College football in the state of Idaho is going through some serious turbulence. If a few peculiar trends pervade through the rest of the season, fans of Idaho and Boise State could be headed for a football day of reckoning of sorts.
The Vandals will be moving out of the Sun Belt at the end of this season after much debate. The Boise State Broncos lost a stunning bowl game against Baylor to end their last season, and currently sit at an uncharacteristic 2-2.
For the first time ever, Vandals are reigning bowl champions, and the Broncos are not. For the past eight months, the Vandals have done their best to rub these facts in the faces of disinterested Bronco fans who have literally been out of the Vandals’ league since 2010.
On an irresponsible and cursory visual taken only from current records and recent success, the argument can be made that a Vandals-Broncos football game in the current day would at least be competitive or even entertaining.
Of course, the numbers tell the real story. Idaho faced considerably lesser competition in their win against FCS foe Sacramento State to start the season, which inflated their record and statistics. Boise State has beaten teams from the Sun Belt and Mountain West, and their losses have come against worthy opponents in Washington State and Virginia. The Broncos’ roster includes multiple potential NFL draft picks and has simply been more competitive than their Vandal counterparts for years now.
But, there is a football doomsday scenario in which that hypothetical could be put to the test.
Per ESPN, the Vandals have at least a 45 percent chance to win against Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State. Assuming the Vandals win each of those, they would reach the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility.
While exceedingly unlikely, the Broncos could feasibly lose three or four of their remaining eight games and find themselves with few options come bowl season. If the Broncos were to finish at 7-5 or thereabouts, there is a decent chance that the Broncos would be invited as the Mountain West’s representative in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
If the Vandals and Broncos are both able to pull off respectively impressive and disappointing .500 finishes, there is a very real scenario in which the two teams face off in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the blue turf.
If the possibility of such a matchup did arise, the powers that be would be salivating. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl often struggles to produce large attendance numbers, due to Boise’s relatively remote location and often bone-chilling kickoff temperatures. One could almost guarantee that an Idaho-BSU game would shatter attendance records.
Last year’s bowl game drew 6,000 more fans than the 2015 edition, due almost entirely to the local appeal to Idaho graduates in the Boise area. The game typically includes a Mountain West team and a Mid-American Conference team, but Idaho’s theoretical bowl eligibility would produce a big enough uptick in ticket sales to garner an invitation. Boise State’s enthusiastic alumni base already represents them well in destination bowls, and the Bronco-faithful in the Boise area would further add to the pandemonium. All of these factors point to what could be the best attended (and more importantly, most lucrative) Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ever.
The Vandals’ aforementioned move down to the Big Sky conference will further diminish any chances of matchups between Idaho and Boise State. A meeting on the blue turf in December could serve as a fitting end to what was once a bitter rivalry. Huge draws from Idaho and Boise State crowds would be more than enough to satisfy the money-focused decision makers. Idaho gets one last shot at Boise State, while BSU gets the chance to finally shut up their nasty and inebriated neighbors up north. Who says no?
Jonah Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jonahpbaker