Clearing things up right off the bat, the Boise State Broncos versus Oregon Ducks on the football field is not a rivalry. Playing for only the third time in the past nine years constitutes that.
But boy does it feel like one when the Broncos and Ducks meet up.
Friends are divided. Families spat. Lines are drawn in the sand for the weeks leading up to the game and the roughly three hours of football played. Bragging rights can stay with the victors for years.
It can even be assumed some fans of these two teams secretly root for the other when they aren’t sharing a field.
Fans of both schools know the recent history. A freshman quarterback in Kellen Moore winning at Autzen, setting the stage for a brilliant career. An all-worldly defensive effort by Boise State in shutting down an explosive offensive. And a post-game marred by…well, we all know.
In 2009, the city of Boise was abuzz. Weekday tailgating was in full effect. Fans clad in yellow and green traded brats and barbs with those clad in blue and orange. A then-record number of fans cheered their hearts out in what was considered the school’s biggest game since the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
In 2017, the schools have traded in the late summer heat for, well, the winter warmth of Las Vegas. Hundreds of miles away from their university fields, the third iteration of Broncos/Ducks will be decided on a neutral field.
Fans from both sides have taken to Sin City in support of their teams. Retorts will be traded over buffet lines. Casino floors will be lined with fans dressed in yellow and green and in blue and orange.
And yes, a football game will finally be played.
A second home for the Boise State Broncos
Over the past ten years, the Las Vegas Bowl has become a second home to Boise State. They are 3-0 and knocked off Pac-12 foes Utah, Arizona St. and Washington along the way. The Broncos won these games by an average margin of 19 points.
Oregon holds a Las Vegas Bowl record of 1-1, last playing in 2006 in a 38-8 loss to BYU. In fact, the Ducks are on a two-game losing streak in postseason play. They last played in January of 2016, losing to TCU 47-41 in the Alamo Bowl.
Bowl games can sometimes take on an unpredictable nature, especially when done outside the playoffs or New Year’s Six games. Some are of notable nature — Fiesta Bowl shout out here — but there can be 6-6 victors over 10-win stalwarts. This can be due to lack of interest by players or, in recent years, star players sitting out bowl games to protect their future assets. (Look no further than Oregon’s Royce Freeman.)
This year’s Las Vegas Bowl, outside of Freeman’s decision, has no signs of being a let down.
For Boise State, it’s a chance to cap off a Mountain West title-winning season in style. A victory over a Power 5 school might make last year’s Cactus Bowl debacle even more of a distant memory than it already is. It’s a chance for Brett Rypien to send Cedrick Wilson out on a high note, to give Montell Cozart a bowl win, and for the defense to shine once again.
And for Oregon, a victory gives them another step in returning to national prominence. It would give new head coach Mario Cristobal a great way to build into 2018. And let’s not forget a chance for Oregon to show off flashy uniforms and a flashy offense led by Justin Herbert.
It’s only fitting the third game of this regional affair takes place on a neutral field. If the deck falls the Broncos way, Boise State will have wins over Oregon in three different states.
There’s no better way to celebrate an early Christmas than that.