Joe Santoro: Mountain West caters to Boise State, again
Just when you thought it was impossible to despise the arrogant Boise State Broncos even more than you already do, along comes this Mountain West Christmas stocking full of coal, dead mice and toe nail clippings.
The Nevada Wolf Pack could finish the regular season with a 7-1 record and find itself watching a Mountain West championship game on their favorite device next Saturday between 4-1 Boise State and 5-1 San Jose State. Yes, in the cataract-clouded eyes of the Mountain West, a 4-1 and 5-1 team is more deserving of a championship game spot than a 7-1 team. Only in the concussed brain of the Mountain West are teams that are 7-1, 5-1 and 4-1 even considered tied in the first place. But it takes a brain dead Mountain West to determine that the odd team out should be the 7-1 team.
This unthinkable scenario is what will happen, thanks to a ludicrous Mountain Jest tiebreaker, if the Wolf Pack beats San Jose State on Friday and Wyoming beats Boise State on Saturday. We won’t get into the tiebreaker details because, well, you might punch a hole through your silver and blue monitor. So save your monitor and your fist and direct your anger toward those blue carpetbaggers from Potato Land. Boy-C State (no, that isn’t the name of a Jerry Sandusky summer camp) is in the championship game even if it loses to Wyoming. The Mountain West Let’s Not Make Boy-C State Uncomfortable Conference has done it again.
What are the chances that this nightmare will play out this weekend? It’s not likely. Boise State has played Wyoming 14 times since 2002 and won 13 times. Wyoming’s only victory over Boise State was in 2016 (30-28 on a safety with 1:25 left) when quarterback Josh Allen, who is now with the Buffalo Bills, passed for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Wyoming will not have a NFL quarterback this weekend. Wyoming barely has a Mountain West quarterback this season. But it will be cold in Laramie this weekend (it’s cold in Laramie in July). Boise State has absolutely nothing to play for and might send 35 cheerleaders to play the game in Laramie. The Broncos also have had four separate teams this year: offense, defense, special teams and the COVID-19 sick bay. So anything can happen at Laramie’s War Memorial Stadium, which could be renamed Wolf Pack Memorial Stadium if Boise wants to ruin Nevada’s season.
There is, however, a perfect ending to all of this mess. It is so perfect that Hallmark might turn it into a sappy made-for-TV movie and show it every year during the holidays. The Wolf Pack beats San Jose State, Boise State beats Wyoming and the Wolf Pack whips Boise State to claim its first Mountain West championship. Sorry, a tear just fell into my cataract-clouded, old man eyes. It would be a Christmas miracle, like a 6-year-old hearing Rudolph’s hoofs stomping on his roof on Christmas Eve. It would give this distasteful COVID-19 season meaning and purpose. It would immediately become a Wolf Pack classic, right up there with Wolf Pack-Boise in 2010 and 1990, Wolf Pack-Weber State in 1991, Wolf Pack-Cal in 2010 and any Wolf Pack victory over UNLV anywhere at anytime. And, you know what? This is exactly what is going to happen. Yes, we said it. Maybe it is the spiked eggnog talking. And maybe I need to wear a mask more often. But the Pack beating Boise State next weekend is the only fitting ending to this headache of a season. This Pack team has earned it and we all deserve it.
Can the Wolf Pack lose to San Jose State and turn this season into one of the most disappointing in recent memory? Of course. The Wolf Pack has lived and died on quarterback Carson Strong throwing bombs to his wide receivers. That’s not football, it’s a video game. The Pack is sort of like a one-dimensional tennis player who only wins points on service aces. It looks great and forces you to catch your breath. But the moment the ball is actually put in play things start to fall apart and flaws (namely play calling on offense and pass defense) are exposed. But here’s the deal. The Wolf Pack is incredibly good at serving tennis balls past their opponent. They just dress them up like wide receivers, send them streaking down the sideline and the opponents disappear. It should be enough to beat San Jose State and Boise State.
It is almost impossible, however, to dislike San Jose State. Hating Boise State is easy. It’s in your silver and blue blood. But hating San Jose State is sort of like despising puppies, fuzzy bunnies, little chicks (the ones that come out of an egg) and baby penguins. The Spartans, because of COVID-19, began the season not being able to practice on campus and are now ending it by not being allowed to play a home game. They are the Mountain West’s Hallmark movie heartwarming story of the year. They are 5-0 for the first time since 1939. To put that in perspective, Marion Motley came to Nevada in 1940 and San Jose State has always found a way to lose at least one of its first five games every year since. It took a pandemic to breathe life into the Spartans. Boise State throws 5-0 starts back into the lake as if they just found a rusted hubcap on the end of their fishing pole. San Jose State has likely already planned a statue commemorating this team and will place it a few yards away from the one on campus honoring Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
So if the unthinkable has to happen, if the Pack doesn’t get to the title game, it would be more acceptable, more logical and heartwarming if it happens because of a loss to San Jose State on Friday and not because a COVID-decimated Boise State phoned it on Saturday.
When Nevada lost at UNLV on Nov. 24, 2018 we all thought it would be the last time the Pack would ever have to step foot into Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium. And nobody was shedding a tear. The Rebels would be playing in the new Allegiant Stadium by the next time they hosted the Pack in 2020 and Sam Boyd, for all anybody cared, was going to be turned into yet another strip club or trailer park just off Boulder Highway. Well, the Pack will play its second game this season at Sam Boyd this Friday night. The Wolf Pack will actually play the same number of games this season in Las Vegas (three, with one at Allegiant) as UNLV. The Rebels went 0-3 at home this year and the Pack could end up 3-0 in Las Vegas. Even New Mexico, which will play its third game in Las Vegas this season on Saturday at Sam Boyd (against Fresno State), has won more games (one, over Wyoming last week) and will play as many games in Southern Nevada as UNLV. It’s official. The Rebels are now not even the best college football team in their own city, let alone their own state. That, come to think of it, is the second most heartwarming story in the Mountain West this year, behind only the San Jose State Baby Penguins.