Boise State Broncos
Head Coach: Bryan Harsin
2014 record: 12-2 overall, 7-1 Mountain West Mountain
2014 Postseason results: Beat Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl
2015 returning starters: 9 offense, 8 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 225/1
Odds to win 2015 MWC Championship Game: -260
Regular season wins: under 10 -130 /over 10 +100
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Last year, Boise State went 12-2 under first year head coach Bryan Harsin. Harsin who had been the school’s long time offensive coordinator before becoming the OC at Texas and head coach at Arkansas State. After three seasons of being away from the school, Harsin returned as head coach when Chris Petersen left the school to become the head coach at Washington.
Harsin continued the success Petersen had started as the only losses came to Ole Miss and Air Force. The Broncos ended the season on a 9 game winning streak including 28-14 over Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship game. Boise State would qualify for one of the New Year’s Six Bowl games and upset Arizona 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Seventeen starters are back and Boise State is a prohibitive favorite to win the Mountain West. Boise State is also the only non-power five conference team in the top 25 in the pre-season coaches poll other than Notre Dame. The Broncos also have a shot at returning to a New Year’s Six Bowl this season.
Nine starters are back for Boise State on offense in 2015. However, the Broncos must replace the starting quarterback and running back who accounted for 89.1% of all the offensive yards accumulated in 2014. Boise State must also replace offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, Jr. who left for the same position at Notre Dame. Tight ends coach Eliah Drinkwitz was promoted to OC. Drinkwitz called plays for Harsin in his single season as head coach at Arkansas State in 2013.
Last year, the Broncos averaged 494 yards per game on offense including 280 passing and 214 rushing yards. Boise State averaged 40 points a game. The Broncos were in the top 14 nationally in total offense and scoring.
Quarterback Grant Hedrick has graduated. Last year, he threw for 3,696 yards with 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and he also rushed for 592 yards on 155 carries with 8 touchdowns. Sophomore Ryan Finley was the favorite to take over for Hedrick. However, an April arrest for illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, could lead to disciplinary action. Finley threw for 161 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception in limited action last year behind Hedrick. Sophomore Tommy Stuart, redshirt freshman Alex Ogle, and true freshman Brett Rypien are also in the mix for the starting job. None have college game experience though. Rypien is the nephew of former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien.
Running back Jay Ajayi is now with the Miami Dolphins. He had 347 carries for 1,823 yards with 28 touchdowns, along with 50 catches for 535 yards and 4 touchdowns. If he had played for one of the Power Five schools then he would have almost certainly been a Heisman contender with those kinds of numbers. Sophomore Jeremy McNichols is the favorite to replace Ajayi. He played both receiver and running back last season. He rushed for 159 yards with a touchdown, and also had 15 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown. Kelsey Young,a graduate transfer from Stanford is eligible to play for Boise State this season. He was the second leading rusher for the Cardinal in 2014 with 331 yards. He and his younger brother Cory, a redshirt freshman, will get plenty of carries as well.
Receiver Thomas Sperbeck is back after making 51 catches for 877 yards and 3 touchdowns, and even throwing a touchdown pass. Shane Williams-Rhodes had 68 catches for 585 yards with 7 touchdowns, and also rushed for 179 yards on 15 carries. The Broncos must replace receiver Matt Miller who had 28 catches for 461 yards and 3 touchdowns, and also threw a touchdown pass. Chaz Anderson also returns after making 21 catches for 456 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Jake Roh is also back after making 35 catches for 408 yards and 2 touchdowns. Boise sometimes uses a two tight end set and Holden Huff will get some targets after making 10 catches last year.
All five starters are back on the offensive line, including center Marcus Henry and left tackle Rees Odhiambo. The line should be a strength in front of inexperienced quarterbacks and running backs.
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Last year, the Boise State defense allowed 375 yards per game including 233 passing and 143 rushing yards. The Broncos allowed 27 points per game. Those numbers weren’t great but eight starters are back for Boise and second year coordinator Marcel Yates in 2015.
Last year, Boise State forced 47 sacks. The Broncos need a great pass rush again if they want to continue the success from last year. Three starters are back on the defensive line including ends Kamalei Correa and Sam McCaskill. Correa led the MWC with 12 sacks last year. Armand Nance is also back at tackle but Deuce Mataele is a new starter in the middle.
Linebackers Ben Weaver and Tanner Vallejo are back. Vallejo had to play nickel back at times last season due to injury, but still recorded 16.5 tackles for loss. He returns to linebacker full time in 2015.
Three starters are back in the secondary including cornerbacks Donte Deayon and Jonathan Moxey. Safety Darian Thompson is also back and joined by new starter Dylan Sumner-Gardner. Deayon and Thompson combined for 13 interceptions and 3 pick sixes. Both were All-MWC last year.
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Tyler Rausa takes over at kicker for Dan Goodale. Rausa attempted and made one extra point last season. Sean Wale returns as the punter. Williams-Rhodes will return both kicks and punts again. Deayon will also return some kicks and took one to the house last year.
Boise State opens the season at home against Washington and former coach Petersen. September also includes road trips to BYU and Virginia, and a home game against Idaho State. October includes home games against Hawaii and Wyoming, and road games at Colorado State, Utah State and UNLV. November brings home games against New Mexico and Air Force, and a road game at San Jose State to close out the season.
Even with the uncertainty at quarterback and running back, this team is still very talented. The schedule isn’t too challenging with road games at BYU, Virginia, Colorado State and Utah State being the toughest games. Still, Boise has a chance to run the table but I will say they go 11-1 in the regular season and go to another major bowl.
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