You can guess all you want. Many have. That's why Boise's hottest couple has to lay down a fake trail of bread crumbs leading to their wedding.
The last most of us saw of Ian Johnson and Chrissy Popadics, the Boise State tailback was on one knee proposing to the cheerleader seconds after the Fiesta Bowl.
|Every kiss begins with Boise: Chrissy Popadics and Ian Johnson are soon to be wed. (AP)|
But does Boise really want to get there? And at what cost? The moment Johnson crossed the goal line against Oklahoma with that two-point conversion, a lot changed.
The Broncos stated their claim as the next college football power, sure. The NFL Draft supported the claim. A school-record four Broncos were drafted. Another seven signed free-agent deals. From 1988 to 1999, Boise had three players drafted. Since 2000, 10 Broncos have been taken.
Relaxed BCS qualification standards allowed them into the Fiesta Bowl. Recruits are sure to follow. Think of Oklahoma itself. Bud Wilkinson's second team went to the school's first Sugar Bowl in 1948. Two years later the Sooners won their first national championship.
But who thinks about football these days? A local production company won the film rights to Boise's '06 season. A documentary is due to be released in the fall. A feature film might be coming in the future.
Johnson is better known to some as a groom than as a Heisman candidate. That's why Ian and Chrissy have taken the drastic step of throwing fans and paparazzi off the scent for their July 28 wedding.
"Possibly wrong information has been leaked (as to the location)," Johnson said. "It's for our own safety."
Safety? One day Boise strikes a blow for mid-majors everywhere, the next its star running back is worried about security.
And the NCAA. Assistant coaches have been coached up on NCAA rules regarding wedding gifts. Anything too lavish could be interpreted as an extra benefit. The invitation list must be scrutinized. No boosters, no hangers on.
What a buzzkill. Haven't all of us wanted the NCAA to OK our wedding?
The entire program is caught in a strange place. It wants to be big time after ending the season as the nation's only undefeated team. But its athletic director told SportsLine.com this week, "You can make a case that you don't need a $16 million budget to run a football program."
Actually, Gene Bleymaier oversees a $3.5 million football budget -- essentially equal to what Pete Carroll makes in a year.
|The Broncos sure do entertain, but will they have BCS staying power? (US Presswire)|
In the long run, Broncos Stadium is being expanded and spruced up. Its capacity (30,750) qualifies as an expansion in the SEC.
But baby steps first.
In the short run, Petersen prefers to eliminate the distractions. The strength coach banned any Fiesta Bowl-logoed gear in the weight room (without Petersen's urging).
Petersen quickly signed a contract extension that reads like a Bob Stoops incentive package (five years, averaging $850,000 per season).
"I'm not going to insult people and say I'm staying here forever," Petersen said. "Things change as you go on in your life, (but) it would have to be a very unusual and different situation to get me out of here."
This from a man entering his second year as a head coach.
"From the start it was definitely an intrusion," Petersen said of the documentary filming.
Actually, noted director (and former Boise State student president) Michael Hoffman moved quickly with his interviews.
The college football world is waiting to see how Petersen follows up a 13-0 season. Twenty-three seniors are gone, including quarterback Jared Zabransky. Hawaii probably will be favored to win the WAC this season over the team with the nation's best record since 1999.
That record, 86-16, suddenly means something. Boise has the nation's longest winning streak (13), a Heisman candidate (Johnson) and a coach with more stones than James Bond at the craps table.
Hook-and-ladder ring a bell? Among Boise's last nine offensive snaps against Oklahoma were three plays that other coaches go their entire careers not even considering. The three gadget plays all worked for Petersen and Boise, the last a Statue of Liberty play that ended in the winning two-point conversion run by Johnson.
Bob Stoops said he'd seen the play on film but. ...
"They probably did see it," Petersen said. "But the problem is when you get ready for a bowl game and watch all those tapes, how many plays is that? A thousand plays?
"We ran it one time."
Stealth will always have to be part of Boise's approach. The defensive line was outweighed by an average of 30 pounds by Oklahoma's offensive linemen.
So is luck. Johnson was discovered by former receivers coach Robert Prince while he was recruiting another player in Southern California. The player advised Prince to take a look at the running back from San Dimas.
Johnson went to Boise where he rushed for almost 1,800 yards and led the country last season in rushing touchdowns (25).
"That guy held my fate in his hands," Johnson said. "He sent Coach Prince my way ... There are a lot of second chances here."
On New Year's night, Oklahoma found out quick that Boise could run, and not just at tailback. Speed is such a big part of the game these days. In that category, Boise matched.
Then add the biggest advantage: Oklahoma was playing in just another bowl game. The Broncos were in the biggest game of their lives.
Their win shattered, for the moment, the power conferences' argument. Most of the bowl and TV money should go to the big-daddy leagues because their schools emphasize football the most.
That's why it took the threat of Congressional intervention a few years ago for schools like Boise to get a legitimate BCS shot. Sixteen months Zabransky committed six turnovers in the first half at Georgia, Boise went undefeated.
You've seen that maybe on the power conference level, but never from the WAC and never in less than two seasons. Soon after came the networks, the book deals, the NCAA and paparazzi.
Will permanent big-time status follow?
"This is a little redemption for all of us," Johnson said. "Hey, you know what? We're here to stay. We're going to be around. We're going to be a good team."
We'll announce it at the reception if we can find it, Ian.
You guys already are a good team.