BOISE, Idaho — No. 3 Boise State has, in many ways, never played a more important game than tonight's against No. 10 Virginia Tech.
For all it has accomplished in the past decade — more wins than any I-A team and two BCS wins — never before has it been a serious national title contender.
That changes if the Broncos beat the Hokies at the home of the Redskins in Landover, Md., far from a neutral field and far from its home blue turf.
Coach Chris Petersen wants nothing to do with the subject.
"In terms of a national title, so many things have to happen; even when you're in a BCS conference, let alone where we're sitting now," he said. "So we don't even go there."
That's fine for Petersen, but it's impossible to look at the Broncos' schedule and not see the possibilities if they win tonight.
Boise State's remaining nonconference games are at Wyoming and home against Oregon State and Toledo. The last time the Broncos lost a regular-season home game was 2001. As for their WAC opponents, the Broncos have lost one conference game in the past four seasons.
So the Hokies look like the tallest hurdle for a third straight perfect regular season. And given the Broncos already are No. 5 in the coaches' poll, one-third of the formula to determine the BCS title game, a rise to the top two wouldn't be out of the question.
Virginia Tech has been one of the nation's best programs for more than a decade and again is a favorite in the ACC. With mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor and star tailback Ryan Williams, its offense should be dynamic.
"Without playing them but what we know about them, what we've seen on tape … I think this is the toughest opponent we've had yet," Petersen said.
Despite all the wins — 112 since 2000 — the Broncos' competition doesn't stack up compared with teams from BCS leagues.
"In the past, it was always prove them wrong. Now it's been a little bit of a switch," quarterback Kellen Moore said. "The mentality can't change. I still think it's the same preparation needed, and all those characteristics have to stay the same."