January 5, 2004, 20 years ago today: The final college football polls for the 2003 season have Boise State finishing 15th in the Coaches Poll and 16th on the AP list after the Broncos’ record 13-1 season. TCU, the team Boise State beat in the Fort Worth Bowl a couple weeks earlier, stayed in the rankings, making the Broncos and the Horned Frogs the first schools from non-BCS conferences to post back-to-back top 25 seasons in 12 years. They’d meet again in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl and the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.
Boise State was just over a year removed from its first-ever appearance in the top 25 in November, 2002. And the Broncos finished that season 15th in the AP Poll and 12th in the Coaches Poll after beating Iowa State in the Humanitarian Bowl. When coach Dan Hawkins took over in 2001, he made the rankings a primary goal, as much as people scoffed at him. Hawk made players (and fans) believe.
It would, of course, get better for the Broncos. The following autumn, Boise State cracked the top 10 for the first time after going undefeated in the regular season. After their narrow loss to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl, the Broncos finished 12th in the AP Poll and 13th in the Coaches Poll. They had been as high as No. 7 at one point in the BCS standings.
More ground was broken after the legendary Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma following the 2006 season. Boise State ended at No. 5 in the AP Poll (including one first-place vote as the only unbeaten team in the country that year) and No. 6 on the Coaches list. The Broncos have finished in the top 10 in both polls three times since—in consecutive seasons during the Kellen Moore era (2009-11). Boise State’s highest ranking of any kind was No. 2 during the 2010 campaign. The Broncos last finished the year in the top 25 in 2019 (No. 23 in the AP Poll and No. 22 in the Coaches rankings).
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)