Boise State Football: Will the Broncos Play in a BCS Bowl?

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Chris Petersen looks to lead Boise State back to a BCS bowl in 2012.

<p> Boise State Football: Will the Broncos Play in a BCS Bowl?</p>

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 24 Boise State. The Broncos are coming off a 12-1 record with a victory over Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Boise State suffered a lot of personnel losses, but expect this program to remain a top 25 team.

Considering the heavy personnel losses from last season, will Boise State play in a BCS bowl this year?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The chances seem awfully slim to me. However, if Boise State is going to look for any consolation, the Broncos can look at 2008. In Kellen Moore’s freshman season, the Broncos still finished 12-1. With the amount of young talent on that team four years ago, it was apparent Boise State was in for an incredible four-year run. Back then, we had no clue who Moore was, much less Doug Martin, Billy Winn, George Iloka and Nate Potter, who were also freshmen on that team. In all likelihood, Boise State has those kinds of freshmen and sophomores on the roster this time around. I have little doubt Boise State is going to continue to be a high-level team, threatening double-digit wins each year, but 2012 will be the most uncertain since 2008. This time around, the new quarterback is only the most visible personnel change. The core group of seniors who went 50-3 and finished in the top 10 three times is gone. Boise State is going to compete for top-five finishes again, just not this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The fact that Boise State is in the preseason Top 25 is a huge testament to where Chris Peterson has taken this program over the last half decade. This team returns one starter on defense and only five on offense. And Peterson doesn't have to replace also rans and walk-ons — he has to replace some of the best players in the history of the program. Names like Doug Martin, George Iloka, Shea McClellin, Nate Potter and Billy Winn rank amongst the program's best of all-time at their respective positions. Most difficult to replace will be record-breaking quarterback Kellen Moore. For 53 straight games, Broncos fans watched No. 11 trot onto the field, and 50 of those 53 times, Boise State won. Now, the onus of offensive leadership falls to Joe Southwick or true freshman Moore clone Nick Patti.

So to land in our Top 25 with only seven total returning starters is a huge statement about the current status of the Boise State program. They no longer rebuild, they reload. Having said that, there is no chance the Broncos return to a BCS bowl in 2012. The schedule is easier than it has been in years, so a conference title and 10-win season is within reach. But a road trip to Michigan State to start the year will be impossible, while additional journeys to Southern Miss and Nevada provide interesting tests later in the year. A home game against an offensively-minded BYU team could also be tricky for the reworked blue defense. If Boise State goes 2-2 in those four games, 10 wins is a virtual lock. Yet, in order to get back to the BCS, the Broncos will have to win in East Lansing, Hattiesburg and Reno, while playing perfect football against nine other opponents. Odds are Boise State will miss at least one kick along the way, right? (Too soon?)

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s certainly possible, but I can’t see Boise State making a BCS bowl in 2012. The Broncos are still the No. 1 team in the Mountain West, but there are a ton of personnel losses to overcome. Seven players that earned first-team all-conference honors last season are gone, and Boise State has only seven returning starters going into 2012. Although the offense has to replace quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Doug Martin, the Broncos lost most of their key contributors on the defensive line and standout safety George Iloka.

With TCU leaving for the Big 12, Boise State is the clear favorite to win the Mountain West title. However, the schedule features enough tough matchups that the Broncos could lose two games. Boise State will be an underdog in the opener against Michigan State, while the Sept. 22 matchup against BYU won’t be easy. Wyoming and Nevada could be the Broncos’ toughest competition in conference play and both games are on the road.

Even though Chris Petersen has a strong track record of developing talent, there are a lot of personnel losses to overcome. The Broncos should get better as the season progresses, but will likely lose in the opener to Michigan State and stumble in one of the conference road games, likely against Nevada. I wouldn’t be shocked if Boise State runs through the Mountain West unbeaten, but I think 10-2 and a finish somewhere in the 15-20 range in the 2012 final polls is the most likely outcome.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I don’t think Boise State will be in the hunt for a BCS bowl. The Broncos simply lost too much talent to expect this team to flirt with a top-10 ranking at any point this season. Kellen Moore and Doug Martin will be tough to replace on offense, but the big concern, in my opinion, is on defense. Boise State was able to play with — and beat — so many BCS conference teams in recent years because the Broncos were so good on the defensive line. Now, the entire starting front seven must be replaced. It’s just not realistic to think Boise can just plug in new starters at virtually ever spot on defense and not take a step back.

Chris Petersen’s team will win a bunch of games and score a lot of points, but Boise State in 2012 won’t be nearly as talented as recent Bronco teams. On a neutral field, I’d make the ’11 Broncos a 13.5-point favorite over the ’12 Broncos.

Mark Ross
I am a big believer in what Chris Petersen has built in Boise, so I think the Broncos CAN return a BCS bowl. I'm just not so sure they WILL. My hesitation stems from two reasons - no more Kellen Moore and two difficult non-conference games. Moore ended his Broncos career with the most wins by a quarterback in FBS history.

Let's not forget that the defense will basically be brand new as well with just one starter returning from last year's unit. You just can't lose all that experience under center and continuity on the other side of the ball and not expect the Broncos to take a step back.

It's not that Joe Southwich or Nick Patti, the projected frontrunners to be Moore's replacement, don't have the talent or capability to handle the job, it's just that they've never done it before. In addition, whoever gets the nod under center to start the season will make their debut against Michigan State in Lansing. Not the ideal location or opponent to work the kinks out in my opinion. A couple of weeks later BYU comes calling on the Smurf Turf, so two of Boise State's first three games are against anything but so-called cupcakes.

The Broncos should have little trouble navigating their Mountain West Conference schedule, especially now that TCU calls the Big 12 home. But there are several teams in their conference, like Nevada, Wyoming and perhaps even Fresno State, that can't be discounted or not taken seriously. So when you combine the new faces in key places on both sides of the ball and add that to the degree of difficulty related to their schedule, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see the Broncos finish with a few less wins than they did last year. And if any school knows the difference a win can mean when it comes to the BCS, it's Boise State.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Chris Petersen’s team can reach double-digit wins (like always), but I do not think the Broncos get back to the BCS. Even with the loss of some top personnel, Boise will still be the class of the Mountain West. However, it’s difficult to see the Broncos having the same national cache with the roster attrition that includes NFL first-round picks Shea McClellin and Doug Martin plus record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore. Stud offensive tackle Nate Potter and defenders George Iloka, Tyrone Crawford and Billy Winn will also be missed. Boise has shown a penchant for winning season-openers over big-time opponents, and another opportunity presents itself at Michigan State on August 31. If the Broncos can win that one, then maybe the BCS is a possibility. Petersen has built a perennial Top 25 program, and I see the 2012 squad as a 10-2 team that wins the MWC crown but not a BCS Bowl.

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