BOISE, Idaho (AP) - It's deep into another season, and Boise State is paving its way to another WAC title and undefeated season.
The Broncos (9-0) have won six of the last seven Western Athletic Conference titles and haven't lost at home since 2005. Along the way they became national darlings after the 2006 season by beating Oklahoma.
Since then they've been nothing short of excellent, going 31-4 since their triumph. But they haven't quite made it back to those same heights.
"Winning a lot, I think people do take that for granted," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "We need to appreciate these wins because they are hard to get. Sometimes it looks easy. But most of the time it's not."
Kellen Moore, the nation's most efficient passer, has led an offense that's outscoring opponents 373-144, has trailed once all season and puts up an average of 41.4 points per game, second best in the nation.
The Broncos have been boringly excellent all year.
Petersen was promoted to head coach in 2006 after five years as
offensive coordinator. In his first year, he led the Broncos to an undefeated season capped by their thrilling win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Looking back, Petersen says that game may have changed more than
Boise State's national status.
Like fans of other successful programs, the Broncos faithful have come to expect victories, and anxiety and soul-searching ensues when margins of victory are less than 20 points.
Even blowouts prompt questions from reporters and boosters at
luncheons about how Petersen and his staff will fix the flaws.
In recent weeks, talk radio has buzzed with fans fretting over the close games against UC Davis, Tulsa and Louisiana Tech compared to the gaudy point totals being posted weekly by No. 4 TCU, whose higher ranking in the BCS standings threatens to keep the Broncos out of another marquee bowl.
It doesn't help that the Horned Frogs beat Boise State last season in the Poinsettia Bowl, handing the previously perfect Broncos their only loss.
But fans taking wins for granted doesn't mean there is less pressure to keep them coming, especially with in-state rival Idaho looking rejuvenated at 7-3.
The Vandals will be looking for their first win over the Broncos since 1998.
Petersen said one of the biggest changes since 2006 is the heightened expectations and his own challenge in managing them personally and for the team.
"Sometimes you're like that frog in the frying pan, and you don't know it's changing and then it's boiling," Petersen said. "Sometimes I look back at the numbers the kids are putting up, what the offense is doing ... and you'd think we haven't won a game with the way we're having to answer things and justify things.
"It's hard to have a good record. It's hard to be undefeated. I think there is a lot to be appreciative of," he said. "We know when we play well. And we know when we don't play good enough. We just need to keep listening to each other and not all the outside noise."
But amid the heightened public pressure, another trend has developed.
Empty seats have become more noticeable in Bronco Stadium. Petersen says coaches and staff are sensing less fervor from the home crowd, and even less BCS-or-bust urgency.
"We've already done that, been there," said Petersen when asked to compare the atmosphere now with the buildup to the Fiesta Bowl in 2006. "The first time you ever do something there is always more energy. You could feel the excitement that first year for sure, just in terms of numbers at the games and energy at the games ... to me you could tell the difference."
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