Halfway Home: Boise State’s trail of blood leads back to the consolation round

Dr. Saturday

A snapshot of the remaining unbeaten teams at midseason, and how they can stay that way. Today: Boise State. Previously: Clemson, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

How they got here. The same way they always get here: By blowing the doors off inferior competition in such ruthless, efficient fashion that it's news only when the Broncos don't embarrass some random Continental Divide team by three touchdowns. Since putting the knife to Georgia in a more-lopsided-than-it-looks, 35-21 win on opening night, Boise has won its last five by an margin of 31 points.

Last week, in their first ever Mountain West game, the Broncos led 35-0 at Colorado State before the Rams gained a first down. (Final score: 63-13.) The week before that, they led Fresno State 50-0 after three quarters. (Final score: 57-7.) Quarterback Kellen Moore has attempted two fourth quarter passes in the last four games.

Altogether, all but four of Moore's 42 wins as a starting quarterback since 2008 have come by double digits.

The Big One. The only remaining game that even resembles a hurdle for the Broncos is the much-anticipated showdown with TCU on Nov. 12, a game with enough preseason juice on the heels of the Horned Frogs' 12-0, Rose Bowl-winning season in 2010 to prompt Mountain West officials to move the game to the blue turf out of something close to sheer spite in TCU's last year in the conference. (Ironic, considering the Broncos may be following the Frogs out in short order.) At this point, though, location hardly seems relevant: TCU has dropped shootouts to Baylor and SMU and has shown almost no semblance of the defense that led the nation in total D three years in a row.

At best, the Frogs will win the games they're supposed to the rest of the way and finish 9-3, which is respectable enough in itself and as a resumé line for Boise. But their chances of becoming the Broncos' second "quality win" to go with Georgia have already left the building.{YSP:MORE}

Traps and other caveats. The nearest equivalent on this year's schedule to last year's late stumble at Nevada — Boise's only regular season loss since 2007 — is a Nov. 12 trip to San Diego State, which boasts a 4-2 record, an NFL-bound quarterback and the best running back in the conference. The Aztecs have also been handled convincingly by the only two teams on their schedule that currently boast a winning record (Michigan and TCU) and struggled dramatically against the run. But if there's a chance for something to go wrong, Qualcomm Stadium is where it goes.

Why they'll run the table. There's not really a chance. The track record speaks for itself: With three undefeated regular seasons in five years — and only a missed chip-shot field goal separating them from a fourth — and no ranked teams waiting over the second half of the schedule, the burden of proof falls on the argument against another perfect run.

Why they won't. There is no compelling evidence that they will not run the table to 12-0. Still…

Odds of making the BCS title game: 1 in 20. You can probably find better odds elsewhere, but the facts are the facts: Excluding still-undefeated Houston and Kansas State, Boise's second-class schedule automatically relegates it to eighth in line for a trip to New Orleans, behind seven other unbeaten teams that — assuming they keep winning — will all finish ahead of the Broncos in the final BCS standings without a second thought. We know that at least two of those teams (the losers of the remaining blockbusters, LSU at Alabama and Oklahoma at Oklahoma State) will not keep winning. The other five will all be favored to win every game.

In order to get to No. 2, then, the Broncos not only need to win out, but also need at least four of the those five — Clemson, Stanford, Wisconsin and the winners of LSU/Alabama and Oklahoma/Oklahoma State — to drop at least one game as heavy favorites. Then, they need both voters and computers (which are only allowed to assess the relative strengths of schedule, and are expressly forbidden from taking into account the lopsided final scores that set Boise apart) to override all existing precedent and take a shot on a team from a Have-Not conference over a one-loss team from the SEC, Big 12 or Pac-12.

That scenario is not impossible, especially if Georgia cooperates by completing its climb out of an 0-2 hole with an SEC East title. But if you played the rest of the season 20 times, with tonight as a starting point, you'd be lucky to get it once.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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