Gametime/TV: 12pm on ABC/ESPN 2
Location: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
Broadcast Team: Best Mowins, Joey Galloway, Paul Carcaterra
Radio: WTIC-AM - Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman, Kevin Nathan
Vegas Line: Boise State -16
Forecast: high-60's and mostly cloudy
History: First matchup between these two teams. UConn will play at Boise State in 2018
Most UConn Football fans circled this Saturday's date after the announcement of the UConn/Boise State series. A well-respected program would be visiting Rentschler Field.
You see, Boise State is known as a "brand" name in college football. With their blue home field, high-flying offenses, and penchant for spitting in the eye of the college football elites, Boise has become the darling of many a fan.
And, honestly, no one could have predicted it.
The buzz that Michigan generated when they were coming to Rentschler was understandable. The Wolverines have been playing meaningful college football games since Moses parted the Red Sea. They are one of the schools playing in the rarefied air of college football, along with Notre Dame, Alabama or USC.
But Boise? They weren't even FBS (formerly Division I) until 1997. They moved from the Big West to the Western Athletic to, finally, the Mountain West Conference, and did so in relative obscurity. After Chris Petersen called the Statue of Liberty play in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to upset Oklahoma, everybody knew the Boise State name.
Even with a new coach this year, Boise is no longer the little engine that could. This is a team with a fervent fan base and expectations of having a chance to compete in the new college playoff system.
So, while UConn will look to do everything possible to defeat Boise State on the field today, they should also look at the Boise State program as a role model, because structurally they are not so different from us. The school is in a remote location, they play in a mid-major football conference, and don't have access to many top-level recruits locally. Sound familiar?
Boise offers plenty of important lessons that UConn should heed. The first is the importance of coaching, which, hopefully, Athletic Director Warde Manuel addressed before the season by hiring Bob Diaco. It's not just the head coach though, it's about the staff and how well they can recruit.
During his eight-year run with the Broncos, Chris Petersen never recruited a five-star player. He only signed two four-star athletes ever. Yet, several of Petersen's players play on Sundays in the NFL.
Boise State has been successful because they found under-the-radar talent and coached them up. There are only so many scholarships the "big" schools can offer, and the race for talent is a heated one, but there are still plenty of talented guys who slip through the cracks. Some are late bloomers. Others might not have the "measureables" but top out on tenacity and football IQ. Still others might be looking for immediate playing time or to stay close to home.
Bob Diaco made a name for himself at Notre Dame not just for his coaching but also his ability to recruit. I'm confident he can answer the call here. But let's all agree to worry a bit less about a recruits star-ratings. Diaco is already doing a much better job than his predecessors.
Boise State also proves that location doesn't really matter all that much, nor does conference. UConn fans constantly lament the difficulty of attracting quality players to Storrs to play in the American Athletic Conference. Well, how easy do you think it was for Petersen to recruit kids to play in Idaho as a part of the Mountain West? No offense to Idaho, I'm sure it's a great place with fine people, but it isn't likely to be the first-choice location for a teenage athlete.
Schedule is another big issue, right? How can UConn Football develop with such a soft conference and non-conference schedule each year? Well, Boise did... they just made sure they won all their games. It's not as if the Mountain West is filled with big-time football programs. And, while they have played some good ones recently, in years past they had difficulty scheduling quality non-conference opponents.
You can make the argument that UConn is actually in a better position. The American has quality programs in UCF, East Carolina, Cincinnati, and Houston. That gives UConn a crack at some quality wins.
And that's ultimately what it comes down to. UConn needs to put down their heads and beat the opponents on the schedule, and the fans need to be there to back them up. The program has some advantages being in the Northeast and in the backyard of ESPN. Plus, while I will always despise the way ESPN helped murder the Big East, having The American games broadcast on the biggest sports network's channels is a huge boon.
So do not be discouraged today when this very talented, highly favored team comes into Rentschler Field for what is likely to be a win against a young, rebuilding UConn Husky team.
Instead ask yourself, if Boise could do it, why not the Huskies?