Boise State’s schedule includes the No. 1 active passer in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and three other quarterbacks who have wins against the Broncos under their belts.
And what Troy’s Brandon Silvers brings Saturday will no doubt be among the biggest tests of the season, alongside the likes of Washington State’s Luke Falk and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
“We start right out of the gate with one of the best in the country,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
The 6-foot-3, 219-pound Silvers completed 293 of 460 passes last season (64 percent) for 3,180 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also added four rushing touchdowns.
“The quarterback, I like him ... this guy is an NFL player,” Harsin said. “Very efficient, can extend plays, moves the ball around quite a bit.”
Saturday’s season opener at Albertsons Stadium should provide one of the top quarterback matchups in the nation, with Boise State junior quarterback Brett Rypien on the other side. Last season, Rypien completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 3,646 yards, with 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions. He’s focused on keeping plays alive this offseason.
“This is going to be an awesome battle,” Harsin said. “You’ve got two really good quarterbacks. I like Silvers, I think he gets the ball out quick, he’s accurate, and he extends plays.
“Brett does the same things.”
Silvers is No. 5 among active FBS passers with 7,394 career yards, and Rypien is No. 9 with 6,999.
In 2016, Boise State scored exactly one more point than Troy (439-438). With the Broncos returning Rypien and the Trojans returning Silvers (plus all but one player who had a catch or a rush), we should see two of the top offenses, at least in the Group of Five.
“Two guys that have experience, two guys that I think are well coached, two guys that are in systems that I think play into their hands and favor them,” Harsin said.
▪ Harsin said two local walk-ons have been put on scholarship — sophomore snapper Nicholai Pitman (Timberline High) and sophomore linebacker Will Heffner (Bishop Kelly). Both of their fathers played for the Broncos and were teammates for three seasons, from 1988 to 1990.
Pitman was pressed into duty as a true freshman Nov. 12 last year against Hawaii and snapped on field goals and extra points. He’s expected to play the same role this season. Heffner played in three games last season as a redshirt freshman, making one tackle. They are the fifth and sixth walk-ons to get put on scholarship since the start of fall camp, making a total of eight this year.
▪ With senior linebacker Blake Whitlock out for the season with a shoulder injury, the four linebackers listed behind the Broncos’ starters at the three positions are all redshirt freshmen, two walk-ons. Add junior college transfer Joseph Inda and a true freshman like Riley Whimpey or Breydon Boyd to the mix, and outside of the first unit, there’s a ton of unproven commodities.
“When they get their first opportunity out there, it’s going to be their first opportunity,” Harsin said. “... Those guys have played well in practice, and we’re going to find out what they do in the game. We’re like everybody else, ‘How are these guys going to operate and perform?’ ”
▪ Boise State sophomore running back Alexander Mattison was back at practice Tuesday. He took part in some drills but not 11-on-11 work Saturday. He is listed as a co-starter with senior Ryan Wolpin. The Broncos’ running game is on Troy coach Neal Brown’s mind.
“They run the ball as well as anybody in the country over the last 10 years and do a great job of getting one-on-one opportunities in the play-action passing game,” Brown said Tuesday.
Troy at Boise State
When: 1:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: Albertsons Stadium (36,387, FieldTurf)
TV: ESPNU (Mike Couzens and John Congemi)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 10-3 in 2016; Troy 10-3
Series: First meeting (Boise State is 6-0 all-time against Sun Belt teams)
Vegas line: BSU by 11
Kickoff weather: Mid-90s, clear and sunny