The players on the team change. The contenders do as well, but there are few constants like Boise State football preseason hype.
On Tuesday, the Mountain West announced its preseason media poll, and for the fourth straight year, the Broncos were picked to win the Mountain Division. The five years prior, they were selected to win a division-free conference. Nine straight years with big expectations, that doesn’t necessarily add any pressure.
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“I think that it definitely sets the standard for us. It kind of puts a huge target on our back for other teams,” senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, we’ve got to bring it every week just like they do.”
San Diego State dominated the voting, earning all 29 first-place votes in the West Division and sweeping the preseason player of the year honors with running back Donnel Pumphrey (offense), cornerback Damontae Kazee (defense) and returner Rashaad Penny (special teams).
Sperbeck and linebacker Ben Weaver are representing Boise State at Mountain West Media Days at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Both have been part of the prior three teams pegged to win the division, but they’ve played in the conference championship just once, in 2014.
“It pushes us tremendously,” Weaver said. “Our ultimate goal is to win the Mountain West and a bowl game. We’ve only done that one of the three years they’ve had the (championship) game in existence.”
The Broncos lost three of their five games against Mountain Division foes last season, one that Sperbeck called “kind of disappointing.” However, they not only received 27-of-29 first-place votes, they’re mentioned as a possible College Football Playoff contender. Perhaps it’s because of the likes of Sperbeck, sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien and senior kicker Tyler Rausa, the three Broncos named to the Mountain West all-preseason team.
Sperbeck said the most recent game has an effect on that, too — a 55-7 dismantling of Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more dominant bowl game than they played in San Diego,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “You look at who they return. They’re going to be tremendous.”
Talking about the high bar that has been set, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin didn’t shy away from it, saying even the team’s Fiesta Bowl-winning season two years ago didn’t meet it.
“I think we fell short of that my first year, we lost two games,” Harsin said. “I think the expectations are we’re trying to find a way to win every single game.”
Of course, the thought of being in a position to be playing for the Mountain West title, or being undefeated or being in the CFP are great, but Harsin would love to talk about it — in December.
“I hope everything (they) say happens,” Harsin said. “It doesn’t mean anything right now because we haven’t done anything.”
If Boise State wants to get to that point, it will lean on its talented offense, but an unheralded defense will make the difference. For the first time since joining the Mountain West, no defensive players made the preseason all-conference team.
“It’s a team mentality on defense, it’s not always good if one guy has a ton of tackles or a ton of stats, what matters is keeping the other team off the scoreboard,” Weaver said.
Even coming off a 9-4 record and a few shocking losses, it’s part of what Boise State has become. The Broncos are expected to make a run at an unbeaten record, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s just the culture of Boise State, when you’ve had the winning success weve had, the tradition of excellence. It’s put on our shoulders every year no matter if we have an 0-14 season or a perfect season, we look at it the same way,” Weaver said. “We know that doesn’t just come. It comes with hard work, dedicaton, no days off mentality that we have.”
QUICK HITS: Harsin said sophomore defensive end Kaleb Hill has left the team. Hill redshirted in 2014 and played one game last season. The Texas native’s twin brother, Kolin, transferred to Texas Tech from Notre Dame last year. ... Incoming freshman defensive end Derriyon Shaw will redshirt, recovering from a torn ACL. Harsin said freshman linebacker Tyson Maeva (knee) likely won’t be cleared until late in fall camp, while senior offensive tackle Mario Yakoo (shoulder) will go into fall camp limited. ... Harsin addressed the dismissal of three players after a sexual assault investigation for the first time, supporting the university’s process, saying “there is a way we will do things that will not be compromised.”
Preseason media poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
Boise State (27)
Air Force (2)
San Diego State (29)
San Jose State