The 2013 Broncos are a young, inexperienced football team.
They return 10 starters. They have 32 returning upperclassmen on a 103-man roster. They have 57 players more than half the team who havent played in a Boise State game.
Of the 53 players on the projected depth chart, 25 are freshmen, sophomores or junior college transfers.
The youth likely will be a bigger factor on defense, which over the past two years has sent seven players to the NFL.
Only four defensive starters return this year.
We lost quite a few guys, said coach Chris Petersen, who is 84-8 in seven seasons, and you win big games with great defense.
The Broncos play arguably their four most important games of the season by Oct. 12 and three of them on the road.
The opener at Washington will set the tone for the season. Can this be another Top 10, Bowl Championship Series team? Probably not with a loss to the Huskies.
The Mountain West opener against Air Force is critical to the Mountain Division race.
The following trip to Fresno State is the Mountain Wests spotlight game for 2013.
And the Oct. 12 trip to Utah State the 2012 WAC champion that finished ahead of Boise State in The Associated Press Top 25 could decide the Mountain Division.
In all, the Broncos play five of their seven opponents who played in 2012 bowl games on the road.
When I saw that schedule come out, I really wanted to write (Mountain West Commissioner) Craig Thompson a very nasty letter, but I didnt think that would be the appropriate thing to do, Petersen said with a chuckle.
The offensive coaching staff pursued a basic need in the offseason.
We have to score more points, Petersen said.
The Broncos averaged 30.2 points a game last season the worst production since Petersen arrived as offensive coordinator in 2001.
Coaches have streamlined the playbook and tinkered with some new concepts. They spent the Spring Game and fall scrimmage in the no-huddle they used that approach extensively in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, too and might increase the tempo this season.
And they have the offensive personnel required to return to their high-scoring ways a returning starter at quarterback (Joe Southwick), speed and depth at wide receiver, a powerhouse tailback (Jay Ajayi) and an imposing offensive line.
Were really excited to see all the work weve been doing hopefully pay off this season, senior wide receiver Kirby Moore said. Weve been doing these things in practice, but obviously on Saturdays its a little more difficult.
The Broncos hope to reach the first Mountain West championship game Dec. 7, and could crash the final Bowl Championship Series, which will be replaced by the College Football Playoff in 2014.
Theyll need to win the Mountain West to have a shot at the BCS. And to reach the title game, theyll need to win the Mountain Division.
Its the first time the Broncos have played in a conference with divisions. Because of the tiebreakers, one loss to the wrong team could end their hopes.
Theres no margin for error, Petersen said.
This team is somewhat reminiscent of 2009, when the Broncos entered the season with 34 freshmen and sophomores on the depth chart but a returning starter at quarterback.
That team started a 24-game winning streak.
Does this team have that level of talent and resolve?
Well find out quickly.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398