2012 Recap: The Broncos went an anonymous 11-2 during a rebuilding year, losing twice to Michigan State and San Diego State by a combined six points. The defense took a step forward, rising form 40th in yards allowed per play to 10th. The offense, unfortunately, took almost an equal step backward, from 12th in yards per play to 49th. Scalped a decent Washington team in the bowl game.
Offense: Joe Southwick was not Kellen Moore – that brand of cherubic assassindom is hard to replicate, but he did come on strong late. Over his last four games, Southwick completed 70 percent of his passes and had a 9-0 TD to INT ratio. The Broncos return depth at receiver and running back. Jay Ajayi should be a capable replacement for departing 1,100-yard back D.J. Harper. The key should be the offensive line. Boise brings back a hybrid unit of experienced seniors and untried, but talented sophomores. They will hope that unit becomes more impactful, to improve a running game that struggled against anyone with a pulse.
Defense: Boise typically fluctuates from elite to good on the defensive side. This year may be closer to good. Star defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, 9.5 sacks and 13.5 TFL in 2012, returns. But Boise has substantial turnover in the two deep, on all three levels of the defense. Err on the side of trusting the Boise State’s judgement. But, in August, relying on a number of guys to step forward who have not is a concern.
Out of the Blue: If the Broncos make a run this season, the key moments will be on the green turf. With the exception of Nevada, key games against Washington, Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State are all away from home.
Ceiling: 12-0. Boise State progresses on offense and avoids too much regression on defense. A Top 25 unit on both sides of the ball spells trouble for a Mountain West schedule.
Floor: 9-3. A reverse of last season. Boise State is average on defense and is not explosive enough to overcome that. They lose the opener to Washington and drop another couple games in conference on the road.
Prediction: 11-1. Chris Petersen is 84-8 overall and 51-2 when he has a returning quarterback. This could be the year they crash the BCS title game. It’s just so hard to go undefeated, especially with pivotal contests on the road.
Top 25 Previews
25. USC Trojans 24. Miami Hurricanes 23. Northwestern Wildcats 22. Oregon State Beavers 21. Nebraska Cornhuskers 20. Texas Longhorns 19. Louisville Cardinals 18. Baylor Bears 17. Michigan Wolverines 16. TCU Horned Frogs 15. Oklahoma Sooners 14. Clemson Tigers 13. Florida State Seminoles 12. LSU Tigers
[Photos via Getty, USA Today Sports]