SQ College Football Top-25 Preview: #25 Boise State
It's mid-July and that means college football season is right around the corner. Here at SQ, we're all about getting our readers informed and giving them great analysis. With that in mind we've put together our own top-25 college football rankings and will preview each of those teams over the next few weeks. Today the countdown starts with #25 Boise State.
Team: Boise State
SQ Ranking: 25
2014 Record: 12-2
Finish in AP Poll: 16th
Head Coach: Bryan Harsin (2nd year)
Previewing the Boise State Offense: Boise State returns nine starters to an offense that led the Mountain West in scoring last season, averaging 39.7 points per game. However, it'll be missing the two key components that accounted for most of the scoring - 92.4 percent of the offensive touchdowns, in fact - as QB Grant Hedrick was lost to graduation and dynamic RB Jay Ajayi has departed for the NFL. Adding on to that is the fact that the team has changed offensive coordinators once more, promoting TE coach Eliah Drinkwitz to the position.
The starting QB job is still wide open between sophomore Ryan Finley and four-star true freshman Brett Rypien, who's one of the Broncos' highest rated recruits ever. Finley saw limited action in a backup role last season, tossing two touchdown passes and throwing for 161 yards. As far as replacing Ajayi, Boise State will look to go with more of a committee approach. Sophomore Jeremy McNichols is likely to get a bulk of the carries, while Stanford transfer Kelsey Young and junior Devan Demas are likely to be in the mix as well.
Whatever direction the Broncos decide to go in with these two positions, they will be surrounded by other talented players. The new QB will be protected by two all-conference offensive linemen in Marcus Henry and Rees Odhiambo, and will have plenty of highly skilled pass catchers. Tight end Jake Roh and WR Shane Williams-Rhodes each return to help the rookie QB after receiving all-conference honorable mention honors.
Previewing the Boise State Defense: If there's one thing the Boise State defense excels at, it's creating disruption in the backfield. From getting after the quarterback, to taking down runners before they could cross the line of scrimmage, the Broncos' defensive front is a penetrating force. It was a force that last season ranked in the top-six nationally in both sacks (47) and tackles for loss (109).
Pressuring the quarterback will again be a strength for Boise State as the team's sack leader from a season ago, DE Kamalei Correa, returns. Correa notched 12 sacks, good for eighth on the national scale, and also racked up 19 tackles for loss which put him at 15th in the nation. He won't be alone as DT Elliot Hoyte returns to the line after putting up 3.5 sacks of his own last season.
One of the advantages of having a defense that is able to get into the backfield with ease is forcing QBs to get rid of the ball earlier than they want to. And forcing a QB's hand too soon creates interceptions, which Boise State is no stranger to. The Broncos forced 22 interceptions in 2014 and bring back a duo that racked up 13 of its own in FS Darian Thompson and CB Donte Deayon.
The combination of a strong defensive front seven and defensive backs that are some of the best ball hawks in the country will make for a formidable defense.
Three Key Games:
1. Boise State vs. Washington, September 4 - That's right, former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen heads to his old stomping grounds in the season opener. This game can provide for a huge opening statement for the Broncos as they look to get off on the right foot by beating a PAC-12 opponent, just as they ended last season by beating Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. Both Washington and Boise State have something to prove in this game and it'll make for a great game to kick off the 2015 season.
2. Boise State vs. BYU, September 12 - Last season Boise State got past BYU fairly easily, racing out to a 41-16 lead at the half, and eventually beating the Cougars 55-30. But BYU was without QB Taysom Hill, who before he was lost for the season against Utah State looked like a dark horse candidate for the Heisman. This time Boise State will have to stop Hill as he returns to lead BYU and finish what he started last season.
3. Boise State vs. Air Force, November 20 - Boise State lost only two games last season, and one of those losses came against Air Force in a game that the Broncos' literally gave away. The Air Force defense forced Boise State to turn the ball over seven times in that contest, forcing two fumbles and five interceptions. Needless to say it was not a pretty sight to see. This game could have division title implications being played so late in the season.
Final Analysis: Going 12-2 under a new head coach last season was certainly a surprise that not many expected so suddenly. Now in 2015, the team looks like it could be poised for a similar run. A loaded September schedule featuring Washington, BYU and Virginia will put Boise State to the test, but the team should be able to come away with two wins out of the three contests.
Though there are still questions on the offense, the Broncos should still be able to put up plenty of points and compete for another conference title. This team could easily go 12-2 again, while winning the Mountain West title and advancing to another New Year's Six b
erth. It certainly wouldn't be a surprise, especially if the team can get things going early.