BYU football: Could Boise State become the Cougars' next rival?
PROVO — While BYU and Boise State have only met twice in history on the football field, the two programs will see a lot more of each other in the future.
The Cougars and Broncos are scheduled to play every year for the next 12 seasons, through 2023. The series, which kicks off Thursday (7 p.m. MT, ESPN) at Bronco Stadium, will be a home-and-home arrangement, with games be played in Boise, Idaho, in even years and in Provo in odd years.
BYU, which is fresh off a painful 24-21 loss to arch-rival Utah last Saturday, won't be playing the Utes in 2014 and 2015, and the longtime series' future is uncertain.
Meanwhile, it seems natural, and makes sense, for the Cougars and Broncos to play each other, considering BYU's independent status and the fact that Provo and Boise are separated by 380 miles.
Can BYU-Boise State develop into a new rivalry?
"If you play that many years in a row, it's almost like a league game," said Bronco coach Chris Petersen. "I guess it depends on how close the games are. That's usually when things turn into a rivalry, when it's back-and-forth. I think you have to see how things go.
"We know that BYU's always got a great program and (BYU coach) Bronco (Mendenhall) does awesome things over there and they're always going to have some really elite players. They're a tough crew to compete with year-in and year-out, without question."
Mendenhall said the series "possibly" can turn into a rivalry.
"It depends on how the teams play against one another. The regional part is helpful and if you could ever get it at the end of the year, that would add to it. But there's a lot of intriguing things about it as long as both sides can play at a level that makes it competitive."
Yet Petersen and Mendenhall aren't thrilled with the notion of playing each other every season for that many years.
In 2008, the two schools agreed to a four-year contract for games from 2012-15. Then one year ago, BYU and Boise State announced they would play eight more times.
"Twelve (games) is, I mean, how in the heck do you know after four what's going to happen or who's going to be where?" Mendenhall said. "So I think it's probably too much. I'm sure I agreed to it. I don't remember when or how or under what circumstances. But I reserve the right to change my mind on occasion."
"That's a lot of years strung together," Petersen told the Idaho Statesman. "That's like they're in your league, and they're not in our league."
Boise State is currently a member of the Mountain West Conference, and will join the Big East next fall.
"Our rivals are on the East Coast and in Texas and in San Diego," Petersen said. "I don't worry about rivalries. I know it can be healthy and good, but that's just not where we are right now. Down the line, we'll have some new ones in a hurry."
One of the reasons Petersen isn't happy about this long-term series is his relationship with Mendenhall.
"I really enjoy talking to him. He's a really smart guy," Petersen said. "I think he does a great job with his program. That's one of the reasons why I'm irritated we're playing them for 12 years in a row or whatever it is because I can't really talk to him about football. I like to know how he's doing things. I consider him a good friend. I really like the way he operates and what he's all about."
Mendenhall also expressed his admiration for Petersen.
"I like him a lot. He and his wife, Barb, are really quality people," he said. "I think the world of him as a person, and they have a really good team. I consider them friends."
BYU backup quarterback Taysom Hill, who hails from Pocatello and is the only Idaho native on the roster, grew up following Boise State, and he was recruited by the Broncos.
Hill said there's potential of a rivalry brewing between the two schools.
"Anytime you have a series that long, and where you play the same team over and over again, there will be a little rivalry there," he said. "We're pretty close (geographically) and we've both been pretty successful programs in the past. As we continue to play each other, that rivalry will increase, I'm sure."
Could it ever approach the rivalry with Utah?
"I think that's a tough level to get to," Hill said. "Not sure it will ever get there. But if it does, it would be fun."
The two programs have played just twice, in 2003 and 2004. In 2003, Boise State embarrassed BYU in Provo, 50-12, on a Thursday night game on ESPN. The following season, the Cougars traveled to Boise and lost, 28-27, as placekicker Matt Payne missed a potential game-winning 38-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.
The Broncos have proven to be difficult to beat on their trademark Blue Turf. Boise State owns a 75-3 record at home since 2000 — the best home winning percentage in the country over that span. The last time Boise State lost a home game in September was in 2001, a 42-20 loss to Washington State.
"Our crowd has obviously been awesome for us over the years," Petersen said. "That always makes a difference."
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