With a relatively weak schedule, Boise State might be a long shot to play for a national championship. The Broncos certainly couldn't afford a loss to lowly Hawaii.
The sixth-ranked Broncos, with their work cut out for them despite getting a strong spot in the first BCS standings, look to avoid a letdown against the Warriors in a Western Athletic Conference matchup Saturday.
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Boise State (6-0, 1-0) is fourth in the BCS, but it dropped one spot in this week's Top 25 and appears to be losing favor with the voters after surviving a late scare in a 28-21 victory at Tulsa on Oct. 14.
Teams from the WAC, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt, Mid-American Conference and Conference USA need to finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings to earn an automatic bid. Only one team from those leagues can bust the BCS, and the Broncos have competition.
Undefeated and No. 10 TCU is in eighth place and has a good chance to pass the Broncos if it runs the table in the Mountain West.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen said he's not concerned with the voters' perceptions, but the Broncos can't have another mediocre effort against a team such as Hawaii (2-4, 0-3) in order to make their second BCS appearance in four seasons.
"All we're trying to do is win. ... I'm not looking at that clock and there's not a player on this team looking going, 'Boy this isn't enough points.' It's enough points if it's one more than the opponent has," said Petersen. "We just really believe at the end of the season if we play our best and do what we want to do, then it'll work out like it should."
After failing to dominate Football Championship Division squad UC-Davis in a 34-16 win Oct. 3, the Broncos needed a strong effort defensively down the stretch to hold off the Golden Hurricane.
Boise State's running game, however, was a bright spot, finishing with 193 yards after being held to 101 against the Aggies. Doug Martin had 112 yards, his second 100-yard effort in three games.
Martin is once again an essential part of the Broncos' offense, filling in with D.J. Harper out due to a left knee injury suffered in a 51-34 win over Fresno State on Sept. 18. Petersen returned Martin, a former defensive back, to the offense.
"It was real unfortunate that D.J. went down," said Martin, who leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. "We're real good buddies. We've been buddies since I first got here.
"I'm just carrying the flag for him. It's been a really nice experience, and I'm just going to keep doing it for him."
With quarterback Kellen Moore playing so well, the Broncos need to a strong running attack to keep defenses honest. The sophomore threw three TD passes and has 16 on the season while throwing two picks.
Austin Pettis is Moore's favorite target, catching 32 passes for 441 yards and seven TDs. Pettis has scored in every game this season.
The Warriors rely heavily on their passing game, throwing for at least 300 yards in five of six games. Hawaii, though, is in danger of losing five straight in a single season for the first time since going 0-12 in 1998.
"It's frustrating, but the thing is you've got to move on," Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said. "As a team, we have some problems that we have to solve. We have to finish on offense. On defense, we have to start making plays."
Hawaii couldn't run the ball or stop Idaho's ground game in a 35-23 loss last Saturday. The Warriors were held to 77 yards rushing while allowing 194 and four TDs.
Though it lost quarterback Greg Alexander to a season-ending injury knee injury in a 27-6 loss to Louisiana Tech on Sept. 30, Bryant Moniz is coming off his most successful game since taking over as starter.
Moniz, a 5-foot-10 senior who hadn't played before this season, passed for 360 yards and a TD versus the Vandals. He found some chemistry with Greg Salas, who had a career-high 10 catches for 123 yards and a score.
Salas is second in the nation with 791 yards receiving, averaging 18.8 per catch. He had five receptions for 75 yards in Hawaii's 27-7 loss to Boise State on Oct. 17, 2008.
The Broncos have won seven of the last eight meetings against the Warriors after losing the first two.