LAS VEGAS -- After being invited to join what will be the Pac-12 Conference, Utah was forced to juggle its schedule a bit and canceled a series with Boise State -- prompting cat-calls from Bronco fans desperate to create regional rivalries outside the potato state.
Considering what's happened the last two times the Broncos and Utes have faced off it might make a little sense why Utah replaced BSU with Montana State on next year's slate -- Boise State has outscored Utah, 62-6, counting Wednesday night's 26-3 thumping in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
Utah might not be able to hide from the Broncos in future years, though. The Las Vegas Bowl pits the Pac-12 No. 5 team (a distinct possibility for the Utes) against the Mountain West champs -- which BSU figures to challenge for every year.
Still, Boise State will need yet another perfect season to sniff another BCS bowl game.
"It's so unbelievably difficult to win every game," BSU coach Chris Petersen said. "That's why you got to play the game. There are a lot of hurdles to get over."
Utah and Boise State face uncertain futures with plenty of hurdles in front of them.
The Broncos join a conference that looks remarkably like the one they are leaving. When BSU accepted an invitation to the MWC last summer, it was joining a conference that included Utah, BYU and TCU. Within weeks, Utah accepted a spot in the Pac-12, BYU dumped the league in favor of independence and TCU will be gone in 2012 as the Frogs jump to the Big East. Fellow WAC schools Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii (and possibly others) follow BSU to the MWC in 2012.
"The Mountain West already knew what kind of team we are," Bronco receiver Austin Pettis said shortly after the win. "This maybe gives us a little bit more respect around the nation."
Beating the Utes felt good, especially considering the trash talk and regional banter that's gone on for the past few years as the two dominant programs in the time zone have battled for regional supremacy.
"It was good to send them out with a win," Pettis said. "We wanted to show the Mountain West what they're getting."
With 19 seniors leaving the team, Boise State isn't going to be the overwhelming favorite to win a conference crown like they have been in years past. But returning Heisman finalist Kellen Moore at quarterback and dynamic running back Doug Martin will make the transition year a little less painful.
Still, Moore realizes how small the margin is for the Broncos.
"We still had a great season," Moore said. "We had a great team. We didn't take care of business in one opportunity and Nevada kind of deserved that victory, they took care of business. I think this is still a great team and one of the best teams in the country."
Utah isn't disputing that. But is also regretting the multiple blown chances it had against Boise State. Four first-half turnovers by the Broncos (including a botched fake punt that gave Utah the ball near mid-field) resulted in only three points -- not nearly enough against the No. 10 Broncos.
"We just weren't able to make the plays like we have in the past," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Without a doubt, I thought the missed opportunities in the first half would come back to haunt us, especially playing a team the caliber of Boise State. When you're playing a team like that, you better be able to capitalize on any opportunity that comes your way."
Utah, which is undoubtedly smarting from the tail-kicking the Broncos gave them, have that thick Pac-12 silver lining to their cloud.
Before the Utes could even swap MWC logo jersey patches for Pac-12 versions, the Utah coaching staff was making its own transition.
"We've got a big challenge ahead of us leading into the Pac-12," Whittingham said. "The bar is raised on all ends."
Recruiting, according the Whittingham, has already changed with dozens of athletes giving Utah a serious look when they otherwise wouldn't.
Budgets are being increased, facilities are being improved and procedures tweaked.
Utah will not be able to build a gaudy 8-0 record to start the season against the likes of New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming in coming years. Instead the Utes get USC, UCLA, Arizona, and a few other heavyweights -- which makes trading Boise State for Montana State make a little more sense.
But, unlike Boise State, the Utes can usually afford a slip up from now on. Pac-12 teams can earn a trip to the Rose Bowl with a loss of two.
The Broncos, as always, know they must be perfect.
It's a role they've embraced over the past decade and a role they intend to thrive in during the future -- no matter what conference they're in or who they play.