Boise State coach Chris Petersen isn't naïve.
Although organizers involved with the Chick-fil-A Classic bill Saturday night's game with Georgia as a battle being played on neutral ground, there will be little if anything neutral when his Broncos stroll onto the field at the Georgia Dome with 60,000 plus red and black clad fans barking at the top of their collective lungs.
"Oh yeah, absolutely - this is not a neutral game," Petersen said Monday in a teleconference with Bulldog beat writers. "I think everybody is aware of that."
But Petersen is not complaining.
In fact, opening on the road against highly-ranked opponents is becoming somewhat of a yearly deal.
Two years ago, the Broncos opened the season against Oregon, beating the Ducks 19-8 before outscoring Virginia Tech last season at Fed-X Field, 33-30.
"On one hand they're (openers at tough opponents) good, because you get associated with a program like Georgia, who we have so much respect for," Petersen said. "On the other hand, they're bad because you've got to play at an extremely high level. We will have had a bunch of kids who have never played in this type of thing. It's a flip of the coin, a Catch-22 in some ways. I guess we feel the benefits outweigh the negatives as far as playing these types of games."
Petersen was asked if he ever envisioned Boise State and its famed blue turf getting the opportunity to host similar high-profile games in the future.
"I envision it. I don't know if it will happen, but I envision it. I know our fans would love it," he said. "I think it would be great for college football to get someone like a Georgia to come here. Oregon has come here and Oregon State has come here, so that's been great. I think everybody enjoyed those games."
The problem is, with Boise State's ever-growing reputation as one of the country's top programs, finding BCS-caliber foes to venture into Idaho hasn't been easy to do.
In fact, since dropping a 48-13 decision to Georgia in the 2005 season-opener in Athens, the Broncos have gone an amazing 61-5.
Petersen said the process hasn't gone as fast as it might seem.
"Nothing happens fast, I think slowly but surely we've just continued to build and we've had good continuity on our staff, maybe the recruiting is upgrading a little bit. Nothing seems dramatic; it just seems it's been going on for a while," Petersen said. "Each year, maybe we've maybe made a little bit of progress and then it's cyclical, too because the last couple of years we've had a lot of guys who have played for a lot, who have had a lot of experience. Two years ago we lost two starters, and that was it. Last year we had a lot of guys coming back as well. This year, we have a decent handful of guys coming back but we've got a lot of guys who haven't played that need to be factors for us."
Of course, the fact that Boise State is 0-4 all-time against the SEC is another factor that Petersen would like to be able to address.
"I think every year it's a new ball game. Those are some of the things we've done in the past, but nobody really cares about that once you get the season started, it's all about what have you done for me lately," he said. "We all get that. If we can play well and win some games this year, then some people will think highly of us, if not they'll think we used to be good."
With quarterback Kellen Moore at the helm, Petersen has every right to feel confident about his Broncos' upcoming campaign.
When you've thrown for 74 touchdowns with just nine interceptions in three previous years as a starter, it's no wonder.
"Absolutely," said Petersen, tongue planted firmly in cheek when asked if he ever envisioned this kind of career for the senior being billed as a top Heisman Trophy candidate.
"Kellen has been so great. He was one of those under-recruited guys so if anybody had any idea he would have this kind of ability - I don't anybody predicted that," he said. "You hope for all those things, but he's got a great feel for this team and he's done a great job. I'd like to say we predicted it, but he's put up numbers. Like Aaron Murray, he played as a redshirt freshman for us as well and came into the game playing at a high level from the start."
Note: Boise State is scheduled to arrive in Atlanta at approximately 1 a.m. Friday. The Broncos hope to get a walkthrough in at the Georgia Dome later in the day.
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
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