Today we look at No. 20 – Boise State.
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Nuts and bolts
Location: Boise, Idaho
Coach: Bryan Harsin (fifth season, 42-12; 49-17 overall at Arkansas State and Boise State)
2017: 11-3, 7-1 in Mountain West (defeated Oregon 38-28 in Las Vegas Bowl)
Last league title: 2017
Three things to know
1. Dominant O. Quarterback Brett Rypien has plenty of starting experience in college and is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country this season. He is the Mountain West preseason offensive player of the year after throwing for 2,877 yards with 16 TDs and six intercepetions last season.
It helps that Rypien has plenty of weapons, starting with RB Alexander Mattison who rushed for 1,086 yards and 12 TDs last season. The receiving corps features returners in A.J. Richardson, Sean Modster, Octavius Evans and CT Thomas. Oh, and don’t forget about 6-foot-6 John Bates providing a big target from the tight end position.
This offense should be even better than last season when it averaged 32.5 points and 406.4 yards per game.
2. Replacing LVE. Boise State lost just one starter on defense. But it just so happened to be the best player, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, now on the Cowboys. Replacing Vander Esch’s production won’t be easy, but it’s hard to bet against the Broncos.
Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos is head coach material and always has Boise State ready to go. The Broncos forced 26 takeaways last season.
And they return players such as Curtis Weaver, who had 11 sacks, and safeties Kekoa Nawahine and DeAndre Pierce, who combined for 191 tackles and four interceptions last season.
Won 42 games under harsin … three mountain west titles in seven years in conf …
3. Boise tradition. Boise State isn’t in a Power Five conference, but it continues to impress year after year. It’s similar to the Gonzaga men’s basketball team that is seemingly always a threat to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Bryan Harsin falls in a long line of quality coaches, but he is arguably among the top. He has 42 wins in his first four seasons, and this year’s team has the makings of being his best yet.
It’s hard to envision a non-Power Five school making the playoffs, but the Broncos would have a case if they run the table.
Three games to watch
1. Sept. 1 at Troy. Give credit to coach Neal Brown, who has turned Troy into a sneaky good team. The Trojans are the reigning Sun Belt champions and have 10- and 11-win seasons the past two years. This will be a test for Boise right out of the gate.
2. Sept. 15 at Oklahoma State. This is a statement game opportunity for Boise State, and it couldn’t come against a better school. Oklahoma State is rebuilding with the losses of players such as quarterback Mason Rudolph. But they still have talent, including RB Justice Hill who rushed for 1,467 yards last season.
3. Nov. 9 vs. Fresno State. This is a budding rivalry in the Mountain West. Boise State and Fresno State played each other in consecutive weeks last season – the regular-season finale and then in the MWC championship. Fresno won the finale at home (28-17), and then Boise took the title game (17-14). Expect another thriller in 2018.