Some rivalries have been forged with yearly battles since the days of leather helmets. For a team like Boise State, in constant motion, rivalries are constantly being cut down and new ones planted in their place.
Tonight’s matchup with BYU at Bronco Stadium is the first in an agreement between the two schools for a yearly game through the 2023 campaign. Originally, a deal in 2008 called for a four-game series from 2012-15, but was extended to 12 years last September.
“I’m going to look forward to it each year,” Boise State sophomore safety Lee Hightower said. “They’re kind of close to us, they’re a similar type of program, so we’re going to start up a little rivalry, which will be nice. It’s going to be on ESPN, too, which is never a bad thing for us.”
All eyes pealed to the TV to watch college football tonight will be on the Broncos-Cougars matchup, as it is the lone FBS game being played.
It also will represent a rare matchup between two programs who have risen to prominence despite bearing the “mid-major” tag. BYU won the 1984 national championship as a member of the WAC with many players deemed too small or slow for bigger programs. The Cougars also had a 6-foot quarterback in Ty Detmer win the 1990 Heisman Trophy.
Boise State won BCS bowls in 2007 and 2010 as WAC members often seen as a team that “does more with less,” and 6-foot quarterback Kellen Moore set an NCAA record with 50 wins from 2008-11.
“Our two programs do share a lot,” BYU quarterback Riley Nelson said. “Boise’s done a better job (recently) of reaching the pinnacle of college football, which is BCS victories and games and recognition. We’ve established two highly-successful football programs here in the intermountain west. A lot of the same knocks we get, they get, too.”
Surprisingly, despite being less than 400 miles away, the two teams have met just twice — in 2003 and 2004 — both Bronco wins.
As Boise State has gone from the WAC to the Mountain West, and next to the Big East in 2013, traditional rivals have begun to be shed from Boise State’s schedule. The Broncos haven’t played Idaho since 2010, and no future games are scheduled. Same goes for Nevada, which Boise State has played 38 times in its history.
“It’s going to be fun to be able to play (BYU) the next couple years and have that game we can keep looking forward to in the coming years,” Boise State tight end Gabe Linehan said.
Though the players are anxious for a new rival, the coaches have been a little more reserved regarding the series.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen said with the Big East move, rivals will be in the Eastern Time Zone and in San Diego, with San Diego State also moving next year.
“I don’t worry about rivalries … down the line, we’ll have some new ones in a hurry,” Petersen said.
On the other side, BYU left the Mountain West last season to go independent. With the college football world changing all the time, Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall said a dozen years is a long, long time away.
“How do you know after four (games) what is going to happen or who is going to be where?” Mendenhall said. “So I think (12), it’s probably too much.”
Then again, Mendenhall did say it could “possibly” become a rivalry, adding “there are a lot of intriguing things about it as long as both sides can play at a level that makes it competitive.”
Tonight’s game should be competitive, as the teams often will match strength against strength — the Broncos with their high-powered offense against a BYU defense ranked No. 9 in the nation, along with some intriguing crowd makeup.
Considering the Treasure Valley’s sizable LDS population, the Cougars are a popular team.
“I know they’ve got a lot of fans around here — let’s make sure we check the colors letting them in the stadium,” Petersen said with a smile.
BYU will not play long-time rival Utah in 2014 or 2015, but is slated to play Boise State. By that time, close games could get the yearly matchup with more of a rivalry feeling, and convince the coaches that the additional eight years tacked onto the series was a good idea.
“We’ve both had dominant programs and believe in a lot of the same things, so I think (tonight) is the start of many good games,” BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy said.