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Boise shouldn’t be downgraded for narrow Nevada win

November 23, 2010

Apparently The Prized Prospect’s favorite journalist is SI.com’s Andy Staples. Andy appeared here last month after he posted a reader’s e-mail in his weekly rankings; this month, his rankings make another appearance.

In his latest College Football Power Rankings, Staples – who lists Boise State as his No. 1 team – says:

Since Boise State plays such a soft schedule, the Broncos must absolutely dominate to remain ranked this high. If Boise State doesn’t annihilate Nevada, I’m dropping the Broncos.

Now if the Broncos would win a 34-33 shootout in which they look absolutely terrible and get a few calls that go their way and benefit from a couple Nevada red-zone fumbles, then I can understand dropping them a spot or two.

(But if this exact scenario happened with Oregon, would the Ducks be dropped? Nope. It’s ludicrous.)

But what happens if the Broncos win by 15, say, 35-20? Is that dominant enough? Even Staples doesn’t know what the Broncos have to do to “absolutely dominate to remain ranked” No. 1, stating in a tweet to me, “It’s not a set point total or differential. It’s like Potter Stewart’s definition of porn. I’ll know it when I see it.”

But let’s say the Broncos do win 35-20. They would’ve held the Wolfpack to a season-low in points. They would’ve held Nevada 30 points below its season average at home (49.16). They would’ve put up the second-most points Nevada has given up this season. Oh, and they would’ve also beaten a top-20 team on the road – something Oregon and Auburn hasn’t done yet this season. Plus, they would’ve done all that with full bellies from a Thanksgiving feast the night before.

Also, Nevada crushed Cal earlier in the year, 52-31. That same Golden Bears team – granted, it was two months later, but still – came THIS close to beating Oregon on Nov. 13. They eventually lost 15-13.

But shouldn’t beating a top-2o team on the road, even by a slimmer margin than Boise usually stomps its opponents, warrant staying in the top spot of a pollster’s rankings, or in the polls if said team was ranked first? I mean, Nevada is good. Really, really good: fourth in rushing yards and fourth in scoring among all FBS teams this season.

The Wolfpack, led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua, run predominantly out of the pistol offense – an offense very hard to replicate in practice and one very hard to defend in actual games. Don’t be surprised to see Nevada put up more than its fair share of points Friday night: The Wolfpack have scored 33, 34 and 67 points, respectively, in their last three games against Boise. But Boise’s defense is better this year than the past three years, giving up only 11.5 points a game, good for second in the country, down from 17.7 last year.

But just because a very good offense scores a lot of points on a very good defense doesn’t mean Boise should be dropped from the top spot in the rankings. I can guarantee if Nevada played Auburn the Wolfpack would put up more points on the Tigers than what they will against Boise Friday.

This whole post will probably be moot in a few days, because I expect Boise to beat Nevada by a little bit more than the proposed 35-20 score. As good as Nevada’s offense is, Boise’s is just as good, if not better. And the Boise D is pretty good, too. But if Nevada keeps it close Friday night why should the Broncos be lowered in the rankings? They shouldn’t. Boise has proven this year – and over the past three years – that it’s worthy of the No. 1 ranking.

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