For the sixth consecutive year, Boise State's football team opens its season against a team from one of the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC).
The Broncos take on No. 18 Ole Miss of the SEC at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night. Next year, the Broncos will extend that streak to seven when they host Washington of the Pac-12 at Albertsons Stadium.
But several ESPN college football analysts believe such games could be coming to an end in the new College Football Playoff era where strength of schedule could be a much larger factor moving forward.
"I don't know how many more games we're going to get from outside of the Power Five. I'm very curious to see how this goes with the new scheduling format. Do we still get some of these great match-ups? Boise State has been involved in so many memorable moments in openers," ESPN analyst David Pollack said last week, referencing Boise State's season-opening victories against Oregon (2009), Virginia Tech (2010) and Georgia (2011).
Pollack will call Boise State's game against Ole Miss along with Rece Davis, Sam Ponder and Todd Blackledge.
"My biggest fear is that Power Five teams are only going to want to schedule each other, and the teams left out are not going to get an opportunity to prove themselves," ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer said last week.
The ACC and SEC, which play eight-game conference schedules, have instituted rules that members play at least one other Power Five conference team each season. The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 already play nine-game conference schedules. No conference has rules against playing teams from the other Football Bowl Subdivision conferences.
But in a recent ESPN.com poll of the 65 coaches from Power Five conference teams (and Notre Dame), 30 of them expressed their support for playing only other Power Five conference teams.
Palmer said without marquee match-ups teams from the non-Power Five leagues (American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) might not have a chance to stand out. Even if a team runs through its conference schedule undefeated, it may not be able to impress the 13-member selection committee. He said there has been a lot of talk about more access in the College Football Playoff era but, "I don't know if that's necessarily true."
Said Pollack: "Boise was a team that was off the grid that could make those magical seasons. They could schedule those teams early. ... Now if they don't have those games, they don't have a prayer to get in the playoff."
Fellow ESPN analyst Danny Kanell agreed that there will be fewer Power Five vs. non-Power Five games moving forward. Boise State has games scheduled against Washington, Virginia, Florida State, Oklahoma State, Washington State, Oregon State and Michigan State in future seasons.
"That is one of the things I don't like about the Power Five autonomy and sort of the shift in college football that we're seeing. It's going to be harder because you're going to start to see more Power Five non‑conference match‑ups. You'll see the SEC take on the Pac‑12 or you'll see the ACC take on the Big Ten, but I don't think you'll see a lot of teams in the Power Five schedule teams from the American or from the Mountain West or whatever other conferences that are out there because there is no — the risk‑reward just isn't there," ESPN analyst Danny Kanell said Tuesday.
"If you schedule Boise State and you lose to them, it could wreck your chances to make the College Football Playoff if you're in a Power Five team. If you beat them, everybody expects you to beat them. So as much as BYU or Boise State is going to want to schedule these Power Five teams, I think it's going to be hard to get those types of teams on your schedule."
Boise State, which reached the Bowl Championship Series after the 2006 and 2009 seasons, emerged as one of the most controversial teams in the country during its extended run of success under former coach Chris Petersen. To the dismay of many and the delight of others, the Broncos were in the national title discussion in 2010 and 2011 before late-season losses.
"That's what I think that sucks. You're not going to have those magical stories," Pollack said. "You either hated the little guy or loved the little guy. Either way, you watched."