Boise State owns the spotlight this week

There’s a pivotal scene in the 2010 documentary Catfish, where a character explains why codfish were strategically shipped cross-country along with catfish at the start of the 20th century. Cod was very popular on the east coast in the early 1900s, but by the time it’d arrive via rail to the west coast, it’d lose all of its flavor. After much trial and error, though, it was discovered that when codfish were packaged with catfish — its natural enemy — the cod would arrive on the west coast delicious and full of life. Why? Because the catfish continuously chased the cod, always keeping the latter alert and at its very best.

The 2010 Boise State Broncos have been the catfish of the 2010 college football season, constantly chasing and hunting the more desired undefeated BCS Championship Game hopefuls from behind.

This coming weekend, however, with the other three unbeaten FCS teams in front of the Broncos in the latest BCS standings all idle, the catfish will get their national moment in the spotlight.

The Broncos’ catfish-like chase of the BCS’s cod has been on since August. Friday night vs. Fresno State, they can make their big move. And based on the lasting impressions the three top-ranked teams left with us this weekend, there’s more than a little reason to believe that a grand performance could actually leave a vote-changing taste in several voters’ mouths.

Most pundits and talking heads have already identified Boise State’s Nov. 23 battle with 9-1 Nevada as the Broncos’ most important game remaining on their schedule, but Friday night’s showdown with upstart Fresno State makes for an incredible opportunity to take advantage of a fortunate situation. In one of the more peculiar scheduling quirks in recent college football memory, No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Auburn, and No. 3 TCU all have this weekend off, leaving a primetime national stage and the undivided attention of voters on the No.4 Broncos.

Boise State started making its move in the BCS standings this past weekend, closing the gap on No.3 TCU with a dominating 52-14 win over Idaho on Friday night. While the Broncos blew out their in-state rivals in seemingly easy fashion, the Horned Frogs played their closest game of the season Saturday, squeaking out a nail-biting 40-35 victory against San Diego State in the final game played in Amon Carter Stadium.

After falling behind 14-0 early, the Horned Frogs rallied, only to let the Aztecs back in the game with a flurry of fourth-quarter scores. San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley carved up the nation’s top defense for 262 passing yards, including 33 and 35-yard touchdown strikes to receiver Vincent Brown in the game’s final seven minutes.

Utah’s embarrassing 28-3 loss at Notre Dame didn’t help TCU’s BCS stock much, either. When the Horned Frogs beat the previously unbeaten Utes 47-7 in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, it was viewed as a statement win for the program.

With Notre Dame wiping the floor with the Utes on Saturday, however, that Nov. 3 victory lost a bit of its shiny veneer. Two weeks after being listed as the nation’s No.5 team in the BCS standings, Utah came in at No.23 on Sunday night. Oregon State’s Saturday night loss to lowly Washington State and Baylor’s loss to Texas A&M tarnished TCU’s two wins over BCS conference foes a bit, too.

TCU’s once-stunning 2010 resume? All of a sudden, it’s rather ho-hum.

Boise State jumped TCU in both the Harris and Coaches’ polls on Sunday, though TCU still holds a sizeable edge in the computer ratings at third compared to Boise State’s sixth. TCU has a Week 11 BCS average of .8966; Boise State closely trails with a .8634. The Horned Frogs have off this week then an irrelevant game vs. 1-8 New Mexico on Nov. 27. In truth, their season is more or less finished. Boise still has three games — all aired nationally on ESPN on consecutive Friday nights — still left to go.Advantage, Boise State.

Does the battle for No. 3 even matter?

It does if you’re a fan of the Broncos or Horned Frogs. Or ABC and ESPN. Or Vizio, the chief sponsor of the 2011 Rose Bowl.

In the case that Auburn and Oregon finish the season unbeaten and play for the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, the highest ranked non-AQ unbeaten team would fill Oregon’s (the Pac-10 champion) spot in the Rose Bowl.

Yes, in a rather odd one-year rule, the Tournament of Roses determined that if one of its natural conference partner winners (The Big Ten and the Pac-10) were to play in the BCS Championship Game, a second-place finisher in said conferences or bigger name BCS schools would not take the spot (as Texas did for USC in the 2004 Rose Bowl). Amazingly, a Boise State or TCU would, instead. It’s hard to imagine the Vizio executives are doing back-flips over this possibility. And I’m certain the fine folks at the Tournament of the Roses and the Pasadena local businesses that rely on the swarm of Big Ten and Pac-10 fans making the journey to their fine town once a year are not exactly thrilled about it, either.

But for Boise State and TCU, a chance to play in the Rose Bowl against the Big Ten champions on New Year’s Day is a tremendous, once-in-a-program opportunity. If there was a year where finishing No.3 in the BCS standings actually mattered, it’s 2010.

And yet, Boise State fans perhaps shouldn’t merely aim for the Rose Bowl, just yet. Oregon looked rather mortal on Saturday night, escaping Berkeley with a 15-13 victory over Cal. The lowest point total the Ducks had scored prior to Saturday night? 42. The Golden Bears, who’d given up 52 points to Nevada and 50 points to USC in losses earlier this year, did nothing fancy in defending the Ducks’ high-powered attack. They squared up in man coverage and took the nation’s highest scoring team down to the wire. Arizona, owners of the nation’s 14th ranked overall defense, could present trouble for the Ducks when they square off on the day after Thanksgiving. Playing Oregon State in Corvallis, regardless of what the Beavers did this past Saturday vs. Washington State, is never an easy trip, either.

No. 2 Auburn, meanwhile, will undoubtedly be dealing with thirteen straight days of chaos, scandal, and controversy. Saturday’s game against Georgia provided a few hours of relief for the Auburn players. In an odd turn of events, a week off from football in November could end up being detrimental for the Tigers.

No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Auburn, and No. 3 TCU are each idle this weekend.

The catfish chasing them from the No.4 spot, though, have a primetime Friday night date on ESPN.

At first glance, it would appear as though the Broncos are the fourth team in a three-horse race.

In truth, they’ve got the cod right where they want ‘em.