From a purely football standpoint, the pairing of No. 23 Boise State and Boston College in the First Responder Bowl is attractive. Early bowl rankings have placed it among the best games outside the New Year’s Six.
From a bowl experience standpoint, there are some serious drawbacks.
Here are three reasons to love the Dec. 26 game, and three reasons to hate it.
Three reasons to love it
1. Last stand for Rypien: Boise State senior quarterback Brett Rypien shouldn’t be remembered for his performance in the Mountain West championship game, where rain and snow played havoc with the passing game and contributed to his third-worst efficiency rating. This is a chance for a proper ending to his stellar career in a game against a Power Five opponent — the type of matchup that has caused problems for Rypien in the past.
The Broncos are 4-4 against Power Five teams when Rypien starts, with one win in the past five such games. He has 11 touchdown passes and eight interceptions vs. Power Five opponents. Rypien, however, was excellent in the September loss at Oklahoma State, where he threw three touchdown passes despite incredible pressure from the Cowboys’ pass rush.
Boston College ranks 28th in the nation in pass defense with 18 touchdowns allowed, 17 interceptions and an opponents completion rate of just 56.8 percent. Only Fresno State (No. 7) and Utah State (No. 26) — the two teams the Broncos just played — rank higher in pass defense among Boise State opponents.
Rypien will have to earn a feel-good finish to his career.
2. Mattison vs. Dillon: Boise State junior running back Alexander Mattison ranks seventh in the nation with 1,415 rushing yards and tied for fifth with 17 rushing touchdowns — a sentence I never thought I’d write a month ago. He’s coming off two straight 200-yard games and four straight 140-yard games. In those four games, he carried 127 times for 689 yards and seven touchdowns. He hit the 30-carry mark three times, capped by the 40-carry effort in the Mountain West title game. Boston College ranks 37th in rushing defense at 3.77 yards per carry.
Boston College sophomore AJ Dillon was the ACC Rookie of the Year last year with 1,589 rushing yards. He has added 1,108 yards this year despite ankle issues that cost him two full games and left him without a carry in the second half of the regular-season finale. Dillon has rushed for at least 100 yards in 12 of his past 19 games and has topped 30 carries three times this year. He’ll face a Boise State defense that ranks 31st against the run (3.65).
If the weather turns bad — it rained at last year’s game — this could be a 1-on-1 showdown between the two running backs.
3. Power Five finish: Boise State could have drawn an opponent like Western Michigan, North Texas or Louisiana Tech. Instead, the Broncos get to play an ACC team — the seventh time in the past eight years that they’ve played a Power Five opponent in a bowl game. The Broncos are 4-2 in those bowls vs. Power Fives, and they’re 7-2 in their past nine bowl games overall.
Fresno State is the only other Mountain West team playing a Power Five opponent (Arizona State in Las Vegas). Only four other Group of Five teams are playing Power Five teams and — outside of the marquee LSU-UCF Fiesta Bowl — those opponents are Wake Forest, Duke and Virginia Tech. Boston College (7-5 overall, 4-4 ACC) had a better season than those three.
Three reasons to hate it
1. Christmas on the road: There are nine bowl games on Dec. 26, 27 or 28 — and that’s lousy. I don’t have a problem with the ever-growing list of bowl games. I do have a problem with scheduling games that force players, coaches, support staff and, yes, media members to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at a bowl site — some separated from their families. Everyone involved in college football already makes significant sacrifices during the season. Taking Christmas from them seems too much.
But that’s not the only problem with the Dec. 26 date. The Broncos will play at 11:30 a.m. Mountain on a Wednesday — leaving their fans to take the day off, call in sick, try to watch at work or record the game and try to make it home unaware of the result. Fans who like to travel to bowl games are stuck with sky-high airfare and Christmas travel.
Even the national exposure will be reduced with a weekday afternoon kickoff. ESPN assigned one of its lowest-profile announcer crews (Lowell Galindo, Ahmad Brooks and Kris Budden) to a game that drew 2.2 million viewers last year. Boise State-Oregon last year in Las Vegas drew 3.8 million.
2. Boston College’s losing streak: The Eagles were 7-2 and ranked No. 17 in early November — drawing “College GameDay” to town for the matchup with No. 2 Clemson. They lost 27-7 that day — a respectable result against the Tigers — but surprisingly lost 22-21 a week later at struggling Florida State. Syracuse completed the three-game losing skid with a 42-21 win at BC.
Don’t let the streak fool you — this is a good team. But it takes some luster off the matchup.
3. Game-day atmosphere: The First Responder Bowl (previously Heart of Dallas Bowl) was established when the Cotton Bowl moved out of Cotton Bowl Stadium and into the Dallas Cowboys’ palatial home. The Cotton Bowl is a historic venue with a capacity of 92,100 that will be mostly empty. The game drew an announced attendance of 20,507 last year for Utah-West Virginia but the Dallas Morning News reported it was closer to 9,300. The City Council narrowly agreed to provide a $300,000 subsidy to ESPN this year to help fund the game.
With Boise State and Boston College both more than 1,600 miles away, tickets again will be in ample supply.