Mock College Football Playoff Semi-Final: #1 Oregon vs. #4 Boise St.
The Oregon Ducks currently sit atop the BCS standings, and deservedly so considering that they have managed to run the table thus far against a tough PAC-10 schedule. All that stands between Oregon and a spot in the BCS Championship Game at this point are a home game against Arizona on November 26 followed by a trip to Corvallis for the annual Civil War. While both Arizona and Oregon State are worthy opponents, the Ducks will be favored in both games. Their fate is in their own hands. Boise State, conversely, needs a little help. While they do stand a chance to usurp TCU’s #3 spot in the BCS standings, they’ll need either Oregon or Auburn to slip up in order to play for all the marbles in Glendale. Of course, a much more equitable system would decide things on the field, perhaps with a four team playoff featuring the top ranked BCS schools. Such a system might begin with a semi-final matchup between these two fine teams, Oregon and Boise.
There’s little doubt that Oregon would be favored by the oddsmakers in such a pairing, but probably by not as much as you might first assume. Vegas has a lot of respect for the Broncos. As gambling scribe Chad Millman has indicated in his ESPN blog, Oregon would likely be somewhere in the range of a 2.5 point favorite over Boise. Once again, at first glance this might seem like an easy take with Oregon. Prior to a recent close call against the Cal Bears in Berkeley, the Ducks had been destroying the opposition, posting 50+ point totals in six of their games. Chip Kelly’s crew plays at warp speed at all times, something that could be very hard for a team like Boise to adjust to. Let’s just say the Broncos aren’t accustomed to seeing this level of fast-paced athleticism in their WAC matchups against the likes of San Jose St., Louisiana Tech and Idaho. It’s certainly possible that Oregon could overwhelm the Boise defense and outscore them in a shootout. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to underestimate this Bronco team.
While Oregon’s defense has been very good, they may have a vulnerability to strong running attacks. Tennessee, Arizona State and Stanford have all had notable success running against the Ducks, even in losing efforts. Boise’s game plan in a matchup such as this would likely test this vulnerability in hopes not only of moving the ball but in dictating pace on their own terms and keeping the explosive Oregon offense on the sidelines.
Believe it or not, any postseason meeting in January would mark the third consecutive year that these teams have met one another—and Boise has won each of the previous two games. Last year in Boise they dominated Oregon so thoroughly that LaGarrette Blount infamously flipped out and dropped an unsuspecting Bronco to the blue turf with a sucker-punch to the face. The year prior to that, Boise had travelled to Eugene and delivered a sucker punch of their own, knocking off the a 17th ranked Oregon team 37-32 as a 10 point dog. In fact, while one can certainly question the strength of Boise’s annual WAC schedule, we should also note that the Broncos have risen to the challenge against schools from the power conferences virtually every time they’ve been given the opportunity.
Aside from the aforementioned smack downs of Oregon, Boise also knocked off Virginia Tech and Oregon State to open this season. Last year they took down fellow non-AQ superpower TCU convincingly (as a 7 point dog) in their bowl game. And then there was the legendary 43-42 overtime bowl win over Oklahoma in 2006. The biggest reason for this ongoing success? Boise coach Chris Petersen is as good as any in the country, meticulous in his preparation, ballsy and adept in his game-calling and management skills (remember the statue of liberty call against Oklahoma?), equally able to motivate his team for the big games and keep them focused enough to avoid letdowns and eviscerate lesser WAC opponents with brutal precision.
Chip Kelly is clearly an offensive mastermind, but in a matchup with Boise, he’ll have his hands full keeping up with Petersen. And then there’s Boise quarterback Kellen Moore. Listed at six-feet tall, Moore doesn’t possess the kind of metrics that excite NFL scouts, but he’s as good a quarterback as you’ll find in the college ranks. In 2009 he posted an astounding 39-3 TD-to-INT ratio. This year he’s at 24-4, while upping his completion percentage from 64% to 69%. Moore isn’t just some small-conference stat hound racking up numbers against inferior opponents. He’s as clutch as they come, able to work magic against high-level competition when the bright lights are on, as attested to by the late comeback he engineered in the season opener against Virginia Tech.
Petersen, Moore and company are not afraid of the big-time, they crave it, as TCU found out last year and Oklahoma learned in 2006. And where did those two games take place? The Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, home of this year’s BCS Championship game.
The Pick: Boise.