To Bet or Not to Bet: Boise State Football
by Trevor Whenham - 10/18/2006
The media and college football powers do everything in their power to give mid-majors the impression that they aren't welcome in the BCS, but those pesky upstarts still insist on trying to break into the exclusive club. Only one team from outside a major conference has made a BCS bowl. That was in 2004 when Utah couldn't be ignored. That journey made Urban Meyer and Alex Smith very rich men, but it also set the bar that all other mid-major powerhouses now aim for.
Several mid-majors, including Utah and TCU, tried to book a spot in an early 2007 bowl game, but Boise State is the only team that still has a shot at the big time. At 7-0 they are the only undefeated mid-major, and the only possible way for them to make it to the BCS is to stay that way. Even then it isn't a sure thing.
This isn't necessarily the kind of season that Boise State was expected to have. After years of saying he had no intention of ever leaving the state of Idaho, coach Dan Hawkins, the man, along with his predecessor Dirk Koetter, now of Arizona State and responsible for the rise of the program, bolted for the big money in Colorado. Chris Petersen took over from Hawkins and, if anything, the program is even better than it has ever been. Hawkins, on the other hand, is almost certainly wishing he was back in Idaho after the pathetic season his Buffaloes are putting together.
At the core of the success of the Broncos is a pretty good roster of players. Perhaps the best is linebacker Korey Hall, who has been fingered as a potential All-American on many mid-season lists. Ian Johnson is a more than capable running back, with1,000 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns in seven games. Quarterback Jared Zabransky failed to live up to some huge expectations last year, but the senior has rebounded well this year. He has completed 62 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and three picks, and he has found the end zone five more times on the ground. He leads a balanced offense, with seven different players having a receiving touchdown, and five different ball carriers scoring.
The Broncos have been very successful on the scoresheet, but they have not been friendly to bettors. When you are betting on or against a team you obviously want them to either cover often or rarely. The Broncos have a mediocre ATS record, and it is difficult to determine what they will do on any given week.
They are supposed to be a very strong home team on their ridiculous blue Smurf Turf, but they are just 2-1 ATS at home, and they failed to cover against Hawaii in a game that Boise State was supposed to win fairly easily. On the road they are 1-2 ATS, but the one cover was the one they were supposed to struggle with. They were five point underdogs against Utah (only the second regular season game since September of 2005 that they weren't favored), but they won by 33. They've covered a huge 36.5-point spread, but then couldn't beat Wyoming by more than 7.5 points. In short, you can be fairly sure that they are going to win, but the margin of victory is a complete mystery.
It's particularly frustrating that they aren't performing better ATS, given that they have averaged 43 points per game in the last four games. Over that span they have let their opponents score 8.5 points per game in the two games when they have covered, and 31 points per game when they have not.
The remaining schedule couldn't be more kind for Boise State. Idaho this coming weekend could be a concern, only because coach Dennis Erickson has likely had this game circled on the calendar since he took the Idaho job, but Boise State is a comfortable 20.5-point favorite. The next game against Fresno State should have been the toughest on the board, but that mighty program has stumbled to a dismal 1-5 showing, so they won't be a challenge. San Jose State, Utah State and Nevada round out the regular season schedule. Those teams have a combined 13-18 record that shouldn't be too tough for Boise State to overcome.
That weak schedule will be very helpful for wins, but it is disastrous for their BCS hopes. When the first BCS standings came out this week, Boise State was at No. 15. They need to be at least 12th to guarantee a spot in the BCS. Since strength of schedule is such a large component of the BCS calculations, the Broncos will need a lot of help from the teams above them to get where they want to end up. That creates what could be a profitable situation for bettors, though.
One of the ways that they can move up the rankings is to get ranked better in the Harris and Coaches' polls. The only way a team like them can get the national attention they will need to get ranked better is to put up some gaudy numbers - voters like big blowouts. Because of that, you can be sure that coach Petersen and his charges will have the pedal to the metal and will be looking to destroy their remaining opposition. Given their opponents poor records, Boise State will face some large spreads, but their burning desire to make the BCS could make them a good bet to cover.