Boise State Football

Sizing up Boise State’s 6 road foes

The Boise State football team’s marquee game of 2015 is the home opener against Washington — no doubt.

But after that, the Broncos’ fortunes likely will be decided on the road. They travel to BYU, Virginia, Colorado State and Utah State in a six-game stretch after the opener — four dangerous games that will test whether the Broncos truly turned a corner as a road team last year.

Here’s a primer on the six road opponents:

BYU

Game info: 8:15 p.m. Sept. 12, ESPN2

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall (90-39, 10 seasons)

Last year: 8-5 overall

Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist

Series history: Boise State leads 4-1

Outlook: The Cougars are coming off their highest-scoring season (37.1 points per game) since 2001 and will have a dynamic duo in dual-threat QB Taysom Hill and 6-foot-6 wide receiver Mitch Mathews. The defense is more experienced this year and could get a boost from Mendenhall returning to a full-time role.

Virginia

Game info: 6 p.m. MT Sept. 25, ESPN

Coach: Mike London (23-38, five seasons)

Last year: 5-7 overall, 3-5 ACC

Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense, 1 specialist

Series history: First meeting

Outlook: The Cavaliers are 5-16 in their past 21 games, a trend that has placed London’s job in jeopardy. He’ll try to produce a breakthrough season with only one returning starter at an offensive skill position and two in the defensive front seven.

Colorado State

Game info: 5 p.m. Oct. 10, CBS Sports Network

Coach: Mike Bobo (0-0, first season)

Last year: 10-3 overall, 6-2 Mountain West

Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense, 1 specialist

Series history: Boise State leads 4-0

Outlook: The Rams’ season likely hinges on quarterback play. They have enough returning talent to overcome the coaching change and a friendly schedule that makes an undefeated September possible.

Utah State

Game info: 7 p.m. Oct. 16, CBS Sports Network

Coach: Matt Wells (19-9, two seasons)

Last year: 10-4 overall, 6-2 MW

Returning starters: 8 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist

Series history: Boise State leads 15-4

Outlook: The Aggies added candidates for the Mountain West offensive (quarterback Chuckie Keeton) and defensive (linebacker Kyler Fackrell) player of the year awards to a roster that also returns 16 starters. Keeton and Fackrell missed most of last season with injuries. With Boise State and Colorado State making trips to Logan this year, the Aggies are serious contenders for the Mountain West title.

UNLV

Game info: Oct. 31, ESPN Networks (time TBD)

Coach: Tony Sanchez (0-0, first season)

Last year: 2-11 overall, 1-7 MW

Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists

Series history: Boise State leads 5-3

Outlook: Sanchez, a successful high school coach in Las Vegas, has at least pumped some intrigue into the Rebels program. He’ll have a strong QB-WR duo in Blake Decker and Devonte Boyd as an offensive building block.

San Jose State

Game info: 1:30 p.m. MT Nov. 27, CBS Sports Network

Coach: Ron Caragher (9-15, two seasons at SJSU; 53-37, eight seasons overall)

Last year: 3-9 overall, 2-6 MW

Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense, 2 specialists

Series history: Boise State leads 11-0

Outlook: The Spartans played with a young squad last year and hope the hard lessons they learned will pay off this year with 16 returning starters. They’ll need to find an offensive spark, though — they scored 14 points total in the final three games last year.

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Best team: BYU

The Cougars were 4-0 when quarterback Taysom Hill got injured against Utah State, sending them into a four-game tailspin. They recovered to finish 8-5. Hill returns to the lineup this season as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. Sixteen other returning starters join him.

Game that will be the most fun: Utah State

The Aggies won the Mountain Division in 2013, but didn’t beat Boise State. They came to Boise last year with a chance to win the division and got blown out. Maverik Stadium in Logan will be jumping for a Friday night, nationally televised game — and if quarterback Chuckie Keeton is healthy this time, the Aggies will have the talent to pull an upset.

Game that could surprise: Virginia

The Cavaliers program is struggling and coach Mike London is on the hot seat. But this is still a Power Five program with significant talent and Boise State must travel cross-country, never an easy task. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, will be coming off a home game against William & Mary.

Players to watch

1. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU: The last time Boise State visited Provo, Hill gashed the Broncos for 339 passing yards, 69 rushing yards and four total touchdowns in a 37-20 rout. The Pocatello product missed last year’s game in Boise with an injury.

2. Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State: He lost his coach and quarterback after a phenomenal sophomore season. He was a Biletnikoff Award finalist and consensus All-American with 96 catches, a national-best 1,750 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

3. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia: ESPN’s No. 10 recruit in the 2014 class delivered on his hype as a true freshman. He finished second in the ACC with 123 tackles to earn Freshman All-America and second-team All-ACC honors.

4. Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State: Keeton has missed the past two games against Boise State with injuries. His return this year fuels speculation that the Aggies could challenge the Broncos for the Mountain Division title. He tossed 18 touchdown passes in six games in 2013 before his knee troubles began.

5. Kyler Fackrell, LB, Utah State: Fackrell is so respected that he was named the Mountain West Preseason Defensive Player of the Year despite missing all but one game last year with a knee injury. He recorded 13 tackles for loss as a sophomore in 2013.

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