RENO, Nev. — The president of the university spoke up for Boise State, going where coach Chris Petersen won't. Someone had to make a statement for the Broncos, who do nothing but win even if the computers at the Bowl Championship Series don't appreciate perfection.
Now the No. 3 Broncos have what figures to be the best chance to speak for themselves Friday night when they meet once-beaten Nevada in the biggest game ever played in the Biggest Little City in the World.
At stake could be something far greater than a conference title. Depending on what happens earlier in the day, it's conceivable that Boise State could be playing for a spot in the BCS title game, something no team from the puny Western Athletic Conference could ever have thought possible.
Not that Petersen would ever admit the impossible is closer to possible than ever before.
"There is a lot riding on this, no question,'" Petersen said. "But I think one of the things our guys have done so well is they've treated every game that we've played like a big game. And you know, the more you win the bigger they get each week. That's how it's been for us. Now we have a really big game against probably the best team we've played all year. That's how you like it at the end."
Things would have to break Boise State's way for the Broncos (10-0, 6-0 WAC) to make the Jan. 10 title game in Arizona, but for the first time all season there seems to be a path leading there. The top two teams in the country are playing games they could lose Friday — particularly Auburn against Alabama — and TCU has no more big tests left to cement a precarious hold on the No. 3 spot in the BCS standings.
If Auburn or Oregon were to lose and Boise State beats No. 19 Nevada, the Broncos, now fourth in the BCS, could move into one of the top two spots with just one game left at home against lightly regarded Utah State. And home is a place where Boise State has won its last 61 games, including a 51-0 pasting of Fresno State last week that left opposing coach Pat Hill wondering how the Broncos could be kept out of the title game.
"What else do they have to do? They're on the verge of their fourth undefeated season in six years, you got to be kidding me," Hill said. "Now someday we've got to wake up and say we can't just listen to the people who get all the money. We've got to listen to the people that have the best teams. They're a great football team."
Just how great Boise State may be is the question that has dogged them all year. They're No. 3 in all the polls, but the computers that make up part of the BCS equation dropped them just behind TCU in the BCS standings because of a relatively weak schedule highlighted by an opening game against Virginia Tech.
The scheduling debate erupted again this week when Ohio State president Gordon Gee declared neither Boise State nor TCU should be allowed into the title game because schools from bigger conferences don't play the "Little Sisters of the Poor."
That drew an angry response from Boise State's president, Bob Kustra, who said teams like Ohio State refuse to even play Boise State because they're afraid of getting beat by schools they believe they're superior to.
"It's easy for the presidents to talk, but ask the ADs when's the last time that they seriously entertained taking requests or inviting Boise State to (play them)," Kustra said. "If you're Boise State or TCU, they're going to want to steer way clear of you."
Nevada hasn't steered clear of Boise State, mostly because they play in the same conference. But the Wolf Pack hasn't had any success against the Broncos this decade, losing 10 straight games, including four at home in Reno.
Oddsmakers figure that streak will continue, making Nevada a 14-point underdog despite the fact the only loss the Wolf Pack (10-1, 5-1 WAC) have this year was in a close game on the road against Hawaii. Like Boise State, Nevada has been an offensive force, with senior quarterback Colin Kaepernick running coach Chris Ault's pistol offense with great efficiency.
Nevada is ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first year since 1948 and is playing its highest ranked opponent ever at home. What makes the game even more interesting is that the Wolf Pack played a competitive game in Boise last year, losing 44-33 after falling behind early.Comment on this story
"There's ways to win. We have to find those ways," Ault said. "We know for us to win, the type of game we have to play. We have to execute our game. Quite frankly, we've got to execute better than we ever have."
Kaepernick's execution so far this season has bordered on flawless. The 6-foot-6 inch QB has completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,412 yards and 19 touchdowns, and needs just 16 yards rushing to become the first player in NCAA history to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 in three consecutive seasons.
Boise State runs a more traditional offense, and quarterback Kellen Moore runs it so well that he is a Heisman contender. Even more startling than his 72 percent completion percentage this year is his career record of 36-1, with the lone loss in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl to TCU, 17-16.
"He is cool. You don't flap him. He is one of those guys who is going to stand in there, run a game plan and execute it," Ault said. "Their offensive front is awful good. They surround him with some pretty doggone good players."