- Ivan Maisel, College Football Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
BOISE, Idaho -- Fresno State coach Pat Hill made his national bones by taking on anyone, anywhere, anytime. In 14 seasons, Hill and the Bulldogs have hit the road and won at Colorado and Wisconsin, Washington and UCLA. They've lost at Ohio State and Oklahoma and Tennessee. The point is, Hill knows a "BCS program" when he sees one.
On Friday night, Hill suffered the worst loss of his head-coaching career. No. 4 Boise State beat Fresno State 51-0. The postgame interview may not be the most politic time to broach the subject of the Broncos having to prove themselves to the BCS voters. Let's see: My team looks like it just went 12 rounds with Manny Pacquiao, and you want to know how good a fighter he is?
Hill is a plainspoken man.
"I think the truth of the matter is, people are scared to play them," Hill said. "They don't want to play them. I'll say it. I have no problem saying it. I'll take Boise State against anybody in the country.
"What else do they have to do? They're on the verge of their fourth undefeated season in six years. You gotta be kidding me. Someday we got to wake up and say, 'We just can't listen to all the people who've got all the money. We've got to listen to people that have the best teams.' They're a great football team."
All the people who've got all the money, not to mention a few writers and broadcasters, mock Boise State for its strength of schedule, for its blue turf, for the way it wears its hair.
"I've said it before," Hill said. "This is an elite football team. There's no doubt in my mind. If these guys win out, they should play for the national championship. Defensively, we've played some good teams before. We have never been manhandled like that. We got dominated tonight at the line of scrimmage. That doesn't happen to us too often."
Fresno State failed to score for the first time since 1998. The Bulldogs made nine first downs and gained 125 yards of total offense. Five of those first downs and 65 of those yards came in the fourth quarter, after Boise State led 44-0.
"They are very deserving of playing in the title game," Hill said.
Hill is biased. But the truth is that Boise State needs him to speak out. The strategy of playing on Friday night to gain national attention isn't working.
It sounded like the smart thing to do: play on three consecutive Friday nights in November, when inquiring BCS minds want to know. But here's the problem: If you don't kick off until 9:30 p.m. ET, and your games are as competitive as an Egyptian election, your targeted viewers may doze off.
Last week, Boise State defeated Idaho 52-14. That was "Death of a Salesman" compared to the Fresno State beatdown. Watching the Broncos defeat the Bulldogs on the East Coast at the end of a long week must have been as exciting as forensic accounting.
When you invite the nation to watch you, and then you tuck it in a blue and orange Boise State Snuggie and coo a lullaby, it's your own fault.
If you didn't stay awake, you missed Kellen Moore throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns after turning the ball over on the Bulldogs' first two possessions. You missed Moore connecting with his favorite targets, Austin Pettis and Titus Young, 18 times for 257 yards and all four scores.
"Those two wide receivers, you were bringing up the SEC," Hill said. "Who in the SEC has two like that? I don't think anybody does."
The Broncos play hard. They play together. You would think that they play smart, too, but after seeing a group of them come out to stretch before the game bare-chested in the 38-degree drizzle, we may have to rethink that one.
"It's a mindset," safety Jeron Johnson said. "It's going to be cold but come out there shirts off, it doesn't affect your play. We might have a few guys walking around coughing tomorrow."
They are a loose bunch, so loose that head coach Chris Petersen worried Thursday that they wouldn't be focused.
"They're playing with such tremendous intensity and focus every week," Petersen said. "We'll see them at walk-through. They're so lighthearted. I'm the most paranoid guy in America, thinking, 'This is the week. They're not ready. I know it. I know they're not ready. I can see how they're acting.'"
Did Petersen think that this week?
"I think that every week," he said.
Petersen's paranoia extends to discussing anything beyond the next opponent. When asked about the announcement Friday that the Broncos will play in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in 2011 against Georgia and in 2014 against Ole Miss, Petersen said the only game he was thinking about is at No. 18 Nevada next Friday night.
If Boise State doesn't pass No. 3 TCU when Sunday's BCS standings are released, the Broncos are likely to do so next week. They still would need Oregon or Auburn to stumble. According to Hill, Boise State shouldn't need even that.
"Last year when we played Wisconsin and Cincinnati, I said Boise was the best team we played," Hill said. "People just don't want to hear it. But I'll tell you what. I'll say they can play against anybody."
They can beat anybody, too, 24 anybodies in a row. The question is whether they will get the opportunity to beat that special somebody. Based on 10 games, any championship game without Boise State wouldn't be a championship game at all.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.
Based on 10 games, any college football championship game without Boise State wouldn't be a championship game at all.