Tulsa UCF Football

Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) throws a pass as offensive lineman Lokahi Pauole (77) blocks during the second half of a game against Tulsa on Oct. 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.

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The Idaho Press is counting down the 25 biggest questions facing the Boise State football team during the 2021 season. Next up is No. 5: How big is the UCF opener for the Broncos?

Is it crazy to call Boise State’s season opener at Central Florida one of the biggest games in program history? Probably not.

Sure you’ve got the three Fiesta Bowls, the Virginia Tech game in 2010 and the Georgia game in 2011 — but what else compares? Maybe the home game against Oregon in 2008 or the road game at Florida State in 2019?

There might be one or two others, but the Sept. 2 opener at Central Florida is no doubt a huge game for the program.

For starters, the game was moved up two days to the opening Thursday night of the college football season. It will air nationally in primetime on ESPN in one of the premiere time slots and TV windows for college football fans that weekend.

The opening Thursday night ESPN game is the unofficial kickoff to the season — and the network typically picks a marquee game to help get things started. Boise State at UCF is one of the biggest games of the weekend and will have the eyes of the entire country watching.

It’s great exposure for the Broncos and new coach Andy Avalos — but it’s also a chance to make another early season statement. Just as they did in previous years when they beat Virginia Tech or Georgia in marquee openers, the Broncos can kickstart another potential special season with a win over UCF on national TV.

A win over UCF would propel the Broncos into the Top 25 and put them right in the mix as the top Group of 5 team for a spot in the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the season. Sure work will remain the rest of the season, but a win against UCF would be huge.

A case can be made it’s the biggest game between Group of 5 teams in history. Boise State and UCF have combined for six BCS/New Year’s Six appearances the past 15 years and have arguably the two most recognizable brands currently among non-Power 5 teams.

Both have been fighting for more national respect from the big boys — and they’ll get a chance to try and earn one with the entire country watching.

Ohio State at Minnesota on FOX is the only other game of real interest on Sept. 2, meaning millions of viewers will tune in to see the two Group of 5 powers go head-to-head in a matchup many have wanted to see the past decade.

Typically football games are set up at least five years in advance and sometimes as far as 10 or 11 years away. But fans badly wanted to see the Broncos and Knights play, and the two schools agreed two years ago to sneak it into the schedule this fall. UCF will make the return trip to Boise in 2023.

Boise State or UCF? The debate has raged on the past decade as to the top Group of 5 program and we’ll finally get to settle it, at least for 2021, on the field.

But it won’t be easy. UCF is 23-2 at home the past four year and is currently favored by more than a touchdown at most Las Vegas sports books.

The Broncos have a had a few bigger games over the years, but not many. It’s a massive game with huge implications moving forward, and it’s only a few months away.

This article originally ran on idahopress.com.


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