Record: 9-3, 5-1 Big West
Coach: Dirk Koetter, second year (15-8)
Top Off. Player: QB Bart Hendricks (2,740 yards, 22 TDs)
Top Def. Player: LB Bryan Johnson (105 tackles)
A season that started in tragedy ended with a chance for Boise State to host its first bowl appearance. Freshman lineman Paul Reyna died in the preseason from a head injury suffered in practice, less than three years after losing coach Pokey Allen to cancer. But on the field, the Broncos rolled to nine wins, including a 45-14 defeat of rival Idaho in the final game to earn a bowl bid in just their fourth season of I-A football.
Record: 7-4, 4-2 Conference USA
Coach: John L. Smith, second year (14-9; 83-47 overall)
Top Off. Player: QB Chris Redman (3,647 yards, 29 TDs)
Top Def. Player: DT Donovan Arp (seven sacks, 16 tackles for loss)
After missing out on a share of the conference title with a season-ending home loss to Southern Miss, Smith returns to a state where he coached Boise State's rival, Idaho, to a 5-1 record against the Broncos. Unitas Golden Arm winner Redman leads a furious Cardinals attack that also includes standout TE Ibn Green, WR Arnold Jackson and RB Frank Moreau. Before losing to Southern Miss, Louisville had won four in a row to improve on a 3-3 start.