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November 27, 2008

No. 9 Broncos unbeaten but on outside of BCS chase

By GREGG BELL,
AP Sports Writer

(AP) -- In two years, Boise State has gone from buster to busted in the BCS.

The Broncos (11-0), ranked No. 9 entering Friday's regular-season finale against Fresno State (7-4), were also ranked ninth and champions of the Western Athletic Conference the last time they were undefeated at the end of a season.

That was in 2006, when they earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl and became national darlings by rallying with a dazzling array of tricks to beat Oklahoma in overtime.

That fairy-tale New Year's night ended with Broncos running back Ian Johnson on one knee proposing to his cheerleader girlfriend on national television.

But this season has too many Cinderellas for the BCS' annual big-money ball.

"I feel bad, because we've got very, very good football teams in this country that are not members of BCS conferences," said Fresno State coach Pat Hill, a veteran of the excluded WAC. "And I think that's getting shown more all the time."

Never more than this year.

Utah (12-0), from the non-BCS Mountain West Conference, is ranked sixth in the latest BCS standings. The Utes' regular season is complete, so they will remain in the top 12 of the BCS. That's the threshold for non-BCS schools to get an invite to one of the five richest bowls.

Ball State just finished its regular season undefeated, too - but the Mid-American Conference champion is ranked 15th in the BCS.

Boise State is ranked ninth in the BCS.

The series is required to invite only one non-BCS team that is ranked in its top 12 - the highest-ranked one.

So even if the Broncos finish their third perfect regular season since 2004, and they are 21-point favorites to do so at home against the battered Bulldogs, they are more likely to go to their hometown Humanitarian Bowl than to relive their Fiesta fantasy.

If they win, the Broncos can only hope a parade of one-loss big boys lose in the coming weeks, perhaps allowing them to squeeze into a BCS spot when bowl pairings are announced Dec. 7.

Asked whether the much-maligned BCS system needs yet another tweak, Chris Petersen said: "We'll have to look at it this offseason."

"I think the guys who direct college football are doing all they can to tweak the system to do what they can," said Petersen, who is 34-3 in three seasons leading the Broncos.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson is OK with the current system. It allows little guys in conferences like his at least the potential for a hand in the BCS money pit each year.

"We're in the third year of a revised system to provide access to the BCS for non-BCS schools. It's worked three years in a row," Benson said.

"As far as a second or third team, I mean, the system could only hold so many slots. There are six guaranteed slots for five bowls. ... Access will always be an issue. (Getting) the 10 best possible teams in the system is the goal."

Boise State is 59-4 all-time in the WAC and clinched its sixth conference title last week. The Broncos have won 63 of their last 65 games at home on their funky blue turf.

"They are the 'SC of the WAC," Hill said, likening the Broncos to Pac-10 power USC.

Kellen Moore, the first freshman quarterback to start an opener at Boise State, is coming off his first 400-yard passing game. He is 13th in the nation in passing efficiency, completing nearly 70 percent of his throws with 23 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.

Johnson, now a senior, needs two more rushing touchdowns to break the WAC record of 57 set by Marshall Faulk at San Diego State from 1991-93.

He will be facing a Fresno State defense that is ranked 101st in major college football against the run, allowing over 190 yards per game.

Hill believes his chances at an upset could get a boost with the return of running back Lonyae Miller. Miller has had on-and-off leg pain, yet is still averaging more than 7 yards per carry. Hill would prefer to stay primarily on the ground, to limit the possessions of a Broncos offense that has scored at least 33 points in eight games.

Petersen decided to wait on presenting the trophy for winning another WAC title until this home finale, instead of after clinching the championship last weekend at Nevada.

So, hey, the Broncos will get something on Friday. Even if it's not entry into the BCS bonanza.

"Definitely. I think if anybody does go undefeated they should get a shot," receiver Vinny Perretta said. "But we haven't finished the season undefeated yet. We've still got this big game and Fresno looks good. They're going to give us there best shot for sure."

---

Associated Press Writer Todd Dvorak in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.



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