Season overview: Fresh faces fill Boise State’s roster

ccripe@idahostatesman.comAugust 25, 2013 

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The Broncos’ season begins where they left off — with the Washington Huskies. Boise State defeated Washington in last year’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas 28-26.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

FAST LEARNERS

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 haven’t 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.”

FAST START

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 West’s 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 didn’t think that would be the appropriate thing to do,” Petersen said with a chuckle.

FAST FIX

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.

“We’re really excited to see all the work we’ve been doing hopefully pay off this season,” senior wide receiver Kirby Moore said. “We’ve been doing these things in practice, but obviously on Saturdays it’s a little more difficult.”

FAST FINISH

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.

They’ll need to win the Mountain West to have a shot at the BCS. And to reach the title game, they’ll need to win the Mountain Division.

It’s 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.

“There’s no margin for error,” Petersen said.

FAST FORWARD

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?

We’ll find out quickly.

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398

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