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Blueprint for BCS success

Boise State, known in part for its unusual field, took an unconventional route to play traditional power Oklahoma.

January 01, 2007|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

How you get from Idaho, to Arizona, to a Bowl Championship Series game, to play Oklahoma, in the Fiesta Bowl ... or, at least how Boise State did it:

Start off as an Episcopal all-girls school in 1892, St. Margaret's Hall, offering advanced education in teaching and nursing. Have people refer to you as "Saint Mag's Hags" before, in 1932, becoming a junior college. Then you let boys in, start a football team, become one of the greatest JC programs of all time, making Bakersfield your second home with a string of Potato Bowl visits.

Maybe Weber State should be taking notes ...

Don't move too quickly, though.

Don't become a four-year school until 1968.

Don't advance from Division II to Division I-AA until 1978.

Mix in a head coach named Pokey.

Don't graduate to Division I-A football until 1996.

Go 2-10 in your first year in the Big West Conference. Have Arizona State beat you, 56-7.

Keep plugging away, though, and a Fiesta Bowl date against Oklahoma, in Arizona State's backyard, surely is in your destiny.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday January 06, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 17 words Type of Material: Correction
College football: Recent articles about Boise State misspelled the last name of Coach Chris Petersen as Peterson.

Keep recruiting players other schools wouldn't waste a postage stamp on.

Don't ever have a player chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.

Move along, in 2001, to the Western Athletic Conference.

Have Dirk Koetter build the foundation, then hand the hammer to Dan Hawkins, who hands it to Chris Peterson, who is 42 but looks like he's 25.

Peterson is sappy enough to have, fresh out of college at UC Davis, made up a list of life goals that included coaching an undefeated team and owning a second home.

He's one victory from the first goal.

And what about that second house?

"Working on it," Peterson said.

The rest of the Boise State story is, well, tune in to Channel 11 at 5:30 p.m. today.

It took a hundred-year bus ride to get here, but the Broncos (12-0) have finally dropped bags.

Given its junior college roots, it seemed fitting Boise State held its Fiesta Bowl practices at Scottsdale Community College.

What Oklahoma needs to know is that most Boise State players don't feel like second-hand merchandise.

"The players we have on this team all think they should have gone straight out of high school to the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Miami Dolphins or whoever," joked Peterson, who is finishing up his first year as Boise State coach. "And they can't believe that they actually ended up here. And they're out on a mission to prove to the world that everybody made a mistake on them."

Oklahoma versus Boise State is a Mt. Rushmore face versus a college program that's just starting to shave.

Oklahoma (11-2) has won seven national football titles since 1950.

Boise State once played in the Junior Rose Bowl.

"They're a very good team, structurally, both sides of the ball, very good at what they do," Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said of his opponent.

Oklahoma has a superstar running back, Adrian Peterson, who is returning today from a collarbone injury that might have cost him the Heisman Trophy. Peterson needs 151 yards to surpass Billy Sims, who did win the Heisman at Oklahoma, and become the school's all-time rushing leader.

Boise State has a running back, Ian Johnson, who works as a plumber's assistant on the side and likes to crochet beanies for his teammates.

He does not, though, lack for confidence.


"We don't care about names," Johnson said. "We're going out to play a maroon team, and that's all we care about."

After a century of slow, steady growth, the last few years for Boise State have coalesced remarkably fast.

The Broncos have won five straight WAC titles, mesmerized opponents with their blue field and now hope to become football's version of basketball's George Mason.

"I don't think we feel any extra pressure," Peterson said. "Do we want to represent Boise State, the state of Idaho, and this university in a real good way? No question about it. And do we want to make a showing for all the other teams? Heck yeah. But there's going to be enough pressure on this team as it is."

How Boise State got here is one of those high-caloric BCS stories.

It took a threat of lawsuit to ease the access rule for schools that play in one of five non-BCS conferences, of which the WAC is one.

Before this season, a non-BCS conference champion had to finish in the top six to earn an automatic bid.

Two years ago, Utah finished No. 6 and became the first team to break through a so-called glass ceiling to earn a Fiesta Bowl bid.

The school that got lost in 2004 was Boise State, which finished 11-0, No. 9 in the BCS, and was shipped off to the Liberty Bowl.

With the addition of a fifth BCS game this year, a non-BCS school must now finish only No. 12 or better to earn an automatic bid.

Boise State, which ended up No. 8, made it with room to spare, although there will always be critics who say the Broncos muscled out a more deserving school -- a case this year could be made for 10-2 Auburn.

Boise State's answer?

"The system is flawed, but the way the system is, we're 12-0 and we're above the other schools," Johnson said. "We've got an automatic bid, that's the way it is. You shouldn't complain."


Fiesta Bowl

Boise State (12-0) vs.

Oklahoma (11-2)

Tonight, 5:30 PST, Ch. 11

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