The Boise State football team faces three nonconference opponents in 2019 that have boom-or-bust potential. And with two of those games coming in the first seven days of the season, it might not be clear for a while how to evaluate the results of those games.
The Broncos also play Portland State — the first time in four years that they’ve faced an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision. The Vikings fit the unpredictable theme set by the other three nonconference foes.
The four teams share an odd bit of history: Florida State, BYU and Marshall (at the FCS level) have won national championships, and Portland State has played in a championship game twice (Division II). Boise State also has won a championship (FCS).
Here’s a look at the four opponents:
Florida State, Aug. 31
Game details: 5 p.m. MT in Jacksonville, Florida; ESPN.
Last year: The Seminoles were 5-7, their first losing season in 42 years. It also was their first season under coach Willie Taggart. The Seminoles’ last game was Nov. 24, 2018 — a 41-14 loss to rival Florida. They finished 71st in the S&P+ rankings.
Reason to believe: The Seminoles have one of college football’s most successful programs, and there’s plenty of talent for a quick turnaround. Former Baylor assistant Kendal Briles was hired to revamp the offense — Boise State has bad memories of the Bears’ attack in the 2016 Cactus Bowl — and Taggart has a history of fixing programs.
Reason to worry: Florida State was in decline when former coach Jimbo Fisher left. With a new offense and significant problems to address, the Seminoles might need more than one offseason to get back on track. The offensive line was a mess last year and must be fixed quickly.
Marshall, Sept. 6
Game details: 7 p.m. at Albertsons Stadium; ESPN2.
Last year: The Thundering Herd finished 9-4 and beat South Florida 38-20 in the Gasparilla Bowl. They didn’t face a ranked team all season, though. They finished 73rd in the S&P+ rankings.
Reason to believe: Marshall is the favorite to win the Conference USA East Division with 15 starters returning, including nine on offense and six on defense. The offense returns QB Isaiah Green, the Co-Freshman of the Year in the conference, as well as four offensive linemen and the leading rusher.
Reason to worry: Marshall was 33-8 from 2013 to 2015 — this series was announced in October 2015 — but hasn’t been the same program since. The Herd are 20-18 over the past three seasons while playing in one of college football’s worst conferences. Marshall also lost its defensive coordinator.
Portland State, Sept. 14
Game details: 8:15 p.m. at Albertsons Stadium; ESPN2
Last year: The Vikings were 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky, losing to Idaho and Idaho State. They lost their season finale 74-23 to Eastern Washington. Nevada (72) and Oregon (62) also topped 60 points.
Reason to believe: The Vikings have experience and depth going into this season, plus an FBS quarterback transfer (Jalen Chatman, Rutgers) and a respected recruiting class. They’re just four years removed from an FCS playoff appearance, and last year — with a stunning win at Montana — was a big step forward from a winless 2017.
Reason to worry: The Vikings were picked to finish 10th in the 13-team Big Sky by the coaches and media. Any defense that yields 60-plus points three times isn’t going to be fixed easily.
BYU, Oct. 19
Game details: TBA in Provo, Utah; ESPN/ABC network
Last year: The Cougars beat Western Michigan 49-18 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to finish 7-6. They lost 21-16 on Nov. 3 at Boise State — a game that was decided by a goal-line stand. The Cougars finished 46th in the S&P+ rankings.
Reason to believe: If you watched him play two games on The Blue, you know that true sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson — the former Boise State commit — has a bright future. Wilson was a stunning 18-for-18 with four touchdown passes in the bowl game, and he had 12 touchdown passes, three interceptions and a 65.9 percent completion rate during his true freshman season.
Reason to worry: The schedule, as it often is for the independent Cougars, is brutal. They’ll play Utah, Tennessee, USC and Washington in the first four weeks — three of those are at home — then make back-to-back trips to the Eastern time zone before Boise State visits. At least there is a bye week between the two long road trips.