Underestimate Boise State-Hawaii game’s impact? No thanks
OK, so here we are. The biggest game in the history of the world. Millions at stake. Awards in the balance. They've got the crown. And somebody else wants it. Needs it. Bad.
You could overstate things, I suppose. In the grand scheme of college football, this isn't up there with Texas A&M-Texas. It's bigger. Better, even. Sure, the tradition rests in Aggieland. They've been playing each other since the 19th century. But what does it mean compared to Boise State-Hawaii?
Not much. Not this time around, anyway. Some say the Aggies are shopping for a new head coach. They could do a lot worse than Chris Petersen or June Jones. Many in the Lone Star State believe they have, what with Dennis Franchione's (didn't he used to coach in the WAC?) problems and all.
None of that here. Just a good, old-fashioned football game worth a ticket to ride to the Sugar Bowl. Do you remember when Jones said Hawaii had to get into one of those New Year's Day games and you looked at him like he'd lost his mind? New Year's Day? Hawaii? Come on, bubba.
But bubba, here we are. Just a couple of more wins and a possible trip to New Orleans awaits. The date to the prom? Georgia. Get the possible connection for June? Atlanta. Honolulu. Falcons. Warriors. You can't jot down anything that good, no matter how many screenwriters you put on the case.
Now, now, settle down. Let's not put the ox before the cart. Not sure what that means, but my guess would be you'd best take care of bidness first. In case you haven't noticed, beating Boise hasn't exactly worked out that well for Hawaii. Five consecutive WAC championships for the Broncos. Big win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Belle of the ball.
But you've got a guy named Colt, who is clear-headed enough to break that spell. They've got a guy named Ian, finally healthy and at top speed again. Both believed in the lure of the Heisman the first weekend in September. Both need to play out of their minds tomorrow just to receive any last-second consideration for college football's grand prize.
NOT THAT GOING to New York matters right now. It's just a byproduct of the team's success. You have to win this game if you're Hawaii or Boise. You gotta. For Jones, it's vindication. For Petersen, it's Dan Hawkins doesn't coach here anymore. There are so many subplots, it'd take an hour to sort them all out.
But heck, you know them already. You realize what this means to Jones and his steadfast belief in his system. Boise State isn't going to stop Hawaii. Slow the Warriors down, perhaps. Give Colt an earful if possible. But Hawaii will score some points. It's how Hawaii's defense handles Boise that could decide this game. Pure and simple.
The Broncos are much like their opponents offensively. They've got a great O-line with a premier skill player to protect in Ian Johnson. He will be the best back Hawaii has faced, by far. And keeping him out of the end zone is tantamount to success.
That alone won't be enough, however, because the Broncos can strike through the air just as easily. Senior quarterback Taylor Tharp has comparable numbers with Brennan's. And where Hawaii's attack can be overwhelming, it's not as balanced as Boise's. That will keep Hawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin running through X's and O's like an old juke box searching for the right songs.
He has the personnel capable of recording big hits. This unit has done it all season, similar to the one McMackin managed in '99. Opportunistic. LaTech, San Jose State, Nevada. Places where many Hawaii teams before them have lost, and lost big.
It could come down to special teams. It has the last two years, you know. And not in UH's favor. It could just as easily be a costly turnover on that final drive or a missed tackle in the open field. There could be a busted play in the secondary that leads to that 70-yard bomb both quarterbacks are so fond of throwing.
It could be anything, and something difficult for the loser to overcome.
SO HERE WE ARE, in the crucible of competition as a former UH coach liked to say. Boise has been here before. Hawaii wants to be there again. But this time, no shared title. The Warriors. Alone. After that, well, let's worry about that on Saturday. Be glad you're the one who gets to worry. For the other, the following weekend will be a reminder of this one. And not a good one. Not at all.
To the victors go the spoils. That's something everyone understands. It's all about winning. Little else matters, especially for the combatants. Each coach and player has dreamed of this place and time. For ESPN, it's not the most important game in history, not a ratings winner like A&M-Texas. But this will be a bigger game. Better, even.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org