Brian Murphy: If you can't beat Boise State, aspire to be the Broncos

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comOctober 12, 2013 

  • MOUNTAIN WEST POWER POLL BY CHADD CRIPE

    1. Fresno State: Bulldogs defense held an FBS opponent to fewer than 37 points for the first time last week at Idaho.

    2. Boise State: The Broncos have played two very good teams and three bad teams. Today: one in between.

    3. Utah State: Difficult to rank the Aggies this week with the uncertainty at quarterback.

    4. San Diego State: Aztecs are gaining steam. They have 16 days to prepare for Fresno.

    5. Wyoming: The Cowboys’ 42-21 loss at Texas State might be the MW’s strangest result.

    6. Nevada: Wolf Pack have allowed at least 42 points four times this season.

    7. Colorado State: Rams have shown some potency on offense but have work to do on defense.

    8. San Jose State: Spartans have been outscored 144-86 by four FBS opponents.

    9. UNLV: Don’t look now, but Rebels have won three in a row and are favored versus Hawaii.

    10. New Mexico: Aggies have run their way to 108 points in the past two weeks, but went 1-1.

    11. Air Force: Loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 26 would doom Falcons’ bowl hopes already.

    12. Hawaii: Warriors also could be out of the bowl hunt by month’s end.

Coaches, administrators, commissioners and columnists have a convenient two-word shorthand for describing the aspirations of their middling football programs:

Boise State.

They all want to be the next Boise State or the Boise State of their region or conference.

“We’re trying to become the Boise State of the MAC,” an Ohio University representative said in 2007.

“Very honestly, South Alabama can be the Boise of the next decade,” then-Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Wright Waters said in 2010.

“We really feel like Temple can be the Boise of the East Coast,” coach Steve Addazio said in 2011.

That none of those schools have come particularly close to matching the Broncos’ BCS-era achievements hasn’t deterred others from jumping on board.

Then-Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn proudly told everyone who asked in 2012 that he wanted to turn the Red Wolves into “the Boise State of the South.”Arkansas State went one better after Malzahn left for Auburn, hiring former Boise State quarterback and offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.

“One of the biggest things I took from there is just how important character and culture is,” said Harsin, whose team hosts Idaho on Saturday. “You're going to have guys come and go, but if you establish that, it’s always there. Those philosophies, we're definitely trying to carry into our program.”

UMass coach Charley Molnar talked about turning the Minutemen into the “Boise State of the East.”

Molnar has competition for that designation. Hartford Courtant columnist Jeff Jacobs wrote just weeks ago that he wants Connecticut to dream big and “try to become the Boise State of the East.”

Upon his hiring at Western Michigan, P.J. Fleck dreamed big, too. “I picture this place being like Boise State.” The Broncos of WMU at least have the right mascot — one that looks strikingly similar to the blue and orange version.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Boise State is the measuring stick for non-BCS programs looking for sustained success in football, national relevance and consistent rankings.

Utah State is too close to Boise State — and now the Aggies are Mountain West Mountain Division rivals — to claim to want to be the Boise State of anything.

That doesn’t mean the Aggies, who host Boise State on Saturday at Romney Stadium, haven’t patterned some of their plans after their northern rivals.

“When you have a program that’s been as consistently excellent as they’ve been, you always want to study and learn from them. There are things we want to emulate and things we’ll do differently,” Utah State Athletic Director Scott Barnes said this week.

Under Barnes, the Aggies have elevated their football program from WAC also-ran to the Broncos’ top competitor in the division. The elements of the turnaround — articulated in a vision statement developed five years ago — sound familiar to those who have followed Boise State.

Barnes and Utah State focused on facilities development, scheduling for success and raising assistant coaches’ pay. Such institutional support has been integral in the Broncos’ success, and it has helped the Aggies to back-to-back bowl appearances, including an 11-2 season last year.

“(Boise State has) tremendous support from administrators, fans and the athletic department,” first-year coach Matt Wells said. “We also have an administration led by our president and athletic director that have great faith in football, and a want for football to succeed here.”

That faith and want has paid off. But there are still places the Aggies want to go.

“We want to win a Mountain West championship,” Barnes said. “We want to continue to climb the bowl ladder and be in more prestigious bowls.”

Achievable and admirable goals.

And, thankfully, ones that don’t involve becoming the Boise State of the Cache Valley.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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