Boise State Football

UCF has matched Boise State football’s 24-game win streak. Whose was better?

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The Mountain West Network visits with Boise State and Fresno State coaches and players to preview the 2018 Mountain West championship game at Albertsons Stadium.
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The Mountain West Network visits with Boise State and Fresno State coaches and players to preview the 2018 Mountain West championship game at Albertsons Stadium.

The UCF Knights stand where the Boise State Broncos were nearly a decade ago — winning games at a historic rate, often in lopsided fashion, and being left out of the national championship hunt.

Last week, the Knights matched the Broncos’ most impressive run with their 24th straight win dating to the 2017 season opener.

The Broncos won 24 straight from the 2009 season opener until a November 2010 loss at No. 18 Nevada.

So which upstart program has put together the best streak? Here’s a comparison of what the Knights are doing and what the Broncos did nearly a decade ago.

Both accomplishments are astonishing.

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Non-conference wins

Boise State beat No. 16 Oregon, No. 7 Virginia Tech and No. 24 Oregon State, along with three Mid-American teams, one Conference USA team, one Mountain West team and one FCS team. The Oregon and Virginia Tech wins, both in season openers, helped launch Boise State toward the top of the polls.

This is UCF’s greatest resume weakness. The Knights haven’t played a ranked non-conference opponent (not counting bowls) during their streak. They’ve beaten Maryland and Pitt from the Power Five along with two Conference USA teams and two FCS schools.

Advantage: Boise State

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Central Florida running back Adrian Killins Jr. runs the ball in for a touchdown Aug. 30 against Connecticut. Stephen Dunn AP

Conference success

Boise State won 14 WAC games during its 24-game win streak but none of those opponents were ranked. It was a ranked WAC team that ended the Broncos’ streak, when they squandered a halftime lead and missed a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation in Reno.

UCF has won 17 American conference games, including a conference championship game. Those wins include three top-20 opponents: No. 19 USF and No. 14 Memphis last year and No. 19 Cincinnati this year. The American is certainly stronger than the old WAC.

Advantage: UCF

The big bowl

Boise State controversially was paired with No. 4 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2009 season, a battle of teams outside the power conferences. The result was a defensive struggle that the Broncos won 17-10, sparked by a beautiful fake punt.

UCF drew No. 7 Auburn of the SEC in the Peach Bowl at the end of last season. The Knights scored three straight touchdowns in the second half, including an interception return, to prove themselves 34-27 against the Tigers.

Advantage: Push

Domination

Boise State scored 40 points 18 times during its win streak, scored 50 nine times and won by at least 20 points 15 times. They also never trailed by more than a touchdown.

UCF has scored 40 14 times, 50 eight times and won by at least 20 points 16 times. The Knights did face a significant deficit this year at Memphis, 30-14 in the first half, but they won 31-30.

Advantage: Push

Defense

It’s easy to forget how good Boise State’s defense was during the win streak. The Broncos posted four shutouts and held opponents to fewer than 10 points 10 times. They held them to fewer than 20 points 15 times. During the streak, opponents managed just 14.8 points per game.

Defense is UCF’s on-field weakness. The Knights have held 10 teams to fewer than 20 points but only once have held a team to fewer than 10 points (a shutout). They allowed 42 and 55 points in their final two conference games last season. They have allowed 22.6 points per game during their streak — 50 percent more than the Broncos.

Advantage: Boise State

Best comeback

Boise State never faced a large deficit, but it did face a daunting one. The Broncos watched a 20-7 lead turn into a 30-26 deficit in the 2010 opener against No. 7 Virginia Tech in Landover, Md. (a non-neutral neutral field). The Broncos got the ball with 1:47 to play and quarterback Kellen Moore engineered a five-play, 56-yard touchdown drive that took just 38 seconds. He capped it with a 13-yard strike to wide receiver Austin Pettis for the 33-30 win.

Memphis outplayed UCF badly in the first half of the teams’ regular-season meeting this year — they meet again Saturday in the American championship game — but settled for field goals too many times. The Tigers led 30-14 with 2:04 left in the first half; they didn’t score again. UCF scored on a 71-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter and took the lead 31-30 on quarterback McKenzie Milton’s 7-yard score with 12:14 left in the game. Memphis, which had 27 first downs, couldn’t answer.

Advantage: Push



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Boise State coach Chris Petersen greets fans before appearing on ESPN’s “College GameDay” show in 2010 at Bronco Stadium. Joe Jaszewski Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Heisman candidate

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010. Moore ranked third in the nation in pass efficiency in 2009 (39 TDs, 3 INTs) and first in 2010 (35/6), when he beat out fellow Heisman finalists and future NFL stars Cam Newton and Andrew Luck for the efficiency title.

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton ranked second last year in pass efficiency (37/9) and is 10th this year (25/6). Milton has another dimension, though, with 17 rushing touchdowns during the streak. He finished eighth in Heisman voting last year. A severe knee injury sustained last week will prevent him from finishing this season.

Moore gets the edge as college football’s all-time winningest quarterback.

Advantage: Boise State

Rankings

Boise State climbed as high as No. 2 for three weeks in 2010. The Broncos finished at No. 4 in 2009 and were No. 3 when they lost to Nevada — the closest a team outside of the Power Five has come to reaching the national championship game. On the analytics side, Football Outsiders’ S&P+ Ratings ranked Boise State as the best team in the country in 2010 even with the loss to Nevada. The Broncos were 22nd in 2009.

UCF finished at No. 6 last year and is No. 7 this year (No. 8 in the CFP rankings). The Knights have drawn some guffaws for claiming a national championship last year, but they were No. 1 in the Colley Matrix computer rankings that were used in the Bowl Championship Series formula for 13 years.

Advantage: Boise State

So which streak was better? The edge goes to Boise State because of its stifling defense and non-conference schedules, the two reasons why the Broncos were able to climb higher in the polls despite playing in a worse conference than the Knights.

But UCF has a chance to do something Boise State didn’t: Win the 25th game.

Chadd Cripe is the Idaho Statesman’s sports columnist. Contact him at ccripe@idahostatesman.com and follow @chaddcripe on Twitter.

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