The search for The Honest Bronco ultimately was successful, leading to Boise State fullback Richie Brockel.
After a year when Utah blocked the unbeaten Broncos from receiving a Bowl Championship Series bid, Boise State's coach and star players came to Salt Lake City last week for the WAC Football Preview and praised the Utes for furthering the cause of BCS outsiders by trouncing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
"The way it turned out, Utah made a great case again for all of us," said coach Chris Petersen, "and we're proud of those guys."
And more than a little envious.
The Broncos never acknowledged cheering against Utah last season, partly out of fear that publicly wishing evil on others would cosmically alter their own quest for a perfect season. But you'd better believe they were doing it.
"Oh, yeah," Brockel said. "Totally. Definitely. You have to. You want the best for yourself, obviously. ... Why not? They would have wanted us to lose if we were ahead of them. ... I want to be there. I'm jealous."
So that's the backdrop for the '09 season, as the Utes start practicing today. Other people want what they have. That includes not only their opponents, but also the Boise States of the world that are watching eagerly in hopes they will stumble and open the way for somebody else to break into the BCS.
The comparison is striking between now and four years ago, when the Utes were coming off a Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh. The perception regionally and nationally is much different. Utah is considered a player now, and -- thanks also to the rise of BYU and Texas Christian -- people are following the Utes and the Mountain West Conference more closely.
San Jose State coach Dick Tomey even used USC and Utah in the same sentence. Of course, his team plays the Trojans and Utes in its first two games, before meeting Boise State in WAC play. "If you want to ask me after the season to compare all that," Tomey said, "that'll be an interesting discussion."
There's even a theory that the Utes' Sugar Bowl performance would justify the BCS selection of a second team from outside the automatic-qualifying conferences, if someone else is eligible -- as the Broncos were last year, when the Fiesta Bowl chose Ohio State over them. Until the standards are adjusted somehow, there's guaranteed room in BCS games for only one outsider. That's why the Broncos, if they're truthful, are hoping for everybody else at their level to lose at least once, realizing that just winning all their games is insufficient.
They have to live with this rather helpless feeling for two more seasons, until some juicy scheduling comes into play. Boise State meets Utah annually from 2011-13 and plays BYU each season from 2012-15, with that two-year overlap creating a round-robin tournament among the three schools. That's something to look forward to, even if nothing changes in terms of BCS access.
For now, the Broncos still need help from other sources. We'll never know whether they would have stayed ahead of TCU in the BCS standings if the Horned Frogs had beaten Utah last November, but they would have liked to find out. As it was, they lost 17-16 to TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl.
This season, things will get interesting even sooner: Sept. 3, the Thursday when Utah hosts Utah State, Oregon visits the Broncos in the most anticipated game ever in Boise. Two weeks later, the Utes play at Oregon.
Try to imagine the Broncos' perspective that day, if they've already beaten Oregon. Actually, no guessing is necessary. The Honest Bronco already provided the answer.