College football’s most debated team has another referendum game.
No. 5 Boise State begins a second straight season playing across the country on a field that is neutral only in name.
But this time the stakes are raised a bit. This time the Broncos are venturing into Southeastern Conference territory.
As impressive as Boise State’s 33-30 victory against Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Maryland was last season, Kellen Moore and the Broncos have a chance to bolster their credibility even more Saturday in Atlanta against No. 19 Georgia.
The Boise State debate breaks down like this.
Pro-Boise: Coach Chris Petersen’s team can compete and even beat any team in the country if given the opportunity. (See Fiesta Bowl victories against Oklahoma and TCU, plus that victory against Virginia Tech). A relatively weak conference schedule should not preclude the Broncos from playing for a national championship if they go undefeated.
Anti-Boise: Playing in the Western Athletic Conference, the Broncos only faced a few teams per season that were their equals. Moving to the Mountain West Conference this season only provides Boise State with a touch more competition. Because the Broncos’ strength of schedule lags well behind the teams that play in the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, etc., Boise State cannot possibly be considered a national championship contender.
(Note: Often this argument leads to screaming and/or tweeting in all capital letters and, ultimately, language not suitable for youngsters).
SEC fans seem to get the most riled up by Boise State being included among the nation’s elite programs.
The last time Boise State played an SEC team was 2005, when the Broncos were blasted by the Bulldogs 48-13 in Athens.
A victory by the Broncos not only means the Boise State debate will rage most of the season, but it might even get them some respect in the Deep South.
UNLV (plus 35½) at No. 11 Wisconsin — The ground-and-pound Badgers add multi-talented QB Russell Wilson ... WISCONSIN 45-14.
No. 20 Mississippi State (minus 29) at Memphis — Bulldogs are preseason ranked for first time since 2001 ... MISSISSIPPI STATE 35-10.
No. 14 TCU (minus 6) at Baylor — QB Robert Griffin III gives Bears upset hopes ... TCU 24-17.
Youngstown State (no line) at No. 17 Michigan State — Spartans have best preseason ranking since 2001 ... MICHIGAN STATE 42-10.
Tulsa (plus 24½) at No. 1 Oklahoma — Sooners have won five straight against Tulsa, including 45-0 two seasons ago ... OKLAHOMA 58-21
Kent State (plus 38) at No. 2 Alabama — Tide coach Nick Saban goes easy on his alma mater ... ALABAMA 35-7.
No. 3 Oregon (minus 3) vs. No. 4 LSU at Arlington, Texas — Never, ever, count out Les Miles ... LSU 28-27.
No. 5 Boise State (minus 3½) at No. 19 Georgia — Kellen Moore is no Jared Zabransky ... BOISE STATE 28-24
Louisiana-Monroe (plus 29½) at No. 6 Florida State — After filling in for Christian Ponder, QB EJ Manuel leads Seminoles ... FLORIDA STATE 48-16.
San Jose State (plus 30) No. 7 Stanford — Andrew Luck gets in a solid half of work ... STANFORD 45-10.
Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 37) at No. 9 Oklahoma State — QB Brandon Weeden at 27, could make a Weinke-like run at the Heisman ... OKLAHOMA ST. 55-13.
Chattanooga (no line) vs. No. 10 Nebraska — Sort of an unsatisfying way to begin a new era for Huskers ... NEBRASKA 52-14.
No. 12 South Carolina (minus 20½) vs. East Carolina at Charlotte, N.C. —
Steve Spurrier suggests QB Connor Shaw could start over Stephen Garcia ... S.CAROLINA 38-14.
Appalachian State (no line) at No. 13 Virginia Tech — No one takes Mountaineers lightly ... VIRGINIA TECH 37-17.
Missouri State (no line) at No. 15 Arkansas — Tyler Wilson takes over at quarterback for Razorbacks ... ARKANSAS 58-20.
South Florida (plus 10½) at No. 16 Notre Dame — The one time Lou Holtz will be rooting AGAINST the Irish — maybe ... NOTRE DAME 28-20.
Akron (plus 34) at No. 18 Ohio State — Suspensions shouldn’t be a problem for Buckeyes here ... OHIO STATE 35-7.
Miami, Ohio (plus 18) at No. 21 Missouri — New Tigers QB James Franklin makes first start ... MISSOURI 38-17.
Florida Atlantic (plus 35) at No. 22 Florida — Gators won only meeting with Owls 59-20 in 2007 ... FLORIDA 45-3.
Utah State (plus 21½) at No. 23 Auburn —Tigers will slip this season, but not far enough to give Aggies a shot ... AUBURN 52-21.
Minnesota (plus 22) at No. 25 Southern California — Gophers QB MarQueis Gray could give USC trouble ... USC 35-17.
Marshall (plus 22) at No. 24 West Virginia — You want offense Mountaineers fans? Here you go ... WEST VIRGINIA 48-14.
SMU (plus 15½) at No. 8 Texas A&M — Maybe the Aggies can hand over their Big 12 keys to Mustangs? ... TEXAS A&M 35-21.
Last season: 216-72 (straight); 144-133-6 (vs. points).