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5 reasons Boise State is unlike Cougars’ previous seven foes. And why the stakes are so high

BYU’s game with Boise State on Friday looms large for a pecking order of outliers to Power Five teams ingrained at the CFP table

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BYU quarterback Zach Wilson runs against Boise State in Boise on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. The Cougars will be looking for a breakthrough victory on the blue turf when the two teams meet Friday.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

No. 9 BYU is 7-0 against teams that are not Boise State.

That’s the state of this 2020 COVID-19 season in which the ninth-ranked Cougars had to ditch games against Utah, Michigan/Jim Harbaugh killer-Michigan State, Minnesota and Arizona State. It’s a schedule that doesn’t provide a chance for wins over Tennessee and USC like a year ago.  

What it’s boiled down to is a chance to beat No. 21 Boise State a second straight time and the stakes have never been higher in this series. There could be a New Year’s Day bowl game on the line in Boise when the Cougars come calling in this shortened week.

Here are five reasons why Boise State is not like the previous seven BYU opponents.

First: The rankings. It took Boise State just one game, an opener against Utah State, to jump right into the national polls. It wasn’t a long labor of having to prove a brand, it is the brand of the Broncos. They carry a lot of voters from Mountain West cities, from the Rockies to San Diego, and the voters didn’t hesitate to reward them. Then the Broncos went to Air Force without starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier and scored 49 points on 49 plays. None of BYU’s other seven opponents are ranked.

Boise State’s brand is real: Two BCS bowl appearances and two wins. BYU, 0-0. The Broncos’ recruit speed, size, are well-coached and as consistent as taxes.

Second: The revenge. A year ago in Provo, BYU upset No. 14-ranked Boise State with backup quarterback Baylor Romney. It was a nifty 28-25 Cougars win, but a humiliating takedown for the Broncos, who had defeated Florida State and Marshall, and ran through the league schedule en route to a faceoff against Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl. None of BYU’s seven opponents had this motivating factor heading into their showdowns with the Cougars.

Third: Zach Wilson.  Three years ago Wilson committed to Boise State, had members of the coaching staff in his home, and in Boise that offseason, Wilson fueled a ton of interest for Broncos fans. Then he decommitted and signed early with BYU after a late Cougars recruiting twist. This week on Boise State fan internet message boards, the tone has been nasty, including insults to his family. There’s emotion afloat in Broncos Country that none of the previous seven games had.

Fourth: The streak. BYU has never defeated Boise State on its famous Smurf Turf, that blue span of rubber in Albertsons Stadium. Oh, the Cougars have come close, a trio of one-point losses, goal-line breakdowns and a missed field goal that would have sealed it in the Gary Crowton era. The last time Wilson played in Boise, he had a chance for a win before getting sacked near the end zone as the clock wound down. Same thing happened to Taysom Hill, a native of Idaho. Teams from Utah are something like 0-20 at Boise State. None of the other previous BYU opponents this year had this bragging right over the Cougars.

Fifth: Posturing. In none of the previous games did BYU get a chance to knock down a ranked contender for a New Year’s Day bowl berth. Houston was interesting, but not in the category of Power Five outliers like No. 6 Cincinnati (5-0), No. 15 Coastal Carolina (6-0), No. 16 Marshall (5-0), No. 18 SMU (6-1), No. 21 Boise State (2-0), and No. 25 ranked Liberty (6-0). All these teams have benefited from playing for two months as the Pac-12 and Big Ten rev things up. There is a race to maintain a pecking order in the rankings and national discussion with these teams.

On Friday night against Boise, all this is on the line for the Cougars, which is what the other seven opponents have only been lead-up chapters to.