The Boise State football team has not played Idaho in six years. Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State don’t show up on the schedule every year. Air Force has beaten the Broncos twice in a row, but Army and Navy have much more history with the Falcons.
Perhaps that all means Boise State’s top rival right now is one not even in its own conference.
BYU has split the past four meetings with the Broncos, games that have included a 7-6 Boise State win in 2012 and a 35-24 BYU win last year in which the Broncos led until 45 seconds remained and included a desperation touchdown pass on fourth down by Eagle High grad Tanner Mangum.
The latest installment of the series comes at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Albertsons Stadium, televised on ESPN.
“I think there is a rivalry there. We’re definitely looking forward to it, especially on a short week. ... I think we’re going to be prepared,” Boise State senior wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck said Saturday after the Broncos’ 28-23 win over Colorado State.
For Sperbeck and the senior class, it is an opportunity to even the score against the Cougars. BYU has won two of the past three meetings, both in Provo.
“I would definitely say (that it’s a rivalry),” linebacker Ben Weaver said. “Losing to them a few times, especially after last year, it’s a physical game every single time we play them.”
Last year against BYU, Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols had 46 rushing yards, the fewest in the 18 games he’s started for the Broncos. He’s put up two 200-yard games the past four weeks, including 217 on Saturday. Surely he’s eager for another shot at the Cougars.
“It’s another football game. We’re all going to strap it up. We put our pants on just like them. It starts out 0-0,” McNichols said.
OK, not everyone is on board.
But in addition to the aforementioned seniors, there are some Broncos that always bring a little extra for the Cougars. Players who went on LDS missions say BYU always brings out their best, whether they weren’t recruited there or know players on the team. Senior linebacker Darren Lee has played some of his better games against the LDS-affiliated school and said last year it’s a good opportunity “to make a lot of friends mad.”
Sophomore defensive end Durrant Miles, who had his first career sack Saturday, went on a two-year mission to Bolivia after graduating from Bingham High near Salt Lake City. He burned his redshirt last season as a freshman in the Broncos’ third game, six days after playing the Cougars. Suffice it to say, he’s eager to face them for the first time.
“Oh yeah, we take every opponent seriously each week, but it’s something special when we play BYU,” Miles said.
The turnaround from a Saturday to a Thursday is the Broncos’ first since facing BYU on Sept. 20, 2012, five days after hosting Miami (Ohio). Against a Cougars team that has won three straight, the Broncos have a mighty task ahead, but one that won’t be tough to get excited about.
“It’s going to be a very quick week, but we’re going to attack it. It’s adversity, it’s kind of the stuff we live for,” Weaver said.
MOVIN’ ON UP ...
Coming off a 28-23 win over Colorado State on Saturday at Albertsons Stadium, the Broncos moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press and Coaches polls Sunday.
The Broncos (6-0, 3-0 Mountain West) are still three spots behind Houston (6-1), coming off a 38-31 win over Tulsa that required a stop on the goal line as time expired. Two other Group of Five teams are ranked in the AP poll: Western Michigan (No. 20) and Navy (No. 25).
▪ Boise State coach Bryan Harsin will hold his weekly press conference at 11:30 a.m. Monday, followed by coordinators Scott Huff and Andy Avalos. Check out IdahoStatesman.com for video and notes.
BYU at No. 14 Boise State
- When: 8:15 p.m. MT Thursday
- Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
- Records: BYU 4-3 overall; Boise State 6-0, 3-0 Mountain West
- Kickoff weather: Mid-50s, partly cloudy with light winds
- Vegas line: Boise State is favored by 7 1/2 points
- Series: Boise State leads 4-2 (BYU won last season 35-24 in Provo)