There’s no doubt about it, Idaho football is good.
In fact, the team may be better than it ever has, due to a number of experienced leaders returning to the Vandals in 2017. Senior quarterback Matt Linehan continues to improve, and the defense has not shown signs of slowing down this offseason.
After looking at the 2017 schedule, even the biggest Vandal contrarian would be hard-pressed to argue against Idaho finishing bowl eligible this winter.
That is, however, if the Silver and Gold can overcome its own confidence, perhaps the deadliest opponent not listed among the slew of teams on Idaho’s plate.
Before Idaho looks to the post-season, a chance at finally taking the Sun Belt crown, or even its opening game, the team must realize the chance of repeating such an unpredictable, highlight filled season is slim for any team.
Perennial contenders are trending downwards and dynasties are become few and far between. This doesn’t apply to just the Vandals, teams across the country are finding it harder and harder to maintain a consistent level of dominance.
While Alabama regular makes it into the College Football Playoff, the Tide has yet to secure the title in consecutive seasons since the CFP was created. Ohio State seemed on an upward trajectory before a couple close regular season losses brought the Buckeyes back down to Earth.
Boise State, Idaho’s long-lost rival to the south, has also seen a recent drop in productivity. The Broncos, once known as BCS busters and nearly bowl invincible, suffered an embarrassing loss to a 6-6 Baylor squad back in January.
So where does Idaho fit into the convoluted world of college football? The Vandals are relatively new to the modern bowl scene, and have yet to extend their post season reach beyond the blue turf of Boise.
I remain hopeful the Vandals can pull off enough wins to become bowl eligible and are selected to a game against a serious opponent. Idaho deserves it, especially after looking back on where the team came from. Going from a single win in 2014 to nine wins in 2016 is no small feat.
To repeat another magical season, Idaho must erase any shred of expectation. The team needs to start from scratch and recreate that underdog feeling once again.
That’s how they did the impossible in 2016.
Idaho garnering more than six wins? Impossible, they said.
Defeating a Mountain West team in a bowl game? Unheard of.
This is where the Sun Belt conference comes into play. Since joining, Idaho has yet to claim the top spot in the conference. As many Vandal fans already know, this will be the team’s final chance to secure the title before leaving FBS play for the Big Sky. What better way to close out a chapter of uncertainty and doubt than with a season filled with dominance. But first, Idaho must adopt the same mentality they had a year ago: the mentality of an underdog.
Sound familiar? A group of rag-tag outsiders from Moscow playing in games they shouldn’t win starts to have a very 2016 ring to it.
A 2016 feeling is exactly what the Vandals need in 2017.
Brandon Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org