- Associated Press - Sunday, September 12, 2010

Every game counts. That’s what the people who push the Bowl Championship Series like to tell college football fans _ and they’re right.

But is it really a good thing that James Madison’s upset of Virginia Tech in September could determine which teams play for the national championship in January?

THE BIG STORY

While No. 3 Boise State had a week off to bask in the glow of its dramatic victory against Virginia Tech last Monday night in Landover, Md., the Broncos’ national title hopes were taking a beating in Blacksburg.

James Madison, a very good FCS team that won a national title in 2004, pulled off the biggest upset of a Saturday filled with marquee games, knocking off the Hokies 21-16 at Lane Stadium.

“It was like a dream come true when the clock hit zero,” cornerback Leavander Jones said. “It was like, `Oh my God, we did it!’”

And back in Idaho, the Boise State Broncos and their fans must have had a similar reaction, just replace the joy with dismay.

While James Madison provided further evidence of increased parity in college football, how the gap between the haves and the have nots is not as wide as it once was, the Dukes were undermining the team that has done more than any other to prove that point in recent seasons.

Yes, the irony is James Madison hurt Boise State’s chances to play in the national championship game by taking the luster off what the Broncos figured would be their crowning achievement this season _ a victory against a Virginia Tech team expected to be highly ranked.

More than anything else, the Broncos’ strength of schedule has held them back as they’ve piled up victories and Western Athletic Conference championships over the last decade.

Even with a victory against a top-notch Virginia Tech team, by the time this season is over, Boise State’s schedule won’t be nearly as tough as those played by teams such as Alabama and Ohio State.

Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii just don’t stack up to Florida, Auburn and LSU. Or Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa.

For Boise State to have any chance to reach the BCS championship game for the first time, the Broncos must have a better record than the champions from the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Big 12 and Pac-10. That was true even before Virginia Tech lost.

If Boise State is the only undefeated team at the end of the regular season, or one of two without a loss, it has a shot. But even in that scenario, regular-season perfection might not be enough for Boise State _ again.

That’s where James Madison could impact the Broncos’ chances.

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