by Aengus Moorehead
It is the swan song for the face of the WAC from the past decade as the Broncos are departing for the Mountain West. Boise State Broncos is coming off of an undefeated season (their 2nd in 4 seasons) that was capped off by a Fiesta Bowl victory over TCU. Simply put, Boise State has been far too good to play in the WAC for the last ten years and their conference record since 2001 is an unfathomable 68-4. What is really scary is that this year’s team might be the best yet as they have the most returning starters of any team in the entire country.
Life was good for the Boise State Broncos offense in 2009 as they racked up over 42 points per game. Led by 3rd Team All-American quarterback Kellen Moore (3,536 yards, 39 TDs, 3 INT), Boise State was dominant in all phases of the offense. With ten starters back, things look great for another season of supremacy on the scoreboard.
Moore has a plethora of great receivers coming back, led by elite seniors Austin Pettis (63 catches, 885 yards, 14 TDs) and Titus Young (79 catches, 1,041 yards, 15 total TDs), both of whom were 1st Team All-WAC selections last year. The tailbacks are also back en masse as every single player who gained a yard on the ground for the Broncos last year returns. With three great tailbacks in senior Jeremy Avery (1,151 yards, 6 TDs, 2nd Team All-WAC) and juniors Doug Martin (765 yards, 15 TDs) and D.J. Harper (284 yards, 3 TDs in 3 games before injury), Boise State Broncos looks primed to dictate on the ground.
Finally, the offensive line is very veteran, featuring four returning junior starters, including 1st team All-WAC guard Nate Potter. The only concern on the line is at left tackle, where the Broncos have to replace a two year starter, but the overall depth of this unit makes that concern rather obligatory. Let’s be honest here: With this much talent returning there is little question that Boise State will going to run roughshod over most of their opponents again this season. This is without question one of the country’s best offenses.
As talented and veteran as their offense is, the defense might beat them on both counts. In fact, this unit was actually below average when it came to sacks last year, so there is actually room for improvement compared to the stratospheric expectations on the other side of the football.
Up front, 1st Team All-WAC DE Ryan Winterswyk (41 tackles, 9 sacks) is an elite pass rusher who has been on the field as a major contributor every year he has been at Boise State. Along with junior tackle Billy Winn (44 tackles, 6 sacks), who was a 2nd Team All-WAC choice last year, Winterswyk will be the leader on the WAC’s best D-Line.
The Broncos are also very good at linebacker, where senior Winston Venable was a 2nd Team All-WAC selection in 2009. However, the linebackers aren’t tackling machines like you see with other top units and Venable himself is more of a hybrid player than a pure linebacker.
Senior safety Jeron Johnson (91 tackles, 4 INT) was the team’s top tackler last season en route to 2nd Team All-WAC honors and he’ll be joined by senior corner Brandon Thompson (45 tackles, 6 INT) and junior safety George Iloka (48 tackles, 1 INT) to form the center of the best secondary in the WAC. Simply put, there really isn’t a weakness to this defense and they’re so strong in all facets of the game that we should be unconcerned about replacing any lost talent, even a player as great as Wilson. Expect Boise State Broncos to cut back on last season’s 17 points per game allowed this season and field the best defense in the WAC by a good margin.
The one concern for Boise State Broncos is their consistent unwillingness to schedule major opponents out of conference. That won’t be a problem this season as they travel across the country to play Virginia Tech in Washington D.C. to kick off the season. This is the first time since 2005 (when BSU was blown out at Georgia by 26 points) that the Broncos have left the Pacific Northwest to face a BCS conference team in the regular season and it will really be a stern test for this team in 2010 because Boise State Broncos is only 3-3 in the regular season against BCS conference opponents since 2005.
Furthermore, they added a solid opponent in Oregon State, who has been a major player in the Pac Ten during the last few years, so they have a much more respectable non-league schedule this fall. In league play, the only game that one realistically see the Broncos losing is a late season visit to powerful Nevada, where BSU last escaped with a hard fought 41-34 victory in 2008. In short, there are three, maybe four, games on this entire schedule even worth watching because the Broncos will pawn the rest of their opponents with ease.
While many people automatically assume that Boise State Broncos is a shoo-in for another undefeated season in the WAC (and even overall), not everyone agrees. First of all, Boise State Broncos will have a lot of trouble dealing with a great Virginia Tech running game on Labor Day and that will end their National Championship dreams before they get started.
Second, Boise State Broncos isn’t even the best team in the WAC this year. Over the past two seasons, Nevada has emerged as a legitimate contender and they host Boise State this fall in what should amount to a WAC Championship Game, just like these two teams’ meeting in 2009. The location is especially important because Boise State Broncos has never lost a conference game at home since joining the WAC.
PREDICTED RESULT: 10-2 (7-1 WAC) - Bodog NCAA College Football Futures Lines
austin pettis - billy winn - boise state broncos - brandon thompson - bronco stadium - chris petersen - d.j. harper - doug martin - fiesta bowl - george iloka