October 13, 2009

No. 5 Boise St faces key road test against Tulsa

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Boise State coach Chris Petersen figures to face a steady dose of BCS questions as long as his fifth-ranked Broncos stay undefeated.

Like this one: Would an unbeaten Boise State (5-0) stand a better chance of getting into the BCS championship game this year than when it had to settle for the Fiesta Bowl three seasons ago?

"That's hard to know," Petersen said. "We still have eight games left, with a huge one with Tulsa. We have so much more football to be played. I believe what I tell our guys: If we take care of the things we can control and play good football, we'll be playing somewhere good against a good opponent at the end of the season."

The Broncos' task of running the table is starting to look easier, particularly after a Wednesday night trip to Tulsa (4-1) that marks the toughest road game left on their schedule. Get past the Golden Hurricane, and the rest of Boise State's opponents have a combined record of 16-21.

The WAC schedule might not be the best way to build a resume with the BCS computer rankings and poll voters, but it's been a great way for the Broncos to keep their loss column empty. They've gone undefeated in conference play five of the last seven seasons.

"Our players know that Tulsa is a heck of a team," Petersen said. "This isn't something that we're going to have to sell them at. They know about Tulsa, they know about their athletes, their coaching, their winning, all those type of things. So, we like that. We don't have to sell this at all."

For Tulsa, Boise State is something of an idol - and it all started with the Broncos' unforgettable BCS win against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Tulsa coach Todd Graham calls the Broncos a "catalyst" that validated the top teams in conferences without an automatic BCS berth.

"Naturally, we want to win and win championships and go win BCS games and all that type of stuff," Graham said. "That's where we aspire to be, and why would you not? I guess they kind of changed that. I think a lot of people before they were able to go and do that, if you said that people would probably say, `Whatever. That's unrealistic.' And then when they went and did it, it proved it could be done. Why in the world would you not have that as your goal?"

Graham doesn't hide his admiration for everything the Broncos do - their blue turf, their marketing plan, their recruiting strategies and their unique offensive and defensive systems. His staff met with Petersen's staff following spring practice in 2008 to share ideas and philosophies.

That respect trickles down to his players, who are trying to build on the program's first back-to-back seasons with at least 10 wins. The Golden Hurricane have never beaten a top-five team.

"It's a huge game for us. Having a top 10 team coming to our house, it's going to be a great atmosphere," nose guard Wilson Garrison said. "We've talked about Boise a lot around here, the tradition they've built in winning in and out every year with discipline and character. That's something we want to do, so it's a huge game and a huge opportunity for us."

Tulsa has fallen flat in the national spotlight lately. Arkansas foiled the Golden Hurricane's bid for the BCS last year with a 30-23 defeat that brought a halt to their 8-0 start, and Oklahoma teams ranked in the top 10 have handed them a pair of losses by a combined 107-21 margin over the past three years - including 45-0 earlier this year.

In that game, Tulsa played without two of its starting offensive linemen and lost senior free safety Charles Davis to a season-ending injury.

"We've got a chance now to go out against Boise State and say that score wasn't indicative of what it came out and get a chance to redeem ourselves," Graham said. "In my tenure here, this is the biggest game we've had at this university - especially at home."

"It's going to be a big, big night. Our guys are excited. I know they're going to play their hearts out."



 

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