After next season, Idaho will become the first college football team since the turn of the millennium to drop from the Football Bowl Subdivision to the Football Championship Subdivision.
FBS football is a money-making venture for most schools, which is why there has been a rush to move up in recent years. Idaho is one of the few schools for which FBS football makes no sense. There are no similar-sized FBS schools anywhere near Moscow, Idaho, so the Vandals have played in the Sun Belt Conference against schools from North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas, despite also being nowhere near the Sun Belt.
Starting in 2018, however, Idaho will play in the Big Sky, against schools of similar caliber that can produce better geographic rivalries, like Montana, Montana State, Eastern Washington, and Idaho State.
Part of the reason Idaho was dropped from the Sun Belt is that the Vandals usually aren't any good. Coming into the 2016 season, they hadn't finished with a winning record since 2009. Then somehow, right after being kicked out of their conference, the Vandals got good. They won eight regular-season games this year, and finished with a 6-2 record in the conference.
On Thursday night, despite being arguably the biggest underdog of the bowl season, Idaho put up a monstrous offensive display against Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, stomping the Rams, 61-50. It capped off the program's first nine-win season since 1998.
The win validated that Idaho can compete in FBS, even though it won't have that opportunity much longer. Vandals quarterback Matt Linehan blasted the school's president after the game for making the call to drop to FCS after the Sun Belt kicked the school out.
"We know we can compete, we belong here. No matter what anyone thinks, even our tone-deaf president. Maybe he doesn't think we belong here, but I think we belong here," Linehan said.
In reality, the drop to FCS still makes sense. The Vandals didn't have a conference in FBS, and it would have been very tough to last as an independent. Now they'll get to play more similar programs, and if they make a run in the FCS playoffs, nobody is going to be yearning for the days of the Potato Bowl.
As long as Idaho is still here, however, a win in the Potato Bowl can feel like a national title. The Vandals had a bad fit in FBS, but as they proved Thursday, they're certainly not a bad team.