Boise State fans were admittedly spoiled with Kellen Moore for the past four years. The NCAA's all-time leader in wins was the ultimate example for what this program has become—an institution built on winning no matter who is on the other sideline.
But Joe Southwick, the current starting QB of the 8-2 Broncos and the man that's likely going to be under center for the first snap in the Big East, is the guy tasked with taking this program to the next level. It's been a slow start and frustrating process for fans, but he's shown over the course of the season that he's up to the challenge.
His numbers aren't great, specifically because of the kind of stats Moore was putting up. But a 65 percent completion percentage, 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns aren't bad numbers by any stretch of the imagination.
Moore, by comparison, had 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns, but tossed 10 interceptions. It was a different offense, one tailored specifically around Moore. Just the opposite is true for Southwick.
The biggest number on his resume is "eight"—the number of wins the program has this year.
Southwick got the unfair comparisons to Moore and the teams of the last four seasons. The junior took over for Moore in the first game of 2012, and got a rude awakening in the form of Michigan State and LeVeon Bell.
Boise State has formed a bit of a cult following. It started in 2007, when the Fiesta Bowl game win over Oklahoma was the biggest game in the history of the program.
It continued the next four years, in games that included BCS bowls against TCU and all the sour grapes about not being considered in the national championship picture after finishing the season undefeated. Moore was putting on a clinic that earned him an invitation to the Heisman presentation, and the program was pumping out NFL talent.
It was an unfair situation for Southwick, whether or not he was a true freshman or a junior with minimal experience. WR Matt Miller had his QB's back in this interview with USA Today's Dan Wolken, when he praised the starter for handling the pressure.
"He had to replace the winningest college quarterback in history...Very big shoes to fill, and he's done a very good job of it so far. You can't ask for a kid to come in and do the exact same thing Kellen did. That's too much to ask, but he's handled it very well."
Southwick lost the chance at an undefeated campaign in the opening week of the season, but not the chance to win the Mountain West Conference, something he and the Broncos can still accomplish in the form of a three-way tie with San Diego State and Fresno State.
Bottom line—Southwick has had the type of season you'd expect out of a guy that played his first full collegiate game on the road in East Lansing. However, with the experience and success he's had before the Broncos' move to the Big East in 2013, he'll step into the role as a senior that coach Chris Petersen needs him to fulfill.
It's clear he's got the full support of the program. Highly-touted freshman Nick Patti is still on the bench, so Petersen and the coaching staff believe Southwick is the guy to take them to the Big East on the right note. If he wasn't, he wouldn't still be in the lineup.
With another full offseason of work and another full recruiting class to work with, Southwick will be just fine. He still has at least three games to get the program to another year of double-digit wins.
Give it time, Bronco fans. Petersen and the coaching staff know what they have in their young QB. It hasn't been pretty or as explosive as in years past, but when he leaves in 2013, he'll be right there with the school's best.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.