One game does not make a season.
But in Boise State's case it sure does come close.
That's because everybody in Idaho has their sights set on the Sept. 3 opener against Oregon.
"From what I'm hearing, it's supposed to be one of the biggest games ever," fullback Richie Brockel said. "I hear, 'Are you ready for Oregon? Are you ready for Oregon?'"
And if the Broncos get by a team they beat on the road last year -- with a freshman quarterback -- heading back to a BCS bowl will be the talk of the town.
When you look at the schedule the rest of the way, it's easy to see why. Not only will Boise State be favored in every game, but the out-of-conference schedule is Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), Tulsa and FCS opponent Cal-Davis.
Conference schedule? It's the same one where the Broncos went undefeated last year.
No question the hype is warranted. The possibility of another trip to one of the five biggest bowls in the land rests on the season opener vs. the Ducks.
But don't tell that to the head coach, who is trying to keep his team concentrated on the whole season.
"It's one of 13 games we are playing this year," Chris Petersen said. "It's really important to stay focused and not get caught up with this hype. We've seen how expectations can sink a ship."
Petersen talked to the man who experienced it first-hand -- BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Last season, the Cougars were coming off an 11-2 year and a 16-game conference winning streak. Expectations were high, but after opening the season at 6-0, including a 59-0 win over UCLA, the Cougars lost 32-7 to TCU and later 48-24 to Utah. They ended up losing the Las Vegas Bowl to Arizona, finishing 10-3.
"We had a long conversation and the expectations they had with their team," Petersen said. "Things were going good and how it started to build in a real negative way. There are no higher expectations in Boise than in our football office, but we need to keep them realistic."
|RB||Daniel Porter||Sr.||Louisiana Tech|
|WR||Kevin Jurovich||Sr.||San Jose State|
|OL||Andrew Jackson||Jr.||Fresno State|
|OL||Brennan McFadden||Sr.||Utah State|
|OL||Rob McGill||Jr.||Louisiana Tech|
|DL||Carl Ihenacho||Sr.||San Jose State|
|DL||D'Anthony Smith||Sr.||Louisiana Tech|
|DL||Ryan Winterswyk||Jr.||Boise State|
|LB||Paul Igobeli||Sr.||Utah State|
|LB||Ben Jacobs||Jr.||Fresno State|
|LB||Nick Paden||Sr.||New Mexico State|
|DB||Antonio Baker||Sr.||Louisiana Tech|
|DB||Duke Ihenacho||Jr.||San Jose State|
|DB||Kyle Wilson||Sr.||Boise State|
|K||Kyle Brotzman||Jr.||Boise State|
|Ret||Philip Livas||Jr.||Louisiana Tech|
It's hard for the Boise faithful not to get excited, though.
The team is already ranked No. 16 in the preseason coaches poll, just four spots away from the coveted top 12 ranking it needs to be locked into a BCS bowl.
The fact that no Big East team is ranked in the preseason Top 25 helps too, because rules state a non-BCS team gets an automatic berth if it is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and is higher than a BCS conference champion.
"We don't have any control over that," Petersen said of the BCS. "A few years ago they tweaked the system; that worked for us. I believe if we take care of our business it will still work out for us, just maybe not every year.
"That's the hand we're dealt and we'll make the best of it, and do it with a smile on our face."
The Broncos return six starters on both offense and defense from last year's 12-1 squad, which posted a 37-32 victory over Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
Quarterback Kellen Moore returns for his sophomore season after being named conference freshman of the year with 3,486 yards passing and 25 touchdowns. He was 12th in the nation in passing efficiency and second in total offense, and threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Oregon last season.
Jeremy Avery, the team's second-leading rusher with 614 yards, and 6-foot-3 Austin Pettis, who caught 49 passes and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, both return, giving the Broncos offensive weapons for Moore.
The offensive line is the team's biggest question mark. Six players who started at least one game return, including the often-injured Nate Potter. The OL was the one weakness last year and will need to be better to not only protect Moore, but get the ground game going. In last season's Poinsettia Bowl against TCU, Boise State was held to just 28 yards on 20 carries with Ian Johnson.
The strongest part of the Broncos defense is the secondary. All four starters return for a unit that was ranked 34th in the nation against the pass. Not bad for a conference known for high-powered offenses.
Cornerback Kyle Wilson and safety Jeron Johnson lead the way. Wilson led the team with five interceptions and Johnson led with 98 tackles and three fumble recoveries.
"We have tons of talent on this team but so does everyone else in college football," Moore said in an earlier interview. "I think it will come down to preparation and just taking it game by game."
|Kyle Wilson is No. 1 in your program and No. 1 among WAC defensive stars. (US Presswire)|
Offensive Player of the Year
Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada: The quarterback is the reigning WAC offensive player of the year after throwing for 2,849 yards with 22 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,130 yards and 17 touchdowns. Kaepernick is only the fifth quarterback in history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. The junior threw for 767 yards and seven touchdowns in the final two games, including 370 yards in the 42-35 Humanitarian Bowl loss to Maryland.
Defensive Player of the Year
Kyle Wilson, DB, Boise State: A potential All-American returns for his senior year after being named first-team All-WAC as a cornerback and second-team all-conference as a punt returner. He led the team with five interceptions, 10 breakups and 15 passes defended last season. He has already been named preseason defensive player of the year in the conference and is one of 31 candidates on the Thorpe Award watch list.
Predicted order of finish
1. Boise State: It's pretty amazing what the Broncos have done in WAC play: 54-2 since 2002 and 34-0 at home since 2001. But it doesn't get any bigger than this season. In past years, they've always had to wonder what will happen if they go undefeated, but not this season; 12-0 = BCS. Keep an eye on the receiving corps of Austin Pettis and Titus Young, who will need to come up big in Kellen Moore's sophomore season. Another advantage Boise State has over the rest of the conference is on special teams. Kicker/punter Kyle Brotzman is one of the best and has made 106 consecutive extra points. Must-see game: Oct. 14 at Tulsa. Apart from the Oregon game, a key date comes in Tulsa. It's a team Boise State doesn't know much about and the Golden Hurricane have an explosive offense. Going on the road vs. a team that can score 50 is always scary.
2. Nevada: Not only does Nevada have the best quarterback in the conference with Kaepernick, it also boasts Vai Taua, who rushed for 15 TDs and a WAC-high 1,521 yards, and Luke Lippincott, a sixth-year senior. Lippincott led the WAC in rushing in 2007 with 1,420 yards and 18 total touchdowns. The only question on offense is, how many points will they score? The key for the Wolf Pack's season is going to be the defense, where six starters are back. It gave up way too many points last year, including 69 to Missouri, 48 to New Mexico State, 38 to Hawaii and 41 to Boise State. They should be better with the return of defensive ends Dontay Moch and Kevin Basped. Must-see game: Nov. 27 at Boise State. Duh. The other key game is the season opener at Notre Dame. Imagine the Irish faithful if Nevada walks in there and beats them.
Who will win the WAC?
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Total Votes: 2,752
3. Louisiana Tech: After winning eight games, including a 22-14 victory over Mississippi State last year, Louisiana Tech is ready to challenge for the conference title. Running back Daniel Porter returns after rushing for 1,164 yards. He should have no problems with the return of all five starters on the offensive line, including junior Rob McGill. Ross Jenkins is back for another year at quarterback, but must improve on his 105 yards per game passing. The defense will be fine, especially with the return of three starters on the line. D'Anthony Smith leads the way after being named first-team All-WAC last season. Must-see game: Oct. 9 at Nevada. The Boise State game is key too, but after Nevada beat the Bulldogs 35-31 last year, this is the one to watch.
4. Fresno State: The Bulldogs have enough talent to get back to a bowl game, especially on defense, where they weren't very good against the run, but solid against the pass. Three starters return in the secondary, including Moses Harris. On offense, running backs Anthony Harding (822 yards), Lonyae Miller (812 yards) and Ryan Mathews (606 yards) look to contribute again. The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where Ryan Colburn, Derek Carr and Ebahn Feathers are locked in a battle. Must-see game: Sept. 12 at Wisconsin. Pat Hill loves to play big-name teams and this is as big as they come for 2009.
5. Hawaii: First, the good news: The offense should be pretty good again with the return of quarterback Greg Alexander and wide receivers Greg Salas (57 catches, 837 yards) and Malcolm Lane (35 catches, 613 yards). The offensive line, which allowed 57 sacks last season, should be better with another year of experience. Now, the bad news: The defense returns only two starters from a team that allowed 29 points a game. Defensive end John Fonoti is the leader, but will need help from linebackers Blaze Soares and Brashton Satele. Must-see game: Oct. 11 vs. Fresno State. Last year's game was 32-29 OT win, and this edition will be the first home game for the Warriors since the season opener (Sept. 5).
|2009 Conference Previews|
6. San Jose State: The defense should be strong again after ranking 21st in the nation, including 10th against the pass. Duke Ihenacho anchors the secondary, while brother Carl leads the defensive line. Duke had 66 tackles and tied for the WAC lead with five interceptions, while Carl finished eighth in the nation in tackles for a loss. The key to a successful season is going to be on offense. Wide receiver Kevin Jurovich looks to get back to form after missing most of last season with health issues. All five starters return on the offensive line. Must-see game: Sept. 19 at Stanford. With a strong defense, the Spartans should keep this game close and might even be able to pull the upset.
7. Utah State: One of the sleeper teams in the conference, the Aggies look to improve on their 3-9 record from last season. New coach Gary Andersen made some big changes, moving a ton of players to different positions. One spot that is strong is wide receiver, where Stanley Morrison, Omar Sawyer and Nnamdi Gwacham all return. On defense, linebacker Paul Igboeli is one of the best in the WAC. He earned second-team all-conference honors last year, recording 78 tackles, including 42 solo. Must-see game: Nov. 7 at Hawaii. The Aggies upset the Warriors last year 30-14, so let's see how they do in Hawaii.
8. Idaho: The Vandals have all three of their running backs returning, including Deonte' Jackson, who had 696 yards rushing in an injury-plagued season last year. Nathan Enderle is back at quarterback, but he threw 17 interceptions last year, so junior-college transfer Brian Reader could see some time. There is a ton of work to do on defense, where the Vandals finished 116th in the nation. One bright spot is safety Shiloh Keo, who returns for his junior season. Must-see game: Sept. 5 at New Mexico State. The team that loses will be the one that most likely finishes last in the conference.
9. New Mexico State: DeWayne Walker takes over, replacing Hal Mumme and his high-powered passing offense. New quarterback Jeff Fleming looks to be the starter, but freshman Trevor Walls is still in the mix. Keep an eye on tight end Kyle Nelson, who could have a good year and become a big target for the new QBs. The defense is in pretty good shape, especially in the secondary where safeties Alphonso Powell and Michael Zant return. Linebacker Nick Paden finished third in the WAC with 8.9 tackles per game. Must-see game: Sept. 5 vs. Idaho. See above.