FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) Boise State hasn't even made its Mountain West debut and already the Broncos are the class of the conference.
With Air Force and TCU stumbling this season, the fifth-ranked Broncos (5-0) bring some much needed cache to a league that lost perennial powerhouses BYU and Utah from its ranks this year.
Yet, there's already rumbling and grumbling that the Broncos won't be around for long.
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The Big East is considering adding Boise State football to help bolster the conference's chances of retaining its BCS automatic bid, though both sides still need to be persuaded that it's the right move.
The Big East said earlier this week it would like to expand to 12 football schools and split into two divisions, which would allow the league to play a championship. Boise State, which used to play in the Western Athletic Conference, could be just what the Big East needs. The Broncos have had one of the premiere programs in college football recently, going 71-5 since 2006.
The shakeout in conference realignment could leave the Mountain West without its marquee programs. The Big East also is considering adding Air Force in football and TCU is bolting to the Big 12 next season after reneging on its commitment to join the Big East.
Colorado State Rams coach Steve Fairchild's mood darkened when asked about all the musical chairs going on in college football.
"I've decided that those decisions are made way above my head. I'm not paying attention. I've said all along that what's happening in college football is bad for college football," Fairchild said. "Everybody is chasing TV revenue. They're not paying attention to fans. I don't think it's good for the sport. Having been in the NFL I know everything they do to level the playing field makes that product better. Unfortunately, you don't have that train of thought in college football. I don't know if anybody knows what's good or bad and I don't think anybody knows what the end product is going to be with all of that stuff."
For now, the Rams (3-2, 1-0), who face Boise State on Saturday, are glad the Broncos are their brethren.
"They bring a Popeye type program," Fairchild said. "A program that has been in BCS bowls and a program that has proved capable of playing with anybody anywhere. There is no question that no matter who you talk to involving Mountain West Conference football that adding Boise State is good for the conference."
The Broncos have been ranked in the Top 10 of The Associated Press poll for 38 straight weeks, and they feature quarterback Kellen Moore, who is 43-2 as a starter, two wins shy of Colt McCoy's NCAA record.
They've waited six weeks to finally make their MWC debut.
"It's about time," said senior wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker. "Feels like we're almost halfway through the season now. It'll be good to get into conference play, that's always a bit of a step up no matter who it is."
The Rams are enjoying a resurgence despite a rash of injuries. They sport one of the best pass rushes in the nation, led by defensive end Nordly Capi, who leads the NCAA with nine sacks.
Overall, they've dropped the quarterback 19 times.
The Broncos are among the best teams in the country at protecting their quarterback. They've allowed just two sacks in five games, tied for first in the country, and Moore has been taken down just twice in his last 253 pass attempts going back to last November.
"The quarterback is exceptional," Rams weakside linebacker Mike Orakpo said. "He definitely knows what he's doing. He has a very quick release and it's difficult to get to him. They have a very good offensive line. We have to get to the quarterback in this game."
Or else the oddsmakers might be proven right. They've installed Boise State as better than four-touchdown favorites.
"Look at their roster," Fairchild said. "Their top 44 is a lot of seniors. We're not there in terms of experience, but I like our talent level. Since I've been here we've increased the roster every year. So how far apart are we? We'll see Saturday."