BYU, Boise St mark the start of 12 straight games
Only twice before have Boise State and Brigham Young squared off, and it's been eight years since their last game.
Both teams are about to get to know each other a little better.
When the Cougars visit No. 24 Boise State (1-1) Thursday night, it will mark the first of a dozen games scheduled between the two programs over the next 12 years.
While fans may be enthused about the potential of an annual regional rivalry developing between two schools just a five-hour drive apart, Broncos coach Chris Petersen isn't about to jump on board, preferring instead to look ahead at the new rivals awaiting next year when Boise State joins the Big East.
''Our rivals are on the East Coast and in Texas and in San Diego,'' Petersen said this week. ''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.''
That may be. But it's easy to see how fans from both teams could embrace an annual meeting.
BYU (2-1) and Boise State are proven programs guaranteed to raise the level of competition and schedule difficulty, something that has consistently been cited as a weakness anytime the Broncos are mentioned in BCS debates.
And in many ways, BYU fills a void for Broncos fans thirsting for fun new rivals after watching traditional foes like Idaho, Nevada and Fresno State fall victim to Boise State's conference hopping during the last two years.
At least some of the players recognize the potential of the 12-game deal.
''Anytime you have a series that long and continue to play the same team over and over again, there will be a little rivalry there,'' said backup Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill, who grew up in Pocatello, Idaho, and was recruited by Petersen. ''As we continue to play each other that rivalry will increase I'm sure.''
Few things would stoke those flames quite like BYU christening the series with a win on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium, where Boise State has won 19 straight games during the month of September. A BYU win would also help rectify the past for the Cougars. The Broncos clobbered BYU 50-12 in Provo, Utah, in 2002 and two years later beat the Cougars 28-27 in Boise.
The Broncos head into the game favored by a touchdown and are fresh off a 39-12 victory over Miami (Ohio).
After sputtering in an opening loss at Michigan State, the Boise State offense finally got on track Saturday, rolling up 599 yards of total offense. Quarterback Joe Southwick also showed off the skills, smarts and leadership that earned him the starting job during spring and fall camps.
The redshirt junior was 24 of 31 passing for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns, most of it coming in a second half dominated by the Broncos. He's been helped by an offensive line that has yet to allow a sack and opened up enough holes to let D.J. Martin and other running backs rush for 295 yards.
The bad news is the Cougar defense may be stingier than the Michigan State unit that held the Broncos to a meager 206 yards of total offense in the opener.
The Cougars rank ninth nationally in total defense, allowing just 241 yards per game and a sixth-best 53 yards rushing per game. BYU has given up an average of 14.3 points per game in its first three games.
The challenge facing Boise State's offense is hardly lost on Petersen.
''They're the next level on defense, for sure,'' Petersen said.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall ''has got them playing as hard as they've ever played. That's one thing that always jumps out whenever you watch BYU. That's his baby. He's a defensive guy,'' Petersen said.
The question for Brigham Young is whether the team can bounce back after a tough and chaotic loss to Utah on Saturday.
Once down 24-7, the Cougars, led by dual-threat quarterback Riley Nelson, rallied and in the final moments were marching toward a chance at a game-tying field goal. But Nelson's last-ditch pass failed, and Utah fans ran on to the field to celebrate.
But an official review showed one second remained on the clock when Nelson's pass fell incomplete, prompting a clearing of the field and a final 51-yard field goal shot that was ultimately blocked. The game was still not over as Utes fans were penalized again for being on the field too soon, giving BYU another field goal shot from 15 yards closer. Riley Stephenson's 36-yarder banged off an upright and time expired along with the Cougars' spot in the Top 25.
BYU players and coaches agree the best antidote is a short memory and short week.
''The loss last weekend was devastating and it will hurt,'' said linebacker Spencer Hadley. ''But as far as right now, whether it's completely moving on or masking, putting on the big boy pants and going back to work, we have another game and another great opponent.
''There's no time to lament. It's time to get back down to business,'' he said.