Everything is laid out for Boise State to pass TCU to No. 3 in the BCS standings. The No. 4 Broncos have cut into the Horned Frogs' lead the last two weeks, and take on No. 19 Nevada in Reno in another national spotlight game Friday night.
But nothing is a given, and there are no guarantees that Boise State will overtake TCU. After Boise State plays Nevada and TCU finishes with New Mexico (1-10) on Saturday, their computer averages should be pretty close. Boise State ends the season against Utah State (4-7).
The big question, then, is this: Can Boise State afford to have a close game against Nevada and still leap TCU? Voters in the coaches and Harris polls have punished Boise State and TCU this season for not winning impressively enough. Nevada is ranked, yes, but you have to wonder whether the Wolf Pack have enough respect from the voters should this game be close.
If history is any indication, that could very well happen.
Nevada has lost 10 straight to Boise State, but the Wolf Pack have been in the game each of the last three seasons. Here is a look back at the results:
2009: No. 6 Boise State 44, Nevada 33. The Broncos were undefeated going into the game and in the hunt for a BCS at-large berth with TCU. They jumped out to a quick 20-0 lead in the first quarter, but Nevada came back. Vai Taua ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 34-26 late in the third quarter. Nevada had an opportunity to tie the game after recovering a fumble near midfield on the following drive. But the Wolf Pack went three and out to end the quarter, and Boise State scored 10 straight points to open a 44-26 lead. The Broncos ended up playing TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.
2008: No. 9 Boise State 41, Nevada 34. The Broncos were also undefeated going into this game, trying to jockey for position with Utah to become the top non-AQ team. Nevada had a chance to send the game into overtime late. After Kyle Brotzman missed a 48-yard field goal, the Wolf Pack got the ball with 1:37 remaining down 41-34. Colin Kaepernick drove Nevada down to the Boise State 31 but his pass into the end zone as time expired was batted down. Boise State ended up in the Poinsettia Bowl against TCU after Utah got the BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl.
2007: Boise State 69, Nevada 67, 4 OT. Boise State led by 14 points early in the game, but Nevada came back and took its first lead with 3:40 to go when Brett Jaekle hit a 35-yard field goal to make it 44-41. Brotzman tied it with a 27-yarder of his own, sending the game into overtime on the last play of the game. After Boise State made its two-point conversion in the fourth extra period, Nevada scored on Luke Lippincott’s 7-yard TD run. But Tim Brady sacked Kaepernick on the 2-point attempt and Boise State prevailed. The teams combined for 1,266 yards of total offense, and the game served as Kaepernick’s coming out party. Making his first career start, Kaepernick had 420 total yards and seven touchdowns. But he hasn’t had as big a game against Boise State since then.
Nevada coach Chris Ault says the results have no bearing on what will happen Friday.
“Close doesn’t count,” Ault said Monday. “Those games are done, they're history they’re in the past. We have to find a way to finish the deal and we have not been able to do that. Therein lies the challenge. All that stuff of what happened last year, the year before, the year before, those are great things for those teams but close didn’t bring the trophy. We have to find a way to finish against an even better Boise team than we’ve played the last three years.”
Ault is right that close doesn’t count.
But it may count a whole lot to voters should Boise State squeak out another tight win.