The last time the Boise State football team experienced a season like 2015 was 17 years ago.
It was 1998. The Broncos had never even played in a bowl game at the top level of college football at that point.
And in one way, even 1998 was better than this: That team finished 6-5, the Broncos’ first winning season at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and a sign of progress.
This team — at 7-4 entering Friday’s regular-season finale at San Jose State — was supposed to finish among the nation’s top 25 and perhaps play in another New Year’s Six bowl game.
Instead, the Broncos — the preseason No. 23 team — have regressed.
The natural assumption is the sky is falling and everybody is jumping off the ship. That’s not true. ... I know the realities of two losses at home. I know the disappointment of that. Nobody feels worse about that than I do. The one thing I like is I have an opportunity to have a part in it, to change it.
BRYAN HARSIN, Boise State football coach
How ugly has this 2015 season been? Consider:
THE FOUR LOSSES
The Broncos have lost four regular-season games for just the second time in 14 seasons. They also lost four in 2013, but those defeats came against Washington (9-4), Fresno State (11-2), BYU (8-5) and San Diego State (8-5) — arguably the four most-talented teams the Broncos played, and each game was on the road.
This year’s losses have come against BYU (8-3), Utah State (6-5), New Mexico (6-5) and Air Force (8-3), with two of those losses at home. Meanwhile, they beat Washington — by some measures the best team on the schedule — and won at Virginia.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
The Broncos haven’t won a home game since Oct. 24, losing to New Mexico and Air Force in a seven-day span.
From 1999 through October 2015, they lost four home games in 16-plus seasons. They hadn’t lost consecutive home games since 1997 and hadn’t lost on Senior Day since 1998.
Perhaps most distressing, the Broncos trailed by at least 14 points in the fourth quarter in the New Mexico and Air Force games.
DYNASTY NO MORE
The Broncos have lost three conference games for the first time since 1998, when they were in the Big West. The program that won Big West titles in 1999 and 2000 and WAC titles in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010 has failed to win its six-team division in two of the past three seasons in the Mountain West.
At a time when a conference championship means more than ever because it makes Boise State eligible for a New Year’s Six berth, the Broncos have lost the ability to dominate their peers — even in a season when the Mountain West is mediocre.
MISSING STAR POWER
Some of the Broncos’ best players have been absent at times this season — taking some of the fun out of watching this team and likely affecting the win-loss record.
Players who have missed games include left tackle Rees Odhiambo, tailback Jeremy McNichols, quarterback Ryan Finley, wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes, linebacker Tanner Vallejo, safety Darian Thompson, safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner and cornerback Donte Deayon.
Five of those guys have received an all-conference honor in the past or are expected to get that honor this year.
The Broncos’ past success was based on impeccable execution. This team has been undone by its lack of execution. Youth and injuries have played a role, but neither should be a deciding factor by November.
Boise State at San Jose State
- When: 1:30 p.m. Friday
- Where: Spartan Stadium (30,456, FieldTurf), San Jose, Calif.
- TV: CBS Sports Network (John Sadak, Sed Bonner, Melanie Collins)
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM), KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
- Records: Boise State is 7-4 overall, 4-3 Mountain West; San Jose State is 5-6, 4-3
- Series: Boise State leads 11-0 (Broncos won 48-0 in 2010 in San Jose)
- Coaches: Boise State, Bryan Harsin (19-6, second year; 26-11, third year overall); San Jose State, Ron Caragher (14-21, third year; 58-43, ninth year overall)
- Vegas line: Boise State by 7
- Kickoff weather: Low 50s and sunny, with 5 mph winds and no precipitation