Nothing will get the cliche machine running like facing an opponent that appears to be overmatched — hello, UConn — or a game that just about everyone on the outside pegs as a highly important one.
Yes, No. 17 Boise State has a one-game-at-a-time mindset. Yes, the Broncos vow to treat Saturday’s game at No. 24 Oklahoma State like any other. No, the Broncos will not say they circled this game when the schedule was announced.
But the reality is that this matchup offers a major opportunity for the Broncos.
It could mean plenty now, but also in the future. These types of games are what have built the Boise State reputation.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
“A legacy, like you’ve seen with those other teams when they beat Virginia Tech, Georgia, Oklahoma, TCU, all those big-time schools,” junior safety DeAndre Pierce said. “All those (teams) left behind a legacy that they saw before and they bring up later on. We don’t look at it like, ‘This is our legacy game,’ but we know that is what it comes with.”
Boise State coach Bryan Harsin, discussing overlooking opponents before the UConn game, said last week, “We are a poor football team when we get ahead of ourselves.” The Broncos certainly did not look ahead, routing the Huskies to the tune of 62-7. That set up the game this week everyone hoped for, even the Cowboys.
“I’m excited for every game, no matter who it is, but to be honest, this one is going to be fun, coming out against a good opponent,” Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill said.
Removing the Cowboys from the equation (which in truth is nearly impossible), the BSU players’ mentality has been praised this week. Facing a ranked team on the road, and having won the first two games by a combined 91 points, sure helps.
“We could play the Mothers of the Poor down the street, it’s the same mentality ... every opponent’s an opponent, another notch on the board,” Boise State safeties coach Gabe Franklin said. “The focus is good, they’re ready to go. It’s just getting to Saturday and unleashing these guys.”
Saturday’s game is the first regular season contest in which both the Broncos and their opponent have been ranked since BSU played at Michigan State on Aug. 31, 2012. Only two other games this weekend pit two ranked teams.
One spot ahead of Central Florida in both polls, a win would put Boise State in the driver’s seat for the Group of Five berth for a New Year’s Six bowl game. It could even help propel the Broncos into the College Football Playoff discussion.
Boise State has three lifetime wins in true road games at Power Five conference schools.
“A lot of players here, some of us feel like in high school, we could’ve been recruited a little higher,” Pierce said. “Now that we get to go up against this competition, it feels great. It’s kind of like a dream for some of us, especially Oklahoma State, that’s a prestigious school ... I’ve seen smiles on everyone’s faces this week because everyone’s so excited for this challenge.”
Junior running back Alexander Mattison said those past big wins are talked about now because they are exactly that — in the past.
“We’ll think about that later down the road when things are shaping up the way they shape up,” Mattison said. “That’s not in our hands ... we just go into the week and prepare day by day.
“This is going to be a great game, a big game for us because we’re going into a different conference, someone else’s house ... there’s a lot of noise about this game, but we try to say focused, block out the outside noise.”
When the team arrived back on campus Jan. 16, Harsin told his players the trip to Stillwater, Okla., would not mean much if Boise State didn’t take care of what it needed to in order to reach that point. “If we do go out there and get geeked out ... it’ll be a bad game for the Broncos,” he said.
“That was circled from the outside, that wasn’t us — we addressed that right away,” Harsin said. “Everybody wanted to talk about this game. We had to play Troy, we had to play UConn, and everybody assumed we’d go win those games and get to this one. That wasn’t what our team was focused on.”
The Broncos took care of business, and now the big game has arrived.
No. 17 BOISE STATE AT No. 24 OKLAHOMA STATE
When: 1:30 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium (60,000; artificial turf)
TV: ESPN (Adam Amin, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 2-0 (beat UConn 62-7 on Saturday); Oklahoma State 2-0 (beat South Alabama 55-13 on Saturday)
Series: First meeting (first regular season game for BSU vs. Big 12, 2-1 in bowls)
Vegas line: Oklahoma State by 2 1/2
Weather: Mid-80s, partly cloudy, 60 percent humidity