Boise State and Boston College are a marquee matchup

By Anthony Andro

The SERVPRO First Responder Bowl couldn’t have picked a better way to start its inaugural year as the title sponsor for the game at the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium.

The matchup of 10-win Boise State against a Power Five team in Boston College gives the bowl a dream scenario in the ninth matchup in the bowl’s history.

In the Broncos, the bowl gets a nationally-ranked team that has developed into a national power over the last two decades and has become known more for its high-flying offense than the blue turf on its home field. The Eagles give the bowl a team that was nationally ranked at one point this year and are coming off a season in which they played against eight bowl teams.

Not a bad way to start indeed.

“There were a lot of scenarios we had to work through for this game,” said Brant Ringler, the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl executive director. “But in the end, we got two schools with national recognition. I don’t know that we could have asked for anything more. Our fans are in for a treat.”

The two teams haven’t played each other since 2005 when the Eagles beat Boise State in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise. That game was just part of a current string of 17 straight years the Broncos have been to a bowl game.

And as good as a program as Boise State has, this year’s team ranks with some of the best. A win would give the Broncos at least 11 wins for the third time in the last seven years. The Broncos feature the Mountain West Conference offensive player of the year in quarterback Brett Rypien and a running back in Alexander Mattison that is coming off back-to-back 200-yard games.

If that wasn’t enough, the Broncos are solid defensively. Even without former standout linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who is now starring for the Dallas Cowboys, Boise State is holding opponents to 355 yards a game in total offense and 22 points a game.

That kind of balance is a big reason the Broncos ended the season by winning seven of their last eight games.

Boise State’s success isn’t limited to the regular season either. The Broncos have been stalwarts in bowl games, having won 12 of their 18 games.

Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin has had a ranked team in each of his five seasons at Boise State and knows the importance of playing well in bowls.

“We take the bowls very seriously and we do talk about it,” Harsin said. “We want to win our conference. We want to win our bowl game. We got a chance to play in the conference championship and that didn’t go our way. Part of the goal every year every year before these conversations start is whatever bowl we go to we want to be successful in that bowl game.

“We want to do whatever it takes to win. I think that goes into our mindset of preparing ourselves. We know at the end of the season if we do well, we’re going to have a bowl game and we want to be successful in it. We do put a premium on it.”

Boston College has put a premium on winning, too. The Eagles (7-5) are making their fifth bowl trip in the six seasons under head coach Steve Addazio.

Boston College got off to a 7-2 start and was ranked inside the top 20 behind the running of sophomore running back A.J. Dillon. He became the first running back in school history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to start his career with the Eagles.

But Boston College lost its last three games, including a 27-7 setback to national title contender Clemson. Beating Boise State would give the Eagles a chance to go out on a high.

“Any time you have the season we had in the conference we play in and the side we play in, to get to bowl eligibility and have these opportunities is difficult to do win Division I football,” Addazio said. “I’m excited for what our kids have accomplished.

“Obviously in any season there are things you wish you could have done better and things you’d like to change along the way. We had a group of coaches and guys that have overcome some adversity. To have the opportunity to play another game and win another game, I don’t know any coach in America that wouldn’t be jacked about that.”