The knock against Boise State year after year is always its schedule.
Too weak, the critics say. Play with the big boys, they yell. No credibility, they howl. The argument has always been a lazy one, steeped in superficiality and ignorance.
This past weekend proved it.
Boise State had a school-record six players drafted, including two in the first round. For those scoring at home, only Alabama (eight), Georgia and Oklahoma (seven each) had more. Ten Boise State players have been drafted in the past three years. To put that into context, Boise State had 10 players drafted between 2002-08, a span of seven years.
So it turns out, going 50-3 over the past four seasons was not so much a product of a lousy schedule, but a product of some darn good football players, and some excellent coaching.
Consider: Boise State never lands Top 25 recruiting classes. In fact, Boise State and five-star commitments go together -- never. Coach Chris Petersen is perhaps the most underrated coach in America when you consider the talent level of the players he has to work with when they arrive on campus.
Shea McClellin went No. 19 overall to the Bears. In the class of 2007, he was unheralded and unranked out of a tiny town in Idaho. Doug Martin went No. 31 overall to Tampa Bay. In the class of 2007, ESPN ranked him the No. 248 running back in the nation. They are about as unlikely a pair of first-round picks as you will find in the draft. And yet NFL teams, NFL coaches and NFL scouts seemed to have no problem with the competition they faced.
Anybody who has bothered to watch Boise State play under Petersen appreciates the type of players he has been able to develop. Three of the four starting defensive linemen on last year's team were drafted, and that is no big surprise. Boise State dominated up front the past several years -- as Georgia will attest to after getting walloped in the season opener last season. McClellin and Billy Winn (sixth round, Cleveland) were stalwarts on that unit.
Tyrone Crawford moved into the starting unit in 2011, but he has been a significant contributor over the past two seasons, as the team's leader in tackles for loss. Crawford is another player with an unlikely story. He hails from Canada, and only began playing in ninth grade at the request of his physical education teacher. He was picked in the third round by the Cowboys.
We have not even talked about quarterback Kellen Moore, who went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions. Moore helped engineer all those victories with his leadership, his skill and his incredible knowledge of the offense. He is talented, yes. But he is undersized and lacking in some of the key measurables teams want in a quarterback, so he was passed over despite the intangible values he brings to the quarterback position.
Whether he should have been drafted is another topic. The point is that NFL teams and scouts are not simply enamored with college success, enough to overlook deficiencies or potential stumbling blocks for that particular player on the next level. These NFL teams do an inordinate amount of homework and research when they make their selections. They are looking for talent and potential when they watch tape, not the strength of the opposition.
Nobody is going to argue that Boise State has played the quality schedule Alabama has played. But the argument that Boise State is simply lucky and not any good must end. The Broncos have proven they have way too much talent to be undercut with such a silly notion.