The year before, the Broncos played Virginia Tech at FedEx Field, but then had Wyoming, New Mexico State and Toledo three of the next four weeks.
The year before that it was a win at home over Oregon followed by Miami (not that one), Fresno State, Bowling Green and UC Davis. When the Broncos beat Oregon in Eugene the year before, it was between Bowling Green and Louisiana Tech.
Boise, by the way, won every one of those games. And then played schedules dominated by the mundane. Thus the skepticism when the Broncos were pitted in any debate over worthiness.
How different is West Virginia's situation over an even longer period of time? Yes, the Mountaineers would generally play a handful of ranked teams within the Big East - a Cincinnati or a South Florida here, a UConn or a Louisville there. But if your reason for apathy - even after a coaching change - was the putrid nature of the competition, then to at least an extent the WVU-Boise comparison is valid.
Yes, a good South Florida or Louisville or Pitt team was better than Wyoming or New Mexico State or UNLV, but remember, West Virginia didn't always beat those teams, either. And now those opponents are about to be replaced by Texas and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, by Baylor and Kansas State and trips to Lubbock, Texas, and Ames, Iowa.
I'm not saying that West Virginia's success over the past seven years is because it played a soft schedule, but neither am I able to discount it as a factor. You can point to wins over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, but again, if you subscribe to the theory that the Big East was on skids, are victories like that any different from Boise's one-shot deals?
Remember, too, the Mountaineers generally played a few upper-crust teams in the non-conference schedule, but lost (No. 3 Virginia Tech in 2005, Auburn in 2009, LSU each of the last two years) more than they won (unranked Auburn at home in 2008, a sweep of so-so Mississippi State and a split with a sub-.500 Colorado).
Now, though, all that changes. Imagine Boise joining the Big 12 or the SEC and how interesting it would be to see what that program did against heavyweights week after week. West Virginia isn't making nearly that jump because the Big East was still better than Boise's Mountain West, but the question is still legitimate: How will the Mountaineers fare not against markedly better competition (because they have occasionally played like teams), but against markedly better competition almost every single week?
The answers to those other questions will, of course, go a long way toward answering that one. But that's still the issue that intrigues me most.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.