As schools lacking the built-in credibility of Ohio State, Alabama, Texas and Florida, Boise State and Virginia Tech did what they had to do to gain national respect Monday night. They played each other to open the season.

There were no patsy games against Marshall, San Jose State, Miami of Ohio and Rice on their schedule. Those are the opponents that the aforementioned four college football giants beat up on the opening weekend of the season.

No, Boise State and Virginia Tech came right out of the box and played a game with national championship implications. And what a game it was. The Broncos jumped on top, 17-0, and the Hokies came back to lead, 30-26, and appeared to be wearing Boise down. But Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore, an undersized Drew Brees-type with guts, smarts and poise, brought Boise State back in the final two minutes with a 56-yard drive that ended with his 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis for a 33-30 victory.

The Hokies had 1:09 left to mount a comeback and came close, but Broncos defensive back Brandyn Thompson made a brilliant play on Tyrod Taylor's deep bomb on first down to tip the pass away from the Virginia Tech receiver. When you add it all up, Boise State was in hostile territory at the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field in Landover, Md., where Hokies fans made the relatively short trip to fill the stands, and they overcame critical penalties and a bad kicking game to pull out the win.

Moore, who threw 39 TD passes and had only three interceptions last season, validated his Heisman Trophy candidacy, and the Broncos positioned themselves for a shot at the BCS title game. The difference between them and the Ohio States and Alabamas of the college football world is that they can't afford one misstep. Not only does Boise have to win a tough home game against Oregon State on Sept. 25, but also it has to go undefeated again in the WAC.

Commentators like Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit, who called the game for ABC tonight, can pooh-pooh the difficulty of the Broncos' schedule, and there's some validity to that. But do you have any idea how difficult it is to stay perfect for two years in a row?

The win over Virginia Tech was Boise's 15th straight. Say what you like about the WAC, but there are places where the Broncos easily could stub their toe, especially in their final two games at Nevada and at home against Utah State, which lost on the road to Oklahoma, 31-24, on opening weekend.

Oh, and here's an aside to Musberger and Herbstreit, who obsessed about Va Tech's No. 10 ranking in the AP poll by the writers and No. 6 in the coaches' poll for USA Today. The Hokies were No. 6 in Newsday's preseason picks, and if I had an AP vote, they actually would move up off their performance against Boise State.

I can easily picture a scenario in which Alabama and Ohio State go undefeated, but Alabama loses the SEC championship game to Florida or Georgia and there's an outcry for a BCS title game matching the Big Ten and either Bama or the SEC title game winner. Boise State simply has no margin for error.

And by the way, Virginia Tech probably won't get many breaks either. The Hokies can play with anybody in the country, but they have a much more difficult road ahead in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where they must beat division rivals Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina and then possibly face Florida State in the conference title game.

Honestly, if Virginia Tech gets through all that with only the Boise State loss and the Broncos finish undefeated, a rematch in the BCS title game would be a very entertaining spectacle. I'd love to see a replay.
 

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