No. 3 Broncos get spotlight hosting Fresno State
Just what Fresno State coach Pat Hill wanted: a short week of preparation for a road game after an emotional, one-point loss.
And that's without mentioning the Bulldogs' opponent: No. 3 Boise State.
After narrowing the gap on TCU for third in the BCS standings, the Broncos (9-0, 5-0 WAC) will try to extend the nation's longest winning streak on Friday night when they host Fresno State (6-3, 4-2).
Oregon, Auburn and TCU - the trio ranked ahead of Boise State in the BCS standings - all have the weekend off, leaving the national stage and the opportunity to impress voters and computers to the Broncos. They get that chance against the Bulldogs, who are still stinging from last Saturday night's 35-34 loss to No. 19 Nevada.
And it serves as Boise State's final tuneup before traveling to Nevada on Nov. 26, expected to be the Broncos' biggest challenge to a perfect regular season.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen actually likes the Broncos' loaded schedule this month, which has already included games against Hawaii and Idaho.
''I think that's what it's all about. You're playing for championships late in November,'' Petersen said. ''I know it's going to keep our players focused and that's how it should be.''
There's still that little thing called the BCS certainly keeping the Broncos focused, even though no one in blue and orange talks about it openly. After beating state rival Idaho last week 52-14 on a Friday night, a number of Boise State players were asked what they planned to do with a Saturday off.
The typical response, ''watch a game or two.''
What they saw was a trio of near upsets that almost left Boise State with a path to the national title game. Ultimately, Oregon, Auburn and TCU escaped with victories, leaving the Broncos needing help from others if a national title game appearance is in the offing.
Not that the Broncos would even admit for a second to knowing where they stand from a national perspective.
''I like it this way, late in November, it's kind of the exciting time for college football. It's kind of like high school in a way where you've got a playoff system for the WAC championship,'' Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore said. ''You take it one game at a time and progress and see what happens in the end.''
Hill certainly knows where the Broncos stand and has nothing but the highest regard for a rivalry that is only 12 games old but is built on strong mutual respect. Even though the Broncos and Bulldogs split conferences next year, with Boise State headed to the Mountain West and Fresno State in the WAC for one more season, the two schools made sure one of their non-conference openings was filled by continuing the matchup.
''I was there in 1984 when we beat them on a green field and to see the changes in Boise State over the last 25 years, or the last five or six years is really unbelievable,'' Hill said. ''I have a lot of respect for how they do things and what they do.''
But despite his admiration for Petersen and the Broncos program, Hill would like nothing more than to ruin Boise State's march to perfection.
To do so would likely require a third straight huge effort from running back Robbie Rouse. Only a sophomore, Rouse became the first back in Fresno State history to post consecutive 200-yard rushing games, running for 286 yards against Louisiana Tech, then following up with 217 against Nevada last week.
Last year, the Bulldogs were able to run against the Broncos, when first-round pick Ryan Mathews rumbled for 234 yards and three touchdowns. And that still wasn't enough as Boise State pulled out a 51-34 victory.
But a big day from Rouse would at least help give the Bulldogs a chance.
''Hopefully we can get to the fourth quarter and find out if our kids can make a play in the fourth quarter,'' Hill said. ''This game is going to be a great challenge for us.''
Moore was again at his most efficient last week against Idaho, throwing for 216 yards and three touchdowns. And despite completing 19 of 26 passes - in 2 1/2 quarters of play - his pass efficiency rating actually dropped from 192.3 to 191.1.
The junior can claim ownership of yet another Boise State record this week. He needs just 209 yards passing to become the school's all-time leader in that category, jumping past Ryan Dinwiddie. By the end of the regular season, Moore could be the first Broncos QB to crack 10,000 yards passing in his career.
''We've got big-time opponents coming up. We're probably going to be in a couple of these where we're going to need some points late, whether it's the two-minute drill or what have you,'' Moore said. ''We've got to prepare for that and see what happens.''