tech has got their own season. We’re just worried about Wyoming.”
Boise State should just worry about Wyoming. Though critics cite the remaining Broncos schedule as a bunch of cupcakes, Virginia Tech proved last week that no win is a given.
The Cowboys have played the Broncos tough in their most recent meetings, and especially the last time the two teams met in Laramie in 2006. Wyoming outgained Boise State and had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the game before throwing an interception. The Broncos won 17-10 en route to their undefeated season and eventual win in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
Wyoming brings a high-octane spread offense into the game with Austyn Carta-Samuels leading the way. Petersen called the Cowboys “extremely” creative on offense. They certainly have that capability, and could try to pick on Jamar Taylor early the way the Hokies did in the opener.
But they are no doubt facing a very tough defense, one that kept the pressure on Tyrod Taylor all night. This game is also in the middle of a tough stretch for the Cowboys, after going on the road to play Texas last week and losing 34-7.
The difficulty of playing back-to-back teams ranked in the Top 5 is not lost on Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, though he refuses to use that as an excuse. Wyoming's last victory against a Top 25 came on Oct. 26, 2002, when the Cowboys defeated No. 22 ranked Air Force 34-26.
On top of the challenge of playing consecutive ranked teams, Wyoming has had to deal with the tragic death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse, killed in a car accident last week.
Wyoming held a memorial service for Narcisse this past Monday. His family attended and spoke to the team.
“We’re in a better place right now than we were a week ago,” Christensen said. “We’re moving forward. We’re not trying to move on, but we’re in a better place now than we were.”
The atmosphere is sure to be intense on Saturday night. The game is sold out, and Boise State comes into town as the second highest ranked team ever to play in Laramie, behind No. 2 Texas last year.
Wyoming wants to harness that excitement into an upset. Boise State must avoid that at all costs. Now the Broncos face the task of playing again after a week off, and perhaps losing some of the momentum they built in the opener.
“Early in the season, you’re trying to get into a rhythm,” Petersen said. “You start to develop and then you have a bye. It is what it is and we just try to make the best of it.”