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December 6, 2006
The Broncos haven't forgotten how to be the underdog.
"This is a different mentality," second team All-WAC quarterback Jared Zabransky said. "This is a different team this year with something to prove and we are contending to do that."
It took years for the Broncos (12-0 overall, 8-0 Western Athletic Conference) to become top dog in the WAC.
From 2001, when Boise State beat then 8th ranked Fresno State on the road, the only win for Boise State against a top-10 team, to winning the fifth straight WAC title last month, Zabransky and Co. find themselves needing to beat one of the big boys to solidify the strides the program has made.
"The first few years we just figured we would fight for a conference championship and end up playing the (MPC Computers Bowl) then," Zabransky said. "That was just kind of our deal."
Beginning in 1999, that was the team's "deal."
The Broncos captured three conference titles in four years (two Big West, one WAC) and won the formerly titled Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl in those three title years from 1999 to 2002.
"But as we progressed and got better, those BCS chances started to get a lot more attainable," Zabransky said.
Boise State's run took the team to Texas and a win over TCU in the Plains Capital Fort Worth Bowl in 2003. The Broncos were 33-6 in the team's first three seasons in the WAC and finished in the top-15 in back-to-back seasons.
In 2004 the Broncos fell short of an undefeated season after losing to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl, and then lost to Boston College in the MPC Computers Bowl in 2005.
The losses in those two bowl games have sparked a fire within the Boise State team.
"We have been way to complacent just getting to bowl games," Zabransky said.
But this season is the biggest test for the Broncos with Oklahoma. The Sooners won the Big 12 Conference title despite losing Heisman hopeful Adrian Peterson just six games into the season and having to make a quarterback change in fall camp.
But if what the Broncos are saying is true, this team is up for the challenge.
"We are a very confident team with a chip on our shoulders and we are out to prove something," Zabransky said. "Football is not a game for the weak or the scared. We are going to come out and show the country what we are all about."
The early line on the game has Oklahoma as the obvious favorite to win the 36th Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.
But to make a real statement to the country, that may only know Boise State because of the color of the field and the tricky offense, losing may not be an option like it was after the Liberty Bowl loss.
"We are not going to have a repeat of the Liberty Bowl," senior center Jadon Dailey said. "We are going to do everything we can against a great team."
Despite the five straight conference titles, an 85-16 record the last eight years and two undefeated regular seasons in the last three years, the Broncos still have a stigma that the team's schedule is weak, and that Boise State can't win the big games.
"People have their own opinions and they are entitled to them," Dailey said. "We know what we can do and Oklahoma knows what they can do. And that's all that really matters. Anyone can speculate all they want, but it doesn't matter until game time."
Which is still four weeks away.
The Broncos are the underdog once again