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Kentucky Wildcat Football: Tackling the myth of Boise State


Over the past few years, a small school from Idaho has been the talk of the BCS and all of college football, debunking the myth that you have to be from a power conference to compete for the national title.  Meanwhile, a couple of thousand miles away, a football team in one of those “power conferences” have reversed their fortunes from being a probation stricken program and have now been to a school record five straight bowls but nationally still barely register a blip on the college football radar nationally.  It’s a tale of two football programs.  One is getting the glory because despite a small football budget and a weak conference, they have become a national power and could be the first non BCS team to play for the national title.  The other has toiled in the shadows of their big conference brethren and even after five straight bowls are still thought to be the 11th weakest of a 12 team conference.

Are these programs really so different  talent wise?  Is it true that a BCS school with all the money from the conference and all the recruiting prestige and opportunities can allow themselves to fall beneath a non BCS school in stature?

Some would say yes.   Over the past five seasons, Boise State has compiled a 61-5 record and is currently ranked number seven in the preseason polls.  The Kentucky Wildcats have gone 36-29 over that same time span and are currently picked fifth in the six team SEC East.  Is Boise State that much better than Kentucky?  Has Kentucky dropped the ball and let an upstart mid major zoom past them in prestige and skill of team?  If you look at just the numbers, Boise State is a supernova.  In reality, I would argue that Boise State is a team well on par with Kentucky and if Boise State were in the SEC, would be a fourth or fifth place team.

For the past five years, Boise State has played in the Western Athletic Conference and gone 38-2 over that time, butting heads with the like of Louisiana Tech, Idaho, and Nevada.  This year, they have upgraded to the “new” Mountain West Conference.  It may not seem like much of an upgrade, but at least #13 TCU, another BCS-buster resides there.  Kentucky, on the other hand is in the almighty five national champion in a row SEC.  Over the past five years, Kentucky has gone 14-26.  While 14-26 is hardly impressive, I tend to think Kentucky could have gone 38-2 in the old WAC.

It’s not like Boise State has gone 38-2 with four star recruits they have culled from their new found national celebrity.  Over the past five years, Kentucky has recruited better than Boise State.  Here is the recruiting numbers from Rivals and the average stars per recruit.


Kentucky:  1 4 star recruit, 9 3 star recruits

2.31 average stars

Boise State:  7 3 star recruits

2.24 average stars


Kentucky:  1 4 star recruit, 8 3 star recruits

2.50 average stars

Boise State:  5 3 star recruits

2.26 average stars


Kentucky:  3 4 star recruits, 16 3 star recruits

2.69 average stars

Boise State:  11 3 star recruits

2.52 average stars


Boise State:  1 4 star player  6 3 star players

2.80 average stars

Kentucky:  1 4 star recruit  18 3 star recruits

2.77 average stars


Kentucky: 1 4 star recruit, 21 3 star recruits

2.96 average stars

Boise State:  11 3 star recruits

2.58 average stars

The only year Boise State finished ahead of Kentucky was in 2010 when the average was skewed by just a 10 player class.  So Boise State is going 61-5 with a weaker recruiting class than Kentucky.  You could argue coaching was a factor but I seriously would not give Chris Peterson a noticeable edge over Rich Brooks.  So simply put, it’s the schedule, stupid.

Boise State has had two undefeated season in 2006 and 2009.  In 2006, their toughest games were against an 8-5 Utah team and the 22nd ranked Oregon State Beavers.  The Broncos made history by defeating the #7 Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta and putting them as a national power, as long as they could get those 11 or 12 wins a season.  In 2009, the Broncos kicked off the season with a win over #14 Oregon and finished it with a win over #4 TCU.  Those were the only two ranked teams that Boise State played and they bookended a schedule of Miami (OH), Fresno State, Bowling Green, UC Davis, Tulsa, Hawaii, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech, Idaho, Utah State, Nevada, and New Mexico State.

By comparison, Boise State beat Miami (OH)  48-0.  Kentucky beat then 42-0.  That season Kentucky had a 2 point loss to then #25 South Carolina and defeated traditional powers Auburn and Georgia on the road. And let’s not forget, Kentucky has a win over national champion LSU in this time span.  Looking at the above Boise State schedule, it is not hard to imagine Kentucky getting 11-12 wins a year.  But could Boise State finish 7-5 with Kentucky’s regular season schedule?

I’m certainly not trying to degrade Chris Peterson and the Broncos.  They have taken advantage of the system, scheduled one or two tough early opponents and then taken advantage of an incredibly lax schedule to come into late November with a long winning streak.  In college football, it’s not really a matter of who is the best team at the time, it becomes a matter of who has won the most games in a row at the end of the season.  Kentucky on the other hand, has to schedule their easy games early and then have to survive a season in the toughest conference in football the last five seasons.   Plus the weekly grind of playing teams like Florida, Alabama, and Georgia takes its toll on a team.  If you don’t have depth in the SEC, you are doomed.

As we pointed out earlier, Boise State does not have an influx of better players than UK, but the earlier schedule allows them to rest players and keep them fresh.  Could Boise State stay healthy and survive the weekly w
ars of the SEC?  Or would they wear down and fade down the stretch as Kentucky has?  Kentucky and Vanderbilt have historically proven you can not win in the SEC with teams full of three star players.  I don’t see how Boise State could be different. 

You can argue that Boise State’s success has been their greatest enemy.  After they beat Oklahoma, very few BCS teams have wanted to play them and Boise State has not faced a SEC team since 2005. So Boise State has to do what they can and they have done it magnificently.  The fact that they are so highly ranked is a testament to their staff.  But is it all a mirage and smoke and mirrors?

It will be interesting to see this year as Boise State finally faces a SEC team in the form of the Georgia Bulldogs.  And they will have to beat a tough TCU to win their conference.  But those two games present the only real challenges on their schedule so it is easy to pencil in another 10-11 win season and a team possibly knocking on the BCS door yet again.  Kentucky faces another tough SEC schedule and is looking to break that illusive 4-4 conference mark.  But which team is actually better?

The debate will continue.

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