Beyond this just being a fun game to kick off the 2009 College Football season, it really actually matters to us a great deal more than it should.
Let's look at the surface level stuff:
-Oregon is a respected program that is ranked within the preseason top 20 of both polls.
-Oregon plays in the PAC 10 & while we don't think highly of that conference, it is still a power conference with plenty of prestige, especially in voterland.
-Boise State has a ton of credibility within the voter populace because of a decade of success and the huge BCS victory over OU in 2006.
-Utah's BCS wins to cap undefeated seasons in 2004 and 2008 are often lauded as underrated displays of MNC worthiness, to the point that they get the sympathy card played for them in almost every reference used within the media for the term "BCS Buster".
-BSU has the best chance to be this year's BCS Buster. Utah? Please. They lose 3-4 games this year (although they'll obviously roll Utah State tonight.)
All of that considered, a BSU win tonight catapults them into the forefront of an "underdog" team that may deserve a shot at the national title game if they're undefeated to end the season. They'll get the benefit of the doubt from all of the whiny voters and those voters will justify their behavior with references to prior BSU and Utah glory.
BSU plays the biggest joke of a schedule in the entire country. Consider it:
9/3 - Oregon
9/12 - @ Toledo
9/18 - Fresno State
9/26 - Bowling Green
10/3 - UC Davis
10/14 - @ Tulsa
10/25 - @ Hawaii
10/31 - San Jose State
11/06 - @ Louisiana Tech
11/14 - Idaho
11/20 - @ Utah State
11/27 - Nevada
12/05 - New Mexico State
That's actually 13 games, so the Hawaii rule is either in effect, or I have the wrong team somewhere, maybe the Tulsa or UC Davis game? Regardless, their conference is a horrific joke, with too many "States" and Louisiana Tech. That UC Davis game will be a real challenge.
Anyway, given that schedule, barring an upset somewhere, Oregon is the only team with a good shot of beating them this season. Maybe Nevada plays up with their stud QB. Maybe.
The problem with Oregon being the only team that has a good shot at beating them, on paper really, is that Oregon is not a good team this season. They are rated highly, but I don't expect to see them in the rankings at the end of the year. They lost the entire OL. They lost their top two WRs. Their best TB is gone. The best DL is gone. 2 starting LBs. 3 DBs. Oh, and the HC. That is massive experienced attrition.
Why is this Oregon team ranked? My thought is that Masoli and the rest of the team looked great in the Holiday Bowl against OSU (after Bryant went down and could hardly play). "Masoli's coming back, so they must be even better, right!?!" Um. No.
No one in the voting pool is going to think through any of this. They are going to give BSU credit for beating a BCS power if they win the game. This will be more important at the end of the season than at any point during the season if BSU stays undefeated and there are no other, or one other, undefeated teams. Morons like Skip Bayless and Jim Leavitt will vault them into the game against Florida or someone over a 1-loss UT or Ohio State type team. That will suck, as BSU isn't a great team this year. This isn't 2006. They return a good QB and lose a whole bunch of other guys and this is not a program capable of reloading.
On the bright side, there are a few things I think about.
1) I would like to be the team playing BSU in the MNC game. It could work out that way and I'd be pumped.
2) BSU isn't great and they're a team that could stumble.
3) Oregon could win the game tonight and the issue becomes moot. Or "mute" for any okies reading this.
4) The computers will severely punish that BSU schedule and that could make it impossible for them to get in at season's end.
Regardless of those possibilities, if you're looking for a rooting interest tonight, go against the instinct to root for the "underdog" and choose the more respected program. This season, BSU is the team to sweat for our program, and any other power with national title aspirations.